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Projected 53-man roster for Steelers doesn’t include Bell ... for now

September 27, 2018

Let’s get this out of the way before delving into my projected 53-man roster for the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Le’Veon Bell isn’t on it.

Don’t take this as a sign that Bell will extend his absence from the team into the regular season. Nor should it be construed as the Steelers rescinding the $14.5 million franchise-tag tender that Bell has yet to sign.

Bell’s not included here because, as of Saturday at 4 p.m., when rosters must be finalized, he doesn’t have to be on it.

Last year, the Steelers asked for - and received - a two-week roster exemption for Bell. They activated him on the eve of the season opener in Cleveland and released linebacker Steven Johnson to be at the 53-man limit.

Anticipate that scenario playing out again this year. Expect Bell to be with the Steelers on Sept. 9 in Cleveland. Just don’t expect him to be on the tentative 53-man roster that is announced Saturday.

Barring any trades that bring in an inside linebacker or backup tackle, here is my projected 53-man roster for the Steelers:

Quarterback (3)

Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Mason Rudolph

Notable cut: Joshua Dobbs

Outlook: Dobbs did nothing to diminish his skills as an NFL quarterback in the preseason. He should find a home by the time the regular season starts.

Running back (4)

James Conner, Stevan Ridley, Jaylen Samuels, Roosevelt Nix

Notable cut: Fitz Toussaint

Outlook: When Bell is activated, someone likely will go, and the guess here is it will be Ridley. He returned from an injury and got second-half work against Carolina perhaps as a way to show other teams he is healthy.

Wide receiver (6)

Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ryan Switzer

Notable cuts: Marcus Tucker, Damoun Patterson, Tevin Jones

Outlook: Tucker was in line to earn a spot until the trade for Switzer. He also finished the preseason with an injury and perhaps could land on injured reserve. Patterson and Jones are candidates for the practice squad.

Tight end (3)

Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, Bucky Hodges

Notable cut: None

Outlook: Where’s Vance McDonald? Since he has missed more than a month with a foot injury and hasn’t even participated in individual workouts, he could be ticketed for injured reserve. If the Steelers don’t feel comfortable going that route, McDonald will be active, Hodges will be cut and the Steelers could use Jaylen Samuels as the No. 3 tight end in a pinch until McDonald returns.

Offensive line (8)

Marcus Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, Chuks Okorafor

Notable cut: Jake Rodgers

Outlook: The Steelers kept nine offensive linemen last year for risk of losing Feiler on waivers. Rodgers got some work at guard in the preseason finale and would be the logical candidate to stay. Or the Steelers could seek outside help from a veteran who is cut Saturday.

Defensive line (6)

Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Daniel McCullers

Notable cut: Joshua Frazier

Outlook: Frazier, the seventh-round pick from Alabama, didn’t do much in the preseason and could be brought back on the practice squad.

Outside linebacker (4)

T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, Ola Adeniyi

Notable cuts: Keion Adams, Farrington Huguenin

Outlook: Huguenin could be swapped for Adeniyi if it turns out the undrafted free agent from Toledo has a serious hamstring injury and lands on injured reserve. Adams is a victim of numbers and could be back on the practice squad.

Inside linebacker (5)

Vince Williams, Jon Bostic, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, Matthew Thomas

Notable cut: None

Outlook: Thomas likely played his way onto the roster with a strong preseason punctuated by his sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and 75-yard return on Thursday.

Cornerback (6)

Joe Haden, Artie Burns, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Coty Sensabaugh, Brian Allen

Notable cut: None

Outlook: This position seemed set for much of camp. Allen, though, was beaten on coverage again vs. the Panthers and could be on the bubble. If Hilton’s injury lingers into the season, Sutton will be ready to step in.

Safety (5)

Sean Davis, Morgan Burnett, Terrell Edmumds, Nat Berhe, Jordan Dangerfield

Notable cuts: Marcus Allen

Outlook: Burnett’s lingering injury could mean more playing time for Edmunds. Berhe looked slow when he was outraced for that long touchdown reception against the Packers, but his special teams skills should keep him around. Dangerfield has experience and is an option for subpackages while Hilton recovers.

Specialists (3)

Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry, Kameron Canaday

Notable cut: Matt Wile

Outlook: Wile did his best to wrestle the punting job from Berry, but the guess here is the Steelers go with the proven commodity. They should keep Wile’s number on speed dial in case Berry gets off to a slow start.

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