They call it the “Final 53” in recognition of the repeated reductions from the 90 players that reported for the opening of training camp.
But in reality, what the Steelers will come up with by 4 p.m. on Tuesday will be a mere starting point.
It’s likely to change again before the Steelers hit Cincinnati on Sept. 11.
And it’ll change repeatedly throughout the course of the regular season.
Still, you have to start somewhere.
Here’s what I see as the starting point in advance of Sunday’s preseason finale against the Lions:
QB (3): Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, Somebody Else
Mason Rudolph fought the good fight and played well enough to make himself a tradable commodity. The suspicion is Rudolph would rather be No. 2 elsewhere than No. 3 with the Steelers, and the Steelers will ultimately respect those wishes. Presumably, they still have Chris Oladokun’s number.
RB (4): Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland Jr., Jaylen Warren, Derek Watt
Not sure what Watt’s role is beyond special teams or if the Steelers envision one for T.J.’s brother on offense, but I don’t suspect he’s going anywhere. Benny Snell Jr.’s a tougher cut than you might think, but Warren earned it.
WR (6): Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Chase Claypool, Calvin Austin III, Gunner Olszewski, Miles Boykin
Is there a way to keep Steven Sims? Every possibility and option ought to be explored toward that end. They did too good a job repopulating the position.
TE (3): Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward
Freiermuth is poised for a breakout season. Heyward will contribute situationally in a variety of ways after showing up as advertised from Michigan State.
OL (9): Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, James Daniels, Chukwuma Okorafor, Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer, John Leglue, Joe Haeg
Somebody Else is an option here, as well. But in a league starving for offensive linemen, the pickins’ off of the scrap heap of other teams’ cuts will likely be pretty slim.
DL (7): Cam Heyward. Tyson Alualu, Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley, Montravius Adams, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiahh Loudermilk
Adams hasn’t practiced in a while but he looked great early in training camp. And the Steelers can’t afford to get caught short again upfront. They saw what happens when that happens last year. It’s not an option.
LB (9): T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Mark Robinson, Derrek Tuszka, Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Somebody Else
The Steelers are apparently betting there will be a better option than Genard Avery available as the been-there, done-that, rotational OLB they’ll have to have in support of Watt and Highsmith. It’s either that or they think Rashed will blossom into a player worthy of being named for a Carthaginian general.
DB (9): Cam Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, Arthur Maulet, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Tre Norwood, Elijah Riley
They’ll have a deep and versatile secondary at their disposal. It’ll be up to the coaches to take full advantage schematically.
LS (1): Christian Kuntz
P (1): Pressley Harvin III
K (1): Chris Boswell
Harvin has apparently made great progress. It’ll help immensely if he can flip fields the way his leg strength suggests he can.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s a better team than the one that closed last season by being blown out in Kansas City. But the Steelers didn’t get better in a vacuum. And what they have available, as always, will be subject to change.