Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:
Jones' hold on his roster spot remains tenuous but I am keeping him on the team for now. This is one position though where the Steelers could go with one less if they want to keep an extra player at another position.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Tough week for LeBackfield, and the Steelers will need to carry an extra running back if they suspend Blount or Bell -- or both -- for the regular-season opener against the Browns. I don't see that happening so I will stick with three running backs and Johnson as the fullback. None of the other backs on the roster has emerged though Tauren Poole still has a chance to make the team. He needs to make a strong closing argument Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers after missing the Steelers' third preseason game because of a hamstring injury.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
This is the first time in awhile that I have the Steelers keeping six wide receivers. Heyward-Bey is one of the few Steelers players who flashed in their 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and he provides speed and a veteran presence to the wide receivers corps. Bryant is still a wild card and Justin Brown has been a disappointment so the Steelers may need Heyward-Bey to serve as their No. 4 wide receiver.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
There is no change here, and rookies Eric Waters and Rob Blanchflower each have to play well in the preseason finale to thrust themselves into the discussion as far as the 53-man roster. Will Johnson plays enough tight end in his new role that the Steelers could go with Miller and Spaeth as the only players who are exclusively tight ends if they only want to keep those two at this position.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
The first seven are set and I still have Johnson making the team over Guy Whimper because of the rookie fifth-round pick's versatility and upside. He is anything but a lock for the 53-man roster so the Vanderbilt product will have to make the most of his extended playing time on Thursday night.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
The re-signing of Keisel adds an extra player here, and I still have Mauro, an undrafted rookie, getting the nod over second-year man Brian Arnfelt. Mike Tomlin likes to dress an extra defensive lineman early in the season when heat and humidity are a factor in games so it makes sense to keep seven up front.
I have switched back to Zumwalt making the team over Howard Jones even though the rookie sixth-round pick has missed the last two games because of a groin injury. If Zumwalt is unable to go against the Panthers he is headed for the practice squad, providing an opening for Jones or Vic So'oto. The Steelers could also play it safe here and keep Chris Carter for one more season.
No change here with rookie Shaquille Richardson missing the game last Thursday night because of a knee injury. His status for the preseason final is uncertain, and I think the fifth-round pick opens the season on the practice squad.
There is no change here as well. Golden's special-teams work and the improvement he has made at safety compels the Steelers to keep five players here.
I had the Steelers carrying two long snappers last week with Warren recovering from surgery that fixed torn meniscus in his knee. Warren's avaliability for the Sept. 7 season opener remains in question. But the Steelers could put either Bryce Davis or Luke Ingram on the practice squad and sign one of those players to the 53-man roster if Warren can't play against the Browns. Wing needs a good game against the Panthers to make the team and then hold onto his roster spot. His net punting average of 35.8 yards won't cut it and the Steelers went to the waiver wire last year to address their punting situation after Drew Butler initially made the 53-man roster.