It's time for our look at the projected Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 roster, and, with the surgeries in the offseason, injuries in Training Camp and in the preseason games, it hasn't been easy. In fact, I have personally never had a harder time projecting a final roster. Lots of initial scenarios, to be blunt, have simply been flushed.
We've had to figure out some ways to free up some roster spots because the list of injured players makes it so that the roster we'll see week one won't be the roster we'll see week five after the bye. I've thought of the Steelers possibly keeping five running backs, four wide receivers or eight offensive linemen as ways to squeeze in that extra player in order to complete an initial 53-man roster. Per the league, teams must reduce rosters to 75 players on the Active List prior to 4:00 p.m. EST on the 27th and to 53 on the 31st.
Injuries are the biggest issue, especially at linebacker. James Harrison, Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester are all injured, with Worilds still actually being on the PUP list. How does that affect how many linebackers are initially kept on the roster? The Steelers always keep eight and sometimes nine. I lean toward nine as you'll see.
The other injury issues exist on the offensive line with Steelers first round draft pick David DeCastro going down to a knee (MCL, dislocated patella & ruptured patellar tendon) injury. I expect him to be put on Injured Reserve (UPDATE: DeCastro was not put on IR) and for Ramon Foster to resume his right guard position. Which might mean that Trai Essex finds his way to a position again.
The only other thing that's up in the air is the wide receiver position. No, not...him. I mean the possibility of only keeping four wides because of no one definitively separating himself from the pack. First Marquis Maze was a possibility, then David Gilreath and then Derrick Williams had a good game against the Buffalo Bills in the third preseason game. Sadly, Toney Clemons has never shown being worthy of a seventh round draft pick. Will one of these be a fifth or sent to the practice squad?
Keep in mind that these names can and will change some after the bye week or, at the latest, when Worilds comes off the PUP. But, without further ado, let's look at the initial roster according to If It Ain't Steel:
Ben Roethlisberger- 7 for #7? We're in the Todd Haley era, but it seemed more like Ben being Ben on the 98 yard drive to end the half vs. the Bills. Bottom line-he's ready; Byron Leftwich- Often fragile, but often wins. His performance in Buffalo only proves that; Charlie Batch- so Uncle Charlie will be out there with his walker and hearing aid again, huh? Batch knows Ben well, is a quarterback coach on sidelines for him, plus he knows the position inside and out and he wins.
Rashard Mendenhall- his healing ACL will keep him out until after the bye in week five; Isaac Redman- runs with authority whenever he has the ball in his hands; Jonathan Dwyer- steadily making great progress and looks more and more like what was expected out of college; Baron Batch and Chris Rainey (with Will Johnson at fullback)- Rainey is ELECTRIC and is the flash to Batch's substance and blocking ability. This was one of the trouble areas-how to list Rainey, where to play Rainey, how to best use Batch...they can be more of a compliment than originally thought and I believe they both make it and with Johnson blocking for them all.
Mike Wallace- I know he's caused friction, mainly among fans, but the Steelers are better with him. Period.; Antonio Brown- he's like the energizer bunny, he just keeps going and going and going...; Emmanuel Sanders- the agony of da feet? Maybe, but the outlook is getting more and more optimistic...and he's the best all-around WR on the team; Jerricho Cotchery- he's a poor man's Hines Ward and is deadly in the red zone-over half of his NFL touchdowns have come inside the 20 yard line; David Gilreath- special teams ability and looks to have sure hands if the Steelers go Zero Formation.
Heath Miller- incredibly underrated TE who may career numbers in new offense; Leonard Pope- better at receiving than at blocking, but he's a very big red zone target; David Paulson- but only until Weslye Saunders comes back after his three-game suspension.
Max Starks- blindside, reliable, dependable, smart; Willie Colon- he's been mauling guys across from him in preseason-I've said for a while he could play guard and he could be Pro Bowl caliber if he wants to be; Maurkice Pouncey- the anchor; Ramon Foster- back at the position because of DeCastro's injury and is solid at right guard, especially in the run; Marcus Gilbert- solid first season and, if he stays at RT, should only get better; Doug Legursky- The Big Legursky; Mike Adams- coming along slowly after having real problems in the first two preseason games, and may start by the end of the season if that learning curve continues; Trai Essex- Y'all remember him, right? He's the jack of all line positions, master of none and has found his way onto the roster yet again.
Evander Hood- with the unsung hero gone, Ziggy has to take control; Casey Hampton- won't start the season, but will contribute in what should be his final season; Brett Keisel- the Pro Bowler had another solid season last year; Steve McLendon- Will be the starter and will have fans forgetting Big Snack by the end of the year; Cam Heyward- a real mean streak...just needs to use it on the opposing team more; Alameda Ta'amu and Al Woods- Woods is veteran player who can play either side if needed and Ta'amu was supposed to be the future until Training Camp showed that the future isn't now.
Lamarr Woodley- I expect bigger things this year from Woodley-he has to step up and be the leader of the linebackers; Larry Foote- the Buck stops here as Foote takes over for Potsie; Lawrence Timmons- the mind boggles at what he could accomplish this year...if left in his natural Mack position; James Harrison- back and knee problems will affect him in what should be his last season in Pittsburgh, but he's still Deebo and "you got knocked the fu** out, man!; Sylvester Stevenson- will miss the first four weeks, but should come back strong; - his swan song with the Steelers; Jason Worilds- make or break season for Worilds that may start on the PUP list; Chris Carter, Sean Spence and Brandon Johnson- all make it because of the injuries in the linebacker corps, and should all stick. Johnson has the needed experience, Spence has the hybrid quickness, speed and ability to stay with TEs and I'm not saying Carter is a beast just yet, but I've seen the fangs.
Ike Taylor- Face me, Ike! Swag wants to make everyone forget Denver, starting in Denver; Keenan Lewis- has finally earned a starting spot and will have to be pushed out of the starting position; Cortez Allen- nickel specialist who wants to push Lewis out of the starting position; Curtis Brown- could see the field more this year between special teams and Dime and select nickel packages; Ryan Clark- led the Steelers in tackles last year; Troy Polamalu- I hear this guy's good...though, we may see him start to decline this year; Ryan Mundy- knows the defense well and will start in Denver; Da'mon Cromartie-Smith- the extra safety because of Clark's absence in Denver, may be replaced on roster by cornerback Terrence Frederick or safety Robert Golden after; Will Allen- still a valuable backup safety and special teams guy.
Shaun Suisham (K)- honestly it could just as easily be Danny Hrappman; Drew Butler(P)- he's beaten out Kapinos who has back problems; Greg Warren(LS)- he wears no. 60 and you'd be surprised at how many downfield plays he actually makes.
LB Adrian Robinson- I wanted SO BADLY to put him on the team, but the special teams aspect of it won it for Johnson. But AR is a player who could make the roster of virtually any other NFL team, but these are the Pittsburgh Steelers, aka "Linebacker, Inc"
G Kelvin Beachum- A guard who is very smart and will only benefit from being placed here in order to learn from OL coach Sean Kugler.
WR Tyler Beiler- Over Toney Clemons? Yes, because Beiler has the edge in blocking. Clemons simply couldn't catch anything either.
TE Jamie McCoy- Had too many other TEs in front of him, so it's back to PS.
C/G John Malecki- Showed himself well in Camp again, just not quite well enough.
G Ryan Lee- He really needs another year to maturate.
DT Corbin Bryant- Was a force in Camp and in preseason, made people take notice again. Could it be him instead of Woods?
CB Terrence Frederick- He is very raw and needs time to hone his skills.
ADJUSTED 8-man Practice Squad projection: LB M.McFadden, WR/KR Gilreath, DL C.Bryant, OL R.Lee, CB T.Frederick, S D.Cromartie-Smith, RB J.Harris & OL J.Malecki