NFL from the Sidelines

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O-R Sports reporter Dale Lolley gets you the insider scoop on the NFL.

After hobnobbing around the NFL in the press boxes and sidelines, sports reporter Dale Lolley will let you know the insider scoop. Dale can also be heard on the Steelers radio network pre-game show prior to every game. Follow him on Twitter at dlolleyor.

Taking a look at the 53-man roster

August 22, 2017
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs (5) looks to pass in the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

Because of a change in NFL rules this year, the Steelers and other teams won’t have to cut their rosters from 90 to 53 players until after Week 4 of the preseason.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t start taking a look at how this roster is shaping up.

Here’s where I see things as they currently stand halfway through the preseason.

Quarterbacks (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs. Not much drama here. Dobbs is getting a lot of playing time with Jones still nursing an abdominal injury. But he’s no danger to unseat Jones as Roethlisberger’s backup.

Running backs (5): Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Knile Davis, Roosevelt Nix. Davis will get a shot to prove himself as the kick returner, otherwise, Terrell Watson has outplayed him throughout the process. Watson heads to the practice squad. Trey Williams hasn’t done enough outside of his punt return for a TD last week to show he has to have a roster spot.

Wide receivers (6): Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, JuJu Smith-Shuster, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates. Justin Hunter’s play has tailed off the past couple of weeks. Heyward-Bey gets another year because, quite simply, the Steelers want his leadership. The Steelers try to sneak both Demarcus Ayers and Marcus Tucker to the practice squad.

Tight ends (3): Jesse James, Xavier Gimble, David Johnson. As hard as it might be to believe, Johnson has probably had the best training camp and preseason of this group. Jake McGee goes to the practice squad.

Offensive line (9): Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, Chris Hubbard, Matt Feiler, Jerald Hawkins. Nine seems like a lot, but deciding between Feiler and Hawkins is tough. And there’s a good chance in an offensive lineman-starved league that neither would clear waivers without being claimed. The same goes for Brian Mihalik, but the Steelers try to sneak him onto the practice squad.

Defensive line (5): Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton. The Daniel McCullers experiment comes to an end. Both Alualu and Walton can play the nose. And the Steelers only play a 3-4 30 percent of the time, anyway. Johnny Maxey heads to the practice squad again. Maybe Roy Philon, as well.

Outside linebackers (5): James Harrison, T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, Arthur Moats. That’s five good ones. The Steelers will try to sneak Keion Adams to the practice squad or he could be slated for a sneaky IR move.

Inside linebackers (4): Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort. The Steelers only go with four inside linebackers, which is outside the norm. But Steven Johnson has been less than impressive and seemingly always nicked up in this camp. And, like the nose tackle position, the inside backers aren’t as important as they once were. Plus, Moats can move inside in a pinch.

Cornerbacks (6): Artie Burns, Ross Cockrell, William Gay, Coty Sensabaugh, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton. Six corners sounds like a lot, but Hilton can play both corner and safety. The Steelers try to sneak Brian Allen onto the practice squad.

Safeties (4): Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield. That’s 10 defensive backs, with a couple - Davis and Hilton - who are position flexible. I like Jacob Hagen, as well, but it’s the practice squad for him.

Specialists (3): Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry, Colin Holba. Not a lot of drama here. Davis will get a chance to be the kick returner. If the Steelers choose, Rogers or possibly Sutton - assuming he gets healthy - can be the punt returner if they don’t want to use Brown there any longer.



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