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Roster battles will heat up for Steelers during OTAs


On May 26, the Pittsburgh Steelers will begin their offseason training activities (OTAs).  Although training camp is still several weeks out, the Steelers are close to their 90-man limit on their offseason roster.  There are five positional roster battles that could shape up to be the spots to watch as the Steelers evaluate players they feel should be added not only to the training camp roster, but possibly the season roster.

Quarterbacks Tajh Boyd vs Landry Jones

Landry Jones was selected in the fourth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma but has done very little as a member of the Steelers’ roster since.  While Ben Roethlisberger has remained healthy for the most part, it has been Bruce Gradkowski who has been solidly counted on to back ‘Big Ben’ up.  Jones showed an inability to be very effective during preseason games and has yet to inject any youth into the position.  The young man’s future is no guarantee as the Steelers brought in Tajh Boyd, last with the New York Jets, to challenge him.  Boyd spent his 2014 season in the Fall Experimental Football League and is looking to renew his position in the NFL.

The Linebackers

The Steelers are once again deep at the linebacker position – both inside and outside – heading into OTAs in 2015.  With veteran experience from James Harrison and Arthur Moats on the outside with Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh has options with Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Sean Spence, Ryan Shazier and Anthony Chickillo on the inside.  With Jordan Zumwalt, Shawn Lemon, Terence Garvin and Howard Jones (reserve/futures) on the roster as well, it will be interesting to see just how many linebackers the Steelers hang onto.

It has already been made clear that Harrison will be limited in his snap-count this upcoming season, but his leadership qualities make him a valuable player to have next to some very young guys who can use development.  Timmons has his position solidified after outstanding performances in 2013 and 2014 and gives the interior guys the incentive to play at the next level.

The pressure will be on Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier to demonstrate why they were chosen in the 2013 and 2014 NFL Draft.  Both spent time nursing injuries and many feel both men have yet to show their true potential.  Williams, Spence, Zumwalt and Garvin would love to keep their spot solidified, but will likely be the guys on the bubble for the most competition to do so with Lemon, Jones and Chickillo looking to prove their own worth.

Blanchflower, Johnson and James

The number three tight end position is truly up for grabs, and at this point it is going to be an uphill battle for Rob Blanchflower and 2015 fifth-round selection Jesse James to unseat Will Johnson who has also been used at the H-Back position and tight end.  Blanchflower spent part of the 2014 NFL Season with the Steelers on the scout team.  Where James has an advantage is in his size.  Cameron Clear will also be in the mix.

Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth are the veteran guys that aren’t likely to give up their spot barring injury.  The third tight end spot may be one of the more hotly contested areas at camp as the Steelers look for their replacements.

The offensive line

The Steelers aren’t worrying about who is going to be seated in the starting positions along their offensive line.  Pittsburgh did a nice job of bringing in depth via free agency and undrafted rookie agents to compete for backup roles.  This is one of the deepest groups that will attend OTAs and camps for the Steelers this offseason.  Offensive tackle Mike Adams may be in a vulnerable spot after being called out for slow feet and not finishing blocks, but he did improve his play in 2014.  That leaves Cody Wallace and Chris Hubbard competing with Kevin Whimpey, Miles Dieffenbach, Reese Dismukes, B.J. Finney, Collin Rahrig and Micah Hatchie.  The focus will be on consistency and the ability to move into a role immediately should one of the starters be ineffective or unable to play.

Replacing Polamalu

As it stands today, the Steelers have veteran Will Allen, Shamarko Thomas, Jordan Dangerfield, Alden Darby, Robert Golden, Gerod Holliman, Mike Mitchell, Isaiah Lewis, Ross Ventrone and Ian Wild on the roster at safety.  The biggest issue that must be ironed out during OTAs and camp will be who will step up and fill the shoes of the departed Troy Polamalu.  Not one of the names mentioned above equates to the style or aggressive play that Polamalu embodied, making this a critical battle for roster spots.  It is likely that the Steelers will keep four to five safeties on their roster.  The early favorites are Allen, Thomas, Mitchell and Ventrone – but that is always up for debate.  Mitchell did not have a spectacular outing in 2014 and Thomas has yet to prove that he is ‘starter’ material.  That leaves this battle wide open.

Final Thoughts

While it may not be an area where a ton of focus from fans will be, the wide receiver position continues to be intriguing.  The Steelers have brought in several receivers making the question of whether Antonio Brown had intentions to holdout or not even more relevant.  The Steelers will have their requisite four wideouts, but who will they hang onto for special teams and the scout team? Who will step up and challenge starters Brown, Wheaton and Bryant?

The running back position should be interesting as the number two spot will be up for grabs as well.

The Steelers’ Roster (as of May 20, 2015)

76 Adams, Mike OT 6-7 323 25 4 Ohio State
28 Allen, Cortez CB 6-1 196 26 5 The Citadel
20 Allen, Will S 6-1 200 32 12 Ohio State
13 Archer, Dri WR/RB 5-8 173 23 2 Kent State
68 Beachum, Kelvin T/G 6-3 303 25 4 SMU
26 Bell, Le’Veon RB 6-1 244 23 3 Michigan State
4 Berry, Jordan P 6-5 210 24 1 Eastern Kentucky
41 Blake, Antwon CB 5-9 198 24 4 Texas-El Paso
87 Blanchflower, Rob TE 6-4 256 24 1 Massachusetts
2 Boyd, Tajh QB 6-1 222 24 1 Clemson
84 Brown, Antonio WR 5-10 186 26 6 Central Michigan
10 Bryant, Martavis WR 6-4 211 23 2 Clemson
40 Chickillo, Anthony LB 6-3 267 22 R Miami (Fla.)
85 Clear, Cameron TE 6-5 277 22 R Texas A&M
14 Coates, Sammie WR 6-1 212 22 R Auburn
69 Conrath, Matt DE 6-7 306 25 3 Virginia
42 Dangerfield, Jordan S 5-11 200 24 1 Towson
33 Darby, Alden S 5-10 192 22 1 Arizona State
67 Davis, Niko DE 6-5 285 24 R Liberty
66 DeCastro, David G 6-5 316 25 4 Stanford
65 Dieffenbach, Miles G 6-5 303 23 R Penn State
61 Dismukes, Reese G 6-3 296 22 R Auburn
48 Dupree, Bud LB 6-4 269 22 R Kentucky
80 Egnew, Michael TE 6-5 260 25 3 Missouri
67 Finney, B.J. C 6-4 318 23 R Kansas State
30 Fogg, Kevin CB 5-10 185 24 1 Liberty
73 Foster, Ramon G 6-6 325 29 7 Tennessee
Gardner, Devin WR 6-4 216 R Michigan
57 Garvin, Terence LB 6-3 221 24 3 West Virginia
22 Gay, William CB 5-10 190 30 9 Louisville
96 Geathers, Clifton DE 6-8 325 27 6 South Carolina
77 Gilbert, Marcus T 6-6 330 27 5 Florida
21 Golden, Robert S 5-11 202 24 4 Arizona
27 Golson, Senquez CB 5-9 176 21 R Mississippi
18 Goodwin, C.J. WR 6-3 190 25 1 California University (PA)
5 Gradkowski, Bruce QB 6-1 220 32 10 Toledo
24 Grant, Doran CB 5-10 200 22 R Ohio State
48 Green, Shayon LB 6-1 255 23 1 Miami
25 Harris, Josh RB 5-11 210 24 1 Wake Forest
92 Harrison, James LB 6-0 242 37 13 Kent State
54 Hatchie, Micah OT 6-5 306 23 R Washington
79 Hemer, Ethan DE 6-6 282 24 1 Wisconsin
88 Heyward-Bey, Darrius WR 6-2 219 28 7 Maryland
97 Heyward, Cameron DE 6-5 288 26 5 Ohio State
31 Holliman, Gerod S 5-10 218 21 R Louisville
74 Hubbard, Chris G 6-4 286 24 2 UAB
81 James, Jesse TE 6-7 261 20 R Penn State
46 Johnson, Will FB 6-2 238 26 4 West Virginia
44 Jones, Howard LB 6-4 238 25 1 Shepherd
95 Jones, Jarvis LB 6-2 245 25 3 Georgia
3 Jones, Landry QB 6-3 221 26 3 Oklahoma
65 Kruger, Joe DE 6-6 287 22 2 Utah
54 Lemon, Shawn LB 6-2 250 26 1 Akron
37 Lewis, Isaiah S 5-10 211 23 1 Michigan State
62 McCullers, Daniel DT 6-7 352 22 2 Tennessee
90 McLendon, Steve DT 6-4 320 29 6 Troy
83 Miller, Heath TE 6-5 256 32 11 Virginia
23 Mitchell, Mike S 6-0 210 27 7 Ohio
55 Moats, Arthur LB 6-2 250 27 6 James Madison
16 Murphy, Tyler WR 6-2 213 23 R Boston College
45 Nix, Roosevelt FB 5-11 260 23 1 Kent State
53 Pouncey, Maurkice C 6-4 304 25 6 Florida
7 Roethlisberger, Ben QB 6-5 241 33 12 Miami (Ohio)
17 Rogers, Eli WR 5-10 180 22 R Louisville
40 Scheuerman, Ross RB 6-0 204 22 R Lafayette (Pa.)
50 Shazier, Ryan LB 6-1 237 22 2 Ohio State
89 Spaeth, Matt TE 6-7 260 31 9 Minnesota
51 Spence, Sean LB 5-11 231 24 4 Miami
30 Stingily, Cameron RB 6-1 235 R Northern Illinois
6 Suisham, Shaun K 6-0 200 33 11 Bowling Green
93 Thomas, Cam DT 6-4 330 28 6 North Carolina
29 Thomas, Shamarko S 5-9 217 24 3 Syracuse
74 Thornton, Mike DT 6-1 296 R Georgia
94 Timmons, Lawrence LB 6-1 234 29 9 Florida State
91 Tuitt, Stephon DE 6-5 303 21 2 Notre Dame
64 Van Dyk, Mitchell T 6-7 299 24 1 Portland State
35 Ventrone, Ross S 5-8 195 28 3 Villanova
78 Villanueva, Alejandro OT 6-9 277 26 1 Army
72 Wallace, Cody C/G 6-4 300 30 6 Texas A&M
78 Walton, L.T. DE 6-5 319 23 R Central Michigan
60 Warren, Greg LS 6-3 252 33 11 North Carolina
39 Webb, B.W. CB 5-11 190 25 3 William & Mary
11 Wheaton, Markus WR 5-11 182 24 3 Oregon State
71 Whimpey, Kevin T 6-5 295 24 R Utah State
38 Wild, Ian S 6-0 205 25 1 Mercyhurst
34 Williams, DeAngelo RB 5-9 215 32 10 Memphis
98 Williams, Vince LB 6-1 250 25 3 Florida State
9 Wing, Brad P 6-3 205 24 2 LSU
56 Zumwalt, Jordan LB 6-4 235 23 2 UCLA


S. Dean is a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan. The former owner of 'The Beam in Pittsburgh', Dean has worked in the sports media field for several years. S. Dean graduated with a degree in physical therapy and sports medicine, has a minor in journalism and is a Mt. Lebanon, PA, native. His favorite Steelers players (all-time) are Jerome Bettis, Lynn Swann and Joey Porter. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLHotTopix and Google Plus. To see his full bio, please visit the Meet Our Staff page.



  1. Pingback: Roster battles will heat up for Steelers during OTAs | Sports Feedr

  2. DrGeorge

    May 21, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Devin Gardner (WR) is one of the more intriguing acquisition in this off-season. He played QB at Michigan, threw for over 6,000 yards, and runs well; he also played some WR in college. He could be a Hines Ward type of player, who would give the Steelers the ability to throw deep on the flanker reverse as Randall-El used to do and with his size he can block downfield.

    Jarvis Jones has speed, but has been injured a lot and has shown little promise when healthy. He looks like the odd-man-out at LB. But Tomlin will be loathe to admit he erred in making Jones a #1 pick. Perhaps Jones can be utilized more effectively elsewhere. Zumwalt is the X-factor; the coaches were high on him before his injury.

    On the O-line, Cody Wallace continues to be under-utilized. He backs up Pouncey at center, but when he plays, he outperforms Pouncey, especially since Pouncey’s knee injury. Wallace can also play OG. Wallace is a keeper. Adams and Gilbert, however, are both vulnerable; neither has lived up to expectations.

    The Safety position is still a mess. The Safeties on this roster are adequate backups, but none of them would start on a top-tier team. Look for Colbert to make a veteran free agent acquisition at Safety before the season starts, probably when final roster cuts are made.

    Finally, neither Boyd nor Landry Jones are NFL quality QBs. Boyd can do Michael Vick impressions on the practice squad, but is that reason enough to keep him? Colbert may very well pick up a veteran QB to give the Steelers reliable depth at this position. Given Ben R’s age and his history of concussions, we must have a 3rd QB who can run the offense.

  3. DaveB.

    May 22, 2015 at 5:16 am

    Agreed . The safety position is in total freefall and the players have alot more questions than answers . As far as Jarvis Jones is concerned , if he doesnt show marked improvement this season , then Colbert an Tomlin have some serious explaining to do . They spent a number one pick on this kid and if he doesnt make it , someone needs to be held accountable . It was obvious to all that this kid was undersized and he would have problems fighting off large offensive lineman , yet they drafted him anyway . 2015 is a huge year for him .

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