The Steelers depth chart for 2012 was recently released, and while it contains some new faces or old faces in new positions, not much has changed over all. This chart will change during the year based on player injuries or other roster moves made by the team.
A few key changes: Chris Rainey showed enough in training camp and preseason to become the the teams’ primary return man on both punt and kickoff returns. Originally Emmanuel Sanders was slotted for this duty, and he is listed as next in line along with Antonio Brown. During our recent podcast with CBS Sports Steelers coorespondent Chuck Finder, we could see Emmanuel Sanders in on Punts that are going to be within 10 yds of the end zone or so. For all the great things that Rainey did in preseason, returning to punts for Touchdowns, he’s still a rookie and Amos Jones may feel more comfortable with a veteran back there in tight situations up against the goal. Mike Tomlin also mentioned, during his Tuesday press conference, that Rainey will be given a chance in the return role but cautioned that he is still a rookie.
Another thing to watch for with Rainey is that he tends to catch the ball up high, near his shoulder pads, rather can catching it in his chest or stomach like you normally see. This is something that we should watch because catching the ball high in those situations can lead to a muff pretty easily. Still though his upside is huge and he’s earned the job based on his speed, agility, and balance along with the vision he’s displayed to find the crease and take off.
Max Starks is your starting Tackle for 2012. If he stays healthy and performs like he normally does, we won’t see Mike Adams this year at all.
Adams has shown improvement during the preseason but the coaches are not comfortable enough with him yet to stick him in there protecting Ben’s blind side. As Chuck also pointed out, if Starks gets hurt or struggles, then Sean Kugler could decide to stick Marcus Gilbert at LT and move Starks over to RT. The challenge will be that Adams isn’t comfortable on the right side so we have to hope that the offense line doesn’t sustain any more injuries or things could get interesting, in a bad way.
Rashard Mendenhall practiced with the first team this week and is still listed first on the depth chart. He hasn’t ruled out a week 1 return but more than likely it’s going to be ISaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer is the primary backs for at least the first month of the season. There’s simply no reason to rush back Mendenhall right now.
Casey Hampton could start against Denver and is listed at the top of the chart at Nose Tackle. He did play in the preseason finale against Carolina and if you watched him he looked pretty darn good. The Big Snack has been through this injury before and knows how to get himself ready. He’ll likely be limited for the first part of the season but regardless Steve McLendon has looked outstanding so far and he’ll get a lot of work this year.
Below is the full depth chart as it stands heading into week 1.
Mike Wallace – Emmanuel Sanders
Max Starks – Mike Adams
Willie Colon – Kelvin Beachum
Maurkice Pouncey – Doug Legursky
Ramon Foster – David DeCastro
Marcus Gilbert – Mike Adams
Heath Miller Leonard Pope – David Paulson
Rashard Mendenhall – Isaac Redman – Jonathan Dwyer – Baron Batch – Chris Rainey
Ben Roethlisberger – Byron Leftwich – Charlie Batch
Antonio Brown – Jerricho Cotchery
Ziggy Hood – Al Woods
Casey Hampton – Steve McLendon – Alameda Ta’amu
Brett Keisel – Cameron Heyward
LaMarr Woodley – Jason Worilds
Larry Foote – Stevenson Sylvester
Lawrence Timmons – Brandon Johnson
James Harrison – Chris Carter -Adrian Robinson
Keenan Lewis – Cortez Allen
Ryan Clark – Ryan Mundy – Robert Golden
Troy Polamalu – Will Allen
Ike Taylor – Curtis Brown
Chris Rainey – Emmanuel Sanders
Chris Rainey – Antonio Brown