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Projecting the Steelers’ 53-man Roster

The Pittsburgh Steelers must cut their Roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Here’s a final 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACK (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs

Dobbs was a nice storyline early in the preseason, but Jones — who has started at least two games in each of the past two seasons — is entrenched as the primary backup. Dobbs can learn behind the scenes.

RUNNING BACK (3): Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Terrell Watson

Watson’s 80 yards on 15 first-half carries in the preseason finale was hard to ignore. He got a chance to earn a roster spot and capitalized in Carolina. The Steelers have several options: Fitz Toussaint, Knile Davis, Watson and Trey Williams have had positive moments in the preseason. But Toussaint has a leg injury and Davis didn’t look quite explosive enough.

FULLBACK (1): Roosevelt Nix

Nix quietly moves along as a thumping blocker and occasional punt blocker. Bell likes a fullback.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter (Sammie Coates if a 7th is kept.)

Roethlisberger is intrigued by Hunter’s big-play potential, and Sammie Coates, despite his athleticism, probably hasn’t done enough since returning from a knee injury to win a job unless the Steelers keep 7 Wr’s on the roster. Hunter’s 58-yard touchdown catch Thursday punctuated his job status. The Steelers could keep Coates over Heyward-Bey, but the veteran is a core special-teamer and a coaches’ favorite. Cobi Hamiltonand Demarcus Ayers are tough cuts, but should end up on the Practice squad.

TIGHT END (4): Jesse James, Vance McDonald, David Johnson

The Steelers can keep three tight ends as the newly acquired McDonald learns the offense. But the roster is ever-evolving. James is likely the starter for Week 1, though the Steelers could configure a few James-McDonald sets early in the year. Johnson and Grimble are both stout blockers, but neither is guaranteed a spot. Grimble to the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Chris Hubbard, Jerald Hawkins, B.J. Finney

This lineup is pretty settled. Hubbard is the swing tackle, Finney is the top reserve on the interior and Hawkins can back up Villanueva at left tackle. The Steelers could roll with eight linemen and stash Brian Mihalik and/or Matt Feiler on the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Johnny Maxey

The top-five rotation is the deepest the Steelers have had in years, leaving Maxey or Dan McCullers as wild cards for the sixth spot. Time is running out on McCullers, who’s in his fourth year and has seen limited preseason work.

LINEBACKER (9): Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, James Harrison, T.J. Watt, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, Arthur Moats, Anthony Chickillo

Keeping inside linebackers Matakevich and Steven Johnson would be ideal, but the numbers don’t quite work and Johnson has missed time with an undisclosed injury. Moats and Chickillo have proven to be valuable backups and core special-teamers.

SECONDARY (10): Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Ross Cockrell, Sean Davis, Mike Mitchell, William Gay, Coty Sensabaugh, Jordan Dangerfield, Robert Golden, Cam Sutton

The acquisition of Haden could make Cockrell expendable, but for now he stays on as a reliable swing corner. His $1.797 million restricted tender is not guaranteed for skill, so he shouldn’t feel safe. Oft-injured Senquez Golson entered camp with much to prove but hasn’t seen the practice field in a month. Hard to keep him. Sutton has shown glimpses of his third-round ability and will get a chance here. Hilton has made a strong case but it might not be enough. A safety battery of Davis-Mitchell-Dangerfield-Golden seems secure. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers cut a vet like Cockrell or Gay and keep Hilton around. Bryan Allen should be stashed on the practice squad.

SPECIALISTS (3): Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry, Colin Holba

Boswell and Berry look comfortable as third-year starters. Both had strong training camps. Pittsburgh has two good long-snappers in Holba and Kameron Canaday, but the draft pick prevails here.

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Projecting the Steelers’ 53-man Roster


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