Steelers Training Camp 2018 has officially ended. The team spent their last day at St. Vincent College in Latrobe and will return to their headquarters on the South Side after their second preseason game against Green Bay on Thursday night. The most positive development so far is that no one has suffered any serious injuries. Ramon Foster went down with a knee injury in camp, but he should be able to return for the start of the regular season. Top interior line backup BJ Finney suffered a quad contusion in the preseason opener, but he will also not miss an extended period of time. Some other players continue to work their way back from the regular bumps and bruises of training camp. The second preseason game will be yet another opportunity for players to continue to show progression and stake their claim to a spot on the final 53-man roster. As the Steelers prepare to take on the Packers, here is a look at the current status of the roster and who is in contention to earn one of the last 10 spots.
These are players who will be part of the 53-man roster no matter what happens. This includes most of the starting roster and a few of the top backups. It is worth noting that a player’s status as a “roster lock” is not indicative of their place on the depth chart, but rather the stock the team has in them from either a salary cap standpoint or as a recent draft choice. There are 33 players currently considered locks to make the roster.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph
RB: Le’Veon Bell, James Conner
FB: Roosevelt Nix
WR: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington
TE: Vance McDonald, Jesse James
OT: Alejandro Villanueva, Marcus Gilbert
OG: Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, BJ Finney
OC: Maurkice Pouncey
DE: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu
NT: Javon Hargrave
OLB: Bud Dupree, TJ Watt
ILB: Vince Williams, Jon Bostic, Tyler Matakevich
CB: Joe Haden, Artie Burns, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton
S: Morgan Burnett, Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds
K: Chris Boswell
Le’Veon Bell’s spot on the roster is secure, but don’t forget that he does not count against the 53-man roster until he actually signs his franchise tender. Last year, this did not happen until September 4th, allowing the Steelers to keep 53 players out of camp then release one when Bell signed his tender. The Steelers could use this “extra” spot to keep a player on the roster bubble to get them through the first round of cuts and signings in the hope to preserve them for the practice squad.
These players are all nearly roster locks. They include a number of the top backups. The only forseeable way that they do not make the roster is if they suffer a serious injury or get arrested. There are 10 players currently considered to have a very probable chance of making the roster.
QB: Landry Jones
WR: Darrius Heyward-Bey
TE: Xavier Grimble
OT: Chukwuma Okorafor
OG: Matt Feiler
DE: LT Walton
OLB: Anthony Chickillo
S: Nat Berhe
P: Jordan Berry
LS: Kameron Canaday
Coupled with the 33 players who are locks to make the roster, these 10 probables bring the total to 43 players. This leaves 10 more spots open for players that can be considered “on the bubble.” Based on reports out of training camp along with how players performed during the first preseason game, we identified 18 players vying for the last 10 spots on the roster.
QB: Josh Dobbs
RB: Stevan Ridley, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jaylen Samuels
WR: Justin Hunter, Marcus Tucker, Damoun Patterson
OT: Jake Rodgers
NT: Dan McCullers, Josh Frazier
ILB: LJ Fort, Matt Galambos, Matthew Thomas
OLB: Keion Adams, Ola Adeniyi, Farrington Huguenin
CB: Coty Sensabaugh, Brian Allen
S: Marcus Allen, Malik Golden
Josh Dobbs’ roster spot has been one of the most discussed stories of training camp. The only way he is kept is if an injury occurs to one of the top three or if the Steelers opt to keep 4 quarterbacks. Dobbs is still eligible for the practice squad or if he comes down with an injury during the last three preseason games could be placed on injured reserve. Similarly, Jake Rodgers’ spot will be dependent on whether the Steelers keep 8 or 9 offensive linemen. They have traditionally kept 9, and Rodgers appears to have the edge over the other linemen in camp. At running back and wide receiver, there are 3 players in the hunt for 1 or 2 roster spots each. Once again, this will come down to a decision on how many players at each position the Steelers want to keep.
On the defensive side of the ball, 5 spots on the line seem to be settled with just the backup nose tackle position up for grabs between Dan McCullers and Josh Frazier. The Steelers will probably keep 8 or 9 total linebackers, which would mean one remaining spot at both inside and outside linebacker. Given Dashaun Phillips’ dreadful play against Philadelphia, he has dropped off the radar entirely, leaving room for both Sensabaugh and Allen to make the team if they keep 6 corners. At the fourth safety spot, two Penn State guys are embroiled in the battle. As always, special teams ability will likely be a contributing factor in which players are the last few added to the roster.
The Waiver Wire
In recent seasons the Steelers have not been afraid to scour the waiver wire or the last-minute trade market for players. This year, the most likely positions they would target would be offensive linemen, tight ends, and linebackers. The goal for an offensive lineman should be to find another swing tackle that can play either side. At tight end, both Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble are currently nursing injuries. The top three are set at both outside and inside linebacker. Behind them, it seems to be an open battle for 2-3 more roster spots. If the Steelers don’t feel confident in the players they have, they may hit the waiver wire or bring in a current free agent to fill the void. The roster picture will become clearer as the preseason progresses and we will update out outlook before each game.