Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers eyeing Steelers' starting WR jobs

Receiver Martavis Bryant missed 2016 due to a suspension and could be pushed by rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster in training camp. AP Photo/Don Wright

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror, and organized team activities and minicamps in full swing, here’s a starting lineup projection for the Pittsburgh Steelers:


QB: Ben Roethlisberger: The Steelers are happy Roethlisberger is atop the depth chart for the 14th straight year, and he's coming off three Pro Bowl nods.

RB: Le'Veon Bell: His 157 total yards per game last season ranked third all time for running backs, a convenient stat for Bell's contract talks this summer.

WR: Eli Rogers: Rogers will have to earn this role in training camp, but he's the favorite in the slot, where he did most of his damage last season while compiling 48 catches for 594 yards.

LT: Alejandro Villanueva: The two-year starter was once a project but is now a steady NFL left tackle who could be due for a contract extension soon.

LG: Ramon Foster: Long considered more role player than star, Foster quietly had one of his best seasons in 2016, as Pro Football Focus ranked him as one of their best left guards.

C: Maurkice Pouncey: A Roethlisberger favorite, Pouncey's attitude and edge command the Steelers locker room perhaps more than anyone else.

RG: David DeCastro: Former All-Pro was ranked the No. 97 player in the NFL by NFL Network this offseason.

RT: Marcus Gilbert: Considered one of the game's best right tackles and should be entering his prime in Year 7.

TE: Ladarius Green: A concussion history clouds his availability, but Green has been with the team for the offseason work and is clearly the starter when healthy.

WR: Antonio Brown: Brown saw about 90 percent of the offensive snaps last season, and there's no chance that changes.

WR: Martavis Bryant: The Steelers won't hand Bryant this spot after he missed the 2016 season with a suspension, but if he earns back trust, there's no denying he belongs in the starting lineup. Perhaps rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster or third-year man Sammie Coates can change that.


DE: Cam Heyward: Heyward is eager to get back on the field after missing nine games with ankle and pec injuries, the latter requiring surgery. He should be healthy for training camp.

DT: Javon Hargrave: Grew into starting role as a rookie and has natural pass-rushing ability but needs more consistency in Year 2.

DE: Stephon Tuitt: Tuitt is considered a building block on defense and creates disruption up front, but is looking for more sacks after 13 in three seasons.

OLB: Bud Dupree: He started to look like a first-round pick late last season after recovering from sports hernia surgery and is expected to make a sizable jump in 2017.

LB: Ryan Shazier: This will be Shazier's contract year, and the key for him is staying healthy. When he's on the field, he makes plays.

LB: Vince Williams: The Steelers have handed Williams the keys after letting Lawrence Timmons walk and opting not to draft inside linebacker help.

OLB: James Harrison: The 39-year-old has become one of the NFL's great late-career success stories, recording 7.5 sacks in his final 11 games of 2016.

CB: Artie Burns: Made some rookie mistakes a year ago but generally held up well as a first-year starter, and he's got natural cover skills that should stave off internal competition for his spot.

FS: Mike Mitchell: The Steelers trust Mitchell to direct traffic in the secondary; the 29-year-old is entering the fourth season of a five-year deal.

SS: Sean Davis: A full-time role at safety should serve Davis well after bouncing around from slot corner to safety earlier in the year. .

CB: Ross Cockrell: Cockrell, who's playing under a fourth-round restricted tender worth $1.797 million, has a lot to gain by having a big year. Veteran William Gay will be the favorite to start in the slot cornerback spot unless proven otherwise.


K: Chris Boswell: Boswell has made the most of a 2015 tryout, converting 50 of 57 field goals (87.7 percent) in two years.

P: Jordan Berry: He will enter his third season as the starter without much competition and averaged 45.6 yards per punt a year ago.

KR: Demarcus Ayers: This position has been a revolving door, but the Steelers drafted Ayers in 2016 with special teams help in mind.

PR: Antonio Brown: Brown likes returning punts despite the injury risk, and no Steeler is good enough to unseat him, so here he is atop the depth chart once again.