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2015 Pittsburgh Steelers 53-Man Roster Projection

It’s been a few years since Pittsburgh Steelers fans have had a reason to be this optimistic about the season.

The Steelers reached the playoffs for the first time in three years in 2014, falling to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC wild-card game at Heinz Field.

The two previous times Ben Roethlisberger lost a home playoff game, the Steelers won the Super Bowl the following year.

Just sayin’.

More concrete evidence that the Steelers can return to the playoffs and advance further than they did last year is their offense, which has the potential to be the best in the league. The defense is another story, but if it can at least be serviceable it will be an improvement over last season.

It also will help if the Steelers can win a game for the first time without Le’Veon Bell, who is suspended for the first three games. If they can’t, they’ll start the season 0-3 and will be booking tee times in January.

Bell, by the way, will not take up a spot on the 53-man roster while he’s suspended.

Here’s how the Steelers’ 53-man roster figures to look based on organized team activities and minicamp, The picture will clarify at training camp, which begins July 25 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

QUARTERBACK (3)

Ben Roethlisberger: Another ring or two would boost his case for the Hall of Fame.

Bruce Gradkowski: This journeyman backup hasn’t been with any team for more than two years. This will be his third with the Steelers.

Tajh Boyd: Enough of Landry Jones. Boyd’s arm can’t be any worse, and unlike Jones he can run with the ball.

RUNNING BACK (4)

DeAngelo Williams: The Steelers signed the 32-year-old as a stopgap until Bell returns from his suspension. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry with the Panthers last season. Unlike Ben Tate, he’s had months to learn the Steelers’ playbook.

Dri Archer: The Steelers used a third-round pick last year on this 5’8″, 173-pound speedster. He’ll probably get one more year to show the Steelers something.

Josh Harris: He’ll need to help Williams cover for Bell’s absence in the first three weeks of the season.

Will Johnson: His receptions have gone from 15 in 2012 to eight in 2013 to six last year, but the Steelers don’t really have another H-back.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

Antonio Brown: His record streak of at least five receptions and 50 yards, including playoffs, is 33 games and counting.

Martavis Bryant: His eight touchdown catches in 10 games last season projects to about 13 touchdown catches over a full season. The Steelers offense can be scary good if Bryant makes a big second-year leap.

Markus Wheaton: He seems earmarked for slot duty this year, and he’ll be open a lot with defenses worried about Brown and Bryant.

Sammie Coates: The Steelers have a good track record drafting receivers in the third round, and Coates will at least be an upgrade over Lance Moore.

Darrius Heyward-Bey: He’ll hang around for his work on special teams.

Devin Gardner: With 2-point conversion attempts possibly becoming more frequent under the new rules, Gardner’s ability to play both quarterback and wide receiver could be useful.

TIGHT END (3)

Heath Miller: Entering his 11th season, Miller has 532 career receptions. He needs six more to pass John Stallworth for second-most in Steelers history.

Jesse James: The 6’7″, 261-pound Penn State product has the ability to be the Steelers’ best fifth-round draft pick since William Gay in 2007.

Matt Spaeth: The Steelers keep him around for his blocking ability.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

Kelvin Beachum: He’ll be a free agent next season and the Steelers will have to pay big bucks to keep him if he continues to perform at his current level.

Ramon Foster: This likely will be his last year as a Steeler. His contract expires in 2016 and there probably isn’t enough cap room for both Foster and Beachum.

Maurkice Pouncey: The sixth-year center has made the Pro Bowl every time he’s played a full season.

David DeCastro: He can make the Pro Bowl if he turns it up a notch.

Marcus Gilbert: He allowed seven sacks last season, including playoffs. Elvis Dumervil had four of them.

Mike Adams: Unless he makes big strides this season, the Steelers won’t shed any tears losing him in free agency.

Chris Hubbard: If the Steelers can’t keep Foster, Hubbard is a possible successor.

B.J. Finney: He went undrafted despite being named the Big 12’s co-Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2014. Finney, from Kansas State, is a pure center who can back up Pouncey.

Kevin Whimpey: The undrafted rookie from Utah State benched 225 pounds 39 times at his pro day, according to USA Today. Adams sure isn’t going to be Roethlisberger’s blind-side protector if the Steelers can’t keep Beachum. They need another body who can play tackle.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

Cameron Heyward: The leader of the Steelers’ defensive line told Steelers.com, via NFL.com, that there won’t be many changes under new defensive coordinator Keith Butler. Smokescreen, perhaps?

Steve McLendon: The nose tackle is entering a contract year.

Stephon Tuitt: As a rookie, Tuitt started the last four games and showed the potential to be a disruptive force. Don’t be surprised if he has a breakout year.

Dan McCullers-Sanders: The 6’7″, 350-something-pound nose tackle was active for nine of the last 10 games of his rookie season as well as the playoff game.

Clifton Geathers: The Steelers are the sixth-year veteran’s seventh team, but he can beat out Cam Thomas for a roster spot.

Ethan Hemer: One of the Steelers’ final cuts last year, Hemer survives this year.

LINEBACKER (9)

Arthur Moats: Here’s an interesting piece of trivia. The Bills selected Moats 17 spots before Antonio Brown in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. Moats probably will be starting at left outside linebacker on opening night.

Jarvis Jones: The bust whispers will get louder if the Steelers’ 2013 first-round pick can’t secure a starting job at outside linebacker in his third season.

Bud Dupree: Steelers fans are used to hearing that rookies don’t start in Dick LeBeau’s defense. Well, it’s Butler’s defense now. It would be nice to see Dupree, their top pick, make some kind of an impact at outside linebacker.

James Harrison: The 37-year-old figures to be on a snap count. The Steelers hope their younger linebackers progress enough to keep it that way.

Lawrence Timmons: The 29-year-old finally earned a Pro Bowl berth last season. He’s been quietly consistent.

Ryan Shazier: There’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to start next to Timmons this season. That’s why the Steelers drafted him in the first round.

Sean Spence: He overcame long odds to get on the field again. His story would make a nice movie.

Vince Williams: He doesn’t have the pedigree of some of the linebackers the Steelers have drafted in earlier rounds, but so far he’s contributed more.

Shawn Lemon: The 26-year-old had 13 sacks and forced eight fumbles last year for Calgary in the CFL. He beats out Terence Garvin as the Steelers choose pass-rushing upside over special teams utility.

SAFETY (4)

Mike Mitchell: Look for him to improve after a disappointing first season with the Steelers.

Shamarko Thomas: No matter who’s throwing the ball, the 5’9″ Thomas will need help covering Rob Gronkowski on opening night. That’s assuming Thomas can keep the starting strong safety job he’s inherited.

Will Allen: The 33-year-old is an insurance policy in case Thomas falls on his face.

Robert Golden: He hangs on because seventh-round pick Gerod Holliman, who led the NCAA with 14 interceptions at Louisville, isn’t quite ready and is stashed on the practice squad.

CORNERBACK (6)

William Gay: The 29-year-old has been maligned at times in his career, but he set a franchise record in 2014 with three touchdowns on interception returns.

Cortez Allen: He gets another chance to prove he’s worthy of his five-year, $25 million contract.

Senquez Golson: The Steelers’ second-round draft pick in May, Golson likely will have to pay his dues on special teams. That doesn’t mean he can’t earn more snaps as the season progresses.

Doran Grant: According to Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider, the fourth-round pick was ahead of Golson on the cornerback depth chart in OTAs.

Antwon Blake: He’s been cut once in his career and it took him two years to see significant playing time on defense. He won’t be giving up his roster spot anytime soon.

Kevin Fogg: The 24-year-old was cut by the Dolphins and signed to the Steelers practice squad last December. Multiple Steelers scribes say Fogg has made an impression in offseason workouts. He’ll force the Steelers to keep six cornerbacks.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Shaun Suisham: Since coming to the Steelers in 2010, Suisham is 83-for-89 on field goals from 39 yards and closer. Four of those misses have come from inside 33 yards, which is about the length of an extra point under the new rules. So the over/under on Suisham’s missed extra points this season should be one.

Brad Wing: The incumbent beats out Jordan Berry for the punting job in a battle of Australians.

Greg Warren: The long snapper is one of four who have been part of all three Steelers’ Super Bowl teams in this century. The others are Roethlisberger, Miller and Harrison.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets

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