LATROBE, Pa. – The NFL requires every team to release a depth chart in advance of its preseason opener, and since the Steelers will host Tampa Bay on Friday at Heinz Field, Coach Mike Tomlin complied. But if anyone is expecting to learn anything definitive about the status of the various competitions taking place here during training camp, well, they came to the wrong place.
Tomlin’s general rule in making out the initial depth chart is to start with where things ended the previous season. Then when filling in the spots for the players who departed during the course of the offseason, guys with more experience get the consideration. Then it becomes a matter of filling in the rest of the names on the roster.
Starting with the first-team offense, sixth-year pro Donte Moncrief is in Antonio Brown’s old spot as a starting wide receiver opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster; and on the first-team defense, Mark Barron is listed as the starting left inside linebacker with Jon Bostic gone, and Steven Nelson is the starting right cornerback with Coty Sensabaugh not having been offered a contract.
All of the rest of the starters on offense and defense are the same players who ended last season as the starters on offense and defense right down to Mike Hilton being listed as the starting nickel cornerback.
Position flexibility is a valued characteristic among offensive linemen beginning with the position that commonly is known as swing tackle, but on the depth chart, Chuks Okorafor is listed as the No. 2 left tackle, while Zach Banner is listed as the No. 2 right tackle. Even though it would be hard to argue with identifying B.J. Finney as the primary backup along the interior of the offensive line, Finney is listed only as the No. 2 center, with J.C. Hassenauer as the No. 2 left guard, and rookie Fred Johnson as the No. 2 right guard.
Joshua Dobbs remains Ben Roethlisberger’s backup, with Mason Rudolph listed as the No. 3 quarterback and undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges is No. 4.
One of the few departures from Tomlin’s standard procedure can be found at the wide receiver spot behind Moncrief, where third-year pro Ryan Switzer is No. 2 and fourth-year pro Eli Rogers is No. 3. Behind Smith-Schuster at the other wide receiver spot is second-year pro James Washington followed by third-round pick Diontae Johnson.
On defense, the backups at outside linebacker are similar to the backups at offensive tackle in that those guys are expected to be able to line up on either end of the line of scrimmage. But for depth chart purposes, Anthony Chickillo is listed behind T.J. Watt at left outside linebacker with Ola Adeniyi behind Bud Dupree at right outside linebacker.
First-round pick Devin Bush is listed behind Barron; Tyler Matakevich is behind Vince Williams; Brian Allen and rookie Justin Layne are second and third behind Joe Haden at left cornerback; it’s Marcus Allen and then Kameron Kelly behind free safety Sean Davis; Jordan Dangerfield is behind Terrell Edmunds at strong safety; Artie Burns is behind Nelson at right cornerback; and Cam Sutton is behind Hilton as the nickel cornerback.
As for the specialists, there is no change from the end of 2018 at any of the starting spots. Rookie Trevor Wood, also a backup tight end, is listed as the No. 2 long-snapper behind Kameron Canaday, and first-year pro Diontae Spencer is the No. 2 punt returner behind Switzer.