With just a few more days remaining before NFL teams must trim their rosters – to 75 on Aug. 28 and 53 by Sept. 1 – the Pittsburgh Steelers have a pretty good idea of who is going to be with them when they open the season at Cleveland Sept. 9.
But there are still some decisions to be made.
Here’s the way I feel the 53-man roster will shake out:
Quarterbacks (3): Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch are locks. Brian St. Pierre has played well enough this preseason to be close to one as well. Only a bad performance against Philadelphia could ruin that.
Running backs (5): Willie Parker, Najeh Davenport and yes, Carey Davis are locks. Gary Russell is close to one. He’s the second-best pure runner on this roster behind Parker. That will leave the coaching staff deciding between Verron Haynes and fullback Dan Kreider. Haynes will be the team’s third-down back, leaving Kreider on the outside looking in. Davis will handle the lead-blocking duties.
Wide receivers (5): Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Cedrick Wilson are locks. Willie Reid likely is as well, even though he hasn’t shown much as a return man this preseason. That leaves Nate Washington fighting with Walter Young for the final spot. Washington’s speed gives him the edge over Young’s size.
Tight end (3): One of the few no-brainers as Heath Miller, Jerame Tuman and Matt Spaeth get the nod here.
Offensive line (10): Starters Marvel Smith, Alan Faneca, Sean Mahan, Kendall Simmons and Willie Colon – yes, I believe Colon will be the opening day starter – are joined by Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Marvin Philip, Trai Essex and Jason Capizzi. Chukky Okobi gets the call from the Turk. Essex has been OK at guard, but mistake-prone at tackle. But he’s worth keeping around another year. Capizzi is on the bubble, but I don’t think the Steelers will be able to get him onto the practice squad.
Defensive line (7): Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel and Chris Hoke are locks. Travis Kirschke and his troublesome back likely are as well. Nick Eason and Ryan McBean will get the final two spots. McBean has promise and will get a year to learn the system and beef up a little. Shaun Nua, we hardly knew ya.
Linebackers (8): Clark Haggans, James Harrison, Larry Foote, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley and Clint Kreiwaldt are locks. That leaves one spot open and Arnold Harrison wins it. It leaves the team thin at inside linebacker, but Timmons could be groomed to play inside in a pinch and Arnold Harrison has played inside a bit. Woodley will continue to be groomed as a pass rusher.
Defensive backs (9): Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Deshea Townsend and Ike Taylor will be the starters. They will be backed up by Bryant McFadden, Anthony Smith, William Gay, Ricardo Colclough and Tyrone Carter. Chidi Iwuoma doesn’t make the cut despite being a captain during the preseason. Mike Tomlin could surprise here, however, and release Tyrone Carter instead. You don’t think Towsend has been working at free safety for his health, do you?
Specialists (3): Jeff Reed, Daniel Sepulveda and Greg Warren. Enough said.