LATROBE, Pa. – The Steelers' initial depth chart for 2017 has been released, and it's a non-traditional one in that it makes an allowance for the dozen players currently not participating in practice.
As an example, because quarterback Landry Jones is not practicing because of an abdominal injury, he isn't listed as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger. He isn't listed anywhere on the depth chart, but his name does appear among those players under the designation "not participating as of Aug. 8, 2017." Being on the "not participating" list does not mean being ruled out of Friday's preseason opener.
In addition to Jones, the other players on the "not participating" list are WR Martavis Bryant, WR Sammie Coates, WR Demarcus Ayers, CB Cam Sutton, FS Mike Mitchell, RB Le'Veon Bell, CB Senquez Golson, RB James Conner, C Maurkice Pouncey, C Mike Matthews, and OLB Keion Adams.
Besides injuries, Bryant is on this list as he awaits reinstatement from the NFL, and Bell has not yet signed his franchise tender and cannot report to camp without a contract. Coates is on the physically unable to perform list as a result of knee surgery, and he cannot participate until he passes a physical and is moved to the active roster.
So, with those players removed from the equation, this initial depth chart offers few surprises, but it does confirm/clarify some things:
- At tight end, it's Jesse James as the starter, followed by David Johnson and Xavier Grimble.
- With Pouncey on the "not participating" list, B.J. Finney is listed as the No. 1 center and as the backup to Ramon Foster at left guard. This indicates Finney is the team's primary backup along the interior of the offensive line, which is a designation that becomes significant once the game day roster is set at 46 during the regular season.
- At running back, Fitz Toussaint is listed ahead of Knile Davis.
- At defensive end, L.T. Walton is listed as Cam Heyward's backup, and Tyson Alualu is listed as Stephon Tuitt's backup.
- Dan McCullers is behind Javon Hargrave at nose tackle.
- Bud Dupree is the No. 1 left outside linebacker, and behind him it's third-year pro Anthony Chickillo followed by Arthur Moats.
- William Gay is No. 1 at right outside linebacker, followed by T.J. Watt..
- Behind Ryan Shazier, it's L.J. Fort, Steven Johnson, and Tyler Matakevich; behind Vince Williams, it's Steven Johnson, Tyler Matakevich, and L.J. Fort.
- The backups listed at both cornerback spots are the same guys in the same order: Will Gay, Coty Sensabaugh, and Mike Hilton.
- With Mitchell on the "not participating" list, Robert Golden is the No. 1 free safety, with Jacob Hagen behind him. Behind Sean Davis at strong safety is Jordan Dangerfield.
- As for the specialists, Knile Davis is the No. 1 kickoff returner, with Antonio Brown backed up by Eli Rogers at punt returner.