LATROBE, Pa. – Because the Steelers are to play in the Hall of Fame Game in five days – on Sunday, Aug. 9 – the team has released a depth chart, which is the first since the end of the 2014 season. The Steelers' preseason opener comes early this summer, and the depth chart reflects that.
Having been in training camp for just 10 days, this initial depth chart offers few surprises, and it also indicates Coach Mike Tomlin is reluctant to make any lasting judgments yet about what has happened so far during the practices at Saint Vincent College.
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was activated from the team's PUP list and wasted no time getting back to work on the practice field.
The starting 11 on offense is unchanged from the way the unit ended the 2014 regular season, and that's definitely no surprise. With Maurkice Pouncey coming off the physically unable to perform list on Monday, Aug. 3, the starting 11 on offense is intact for the first time this summer.
There has been some speculation among the media that Martavis Bryant is in the process of unseating Markus Wheaton as the starting wide receiver opposite Antonio Brown, but Tomlin doesn't see it that way. Not yet, at least. Wheaton remains listed as a starter, with Darrius Heyward-Bey and C.J. Goodwin behind him; it's Brown, Bryant, and rookie Sammie Coates listed in order at the other receiver spot. Eli Rogers, the undrafted rookie receiver who has created some buzz during the opening days of camp, is listed behind Goodwin.
The depth chart does provide some insight into the team's situation along the offensive line, with the lack of experienced tackles on the roster made obvious. With Mike Adams on the physically unable to perform list for the next couple of weeks at least, the Steelers have no tackles on the roster with any NFL regular season experience beyond starters Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert.
And with Adams on PUP, the backups listed behind Beachum at left tackle are undrafted rookie Kevin Whimpey and first-year player Kevin Palmer, who was signed on the eve of training camp after spending time on the practice squad of the Arizona Cardinals in 2014. Behind Gilbert on the right side are Alejandro Villanueva and Mitchell Van Dyk.
The starting 11 on defense for the first day of OTAs remains the starting 11 for the preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
As for the rest: Cam Thomas, Dan McCullers, and Clifton Geathers are the primary backups along the defensive line; it's Antwon Blake behind William Gay at left cornerback, and Brandon Boykin behind Cortez Allen at right cornerback; Robert Golden is No. 2 behind Mike Mitchell, and Will Allen is No. 2 behind Shamarko Thomas.
The deepest position on this Steelers roster is inside linebacker, where the team has four players – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, and Sean Spence – with multiple starts in NFL regular season games.
The first group, including the returners, is the same as it was at the end of the 2014 season. Wheaton is the kickoff returner, and Brown is the punt returner. Behind both of them is Dri Archer.
DEPTH CHART NOTES
The only rookies listed among those on the second-team are No. 1 pick Bud Dupree, who is behind Arthur Moats at left outside linebacker, and Miles Dieffenbach, who is behind David DeCastro at right guard … Reflective of the fact the Steelers regular season opener is 38 days away, this opening depth chart is arranged in a way in which experience counts. Players with even some time on the practice squad typically are listed ahead of rookies or newcomers. The one exception is at tight end, where No. 5 pick Jesse James is ahead of last year's No. 7 pick Rob Blanchflower … Even though the Steelers have been working a lot of the rookies as returners during training camp practices, none of them are listed as such on this depth chart. That could change once the preseason games begin.