The Pittsburgh Steelers will close out their 2015 preseason Thursday night at Heinz Field Field against the Carolina Panthers and it’s the last chance for several of the roster hopefuls to show that they belong on the 53 man squad.
Below is a look at several of the bubble players who could definitely improve their stock Thursday night in hopes that they can secure a roster spot.
Josh Harris – On the surface, Harris seems to be a lock to make the final 53 man roster this year as there’s really nobody else pushing him for his spot. Against the Buffalo Bills, Harris played poorly and that included him failing to pass protect properly on two different plays. In the two preseason games that he’s played in, Harris has 12 carries for 28 yards. He’ll likely receive quite a bit of playing time Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers and if he doesn’t play well, the Steelers might be forced to watch the waiver wire after the final cuts are made in order to find an upgrade who can back up DeAngelo Williams in the team’s first two regular season games.
Chris Hubbard – Hubbard has been a major disappointment so far during the preseason at both the left guard and center position and it sounds like he’ll get time at both spots once again against the Panthers. Depending on how many total offensive linemen are kept on the final 53, Hubbard might very well be battling Doug Legursky and rookie undrafted free agent B.J. Finney for a roster spot.
Brad Wing – Wing certainly has punted well during the preseason but Jordan Berry has been a little bit better. Wing will have one more opportinity at Heinz Field to show that he should remain the punter in Pittsburgh.
Doug Legursky – Legursky only played 10 snaps at left guard last Saturday in his preseason debut, but he figures to get extended playing time there and at center against the Panthers Thursday night. Should he play well at both spots, he should be able to secure a roster spot and quite possibly make the aforementioned Hubbard expendable in the process.
Ross Ventrone – Ventrone also made his preseason debut against the Bills but that consisted of him only playing two snaps on special teams. Sure, he’s a known commodity on special teams, but that doesn’t guarantee him a roster spot. One would think that he will get a lot of playing time Thursday night not only on special teams, but at safety as well. If he doesn’t, he might be out the door.
B.W. Webb – If the Steelers decide to keep six total cornerbacks on their 53 man roster, Webb will have to beat out Kevin Fogg for that final spot. Webb is the more experienced of the two players, so at least he has that going for him.
Kevin Fogg – As previously mentioned, Fogg is likely battling Webb for a roster spot heading into the preseason finale. While he does lack experience, Fogg has registered three special teams tackles so far during the preseason. Webb, on the other hand, has zero.
L.T. Walton – As it stands right now, Walton, who was drafted this year by the Steelers in the sixth-round, appears to be inside the bubble when it comes to a sixth defensive lineman spot. He started against the Bills this past Saturday and while he didn’t play overly well, he was going against the Buffalo starters for most of the snaps that he played in the game. He should get a lot of playing time Thursday night and it will be interesting to see if he starts once again with defensive end Stephon Tuitt not expected to suit up.
Anthony Chickillo – There’s no doubt that Chickillo has played well during the preseason. At this point, he’s likely battling the numbers game more than he’s battling another player. With that said, he’s yet to register a sack or a turnover during the preseason in addition to not recording any tackles on special teams. At this point, he just needs to continue playing like he has been and hope for the best.
Ethan Hemer – While he’s likely outside of the bubble, Hemer still has one preseason game left to show that he belongs on the 53 man roster. While he has seen a few snaps during the preseason on the left side, most of his playing time has come on the opposite side.
Tyler Murphy – Will the Steelers still keep five wide receivers now that Martavis Bryant has been suspended? If they do, Murphy would be the logical choice for the fifth and final spot. That fact that Murphy only played one snap against the Bills on special teams is concerning, however. In fact, he’s only play a total of 10 snaps on special teams throughout the preseason. Normally the Steelers like their No. 5 wide receivers to play some on special teams, so even though he looks like Murphy’s currently inside the bubble, the team might just watch the waiver wire for an unvested upgrade. Maybe that’s why they signed David Nelson late in training camp. Nelson, however, is now on injured reserve.
B.J. Finney – As I wrote a few days ago, Finney has silently made a move during the preseason and thus should now be in contention for a roster spot heading into preseason finale. It will be interesting to see if he gets any snaps at left guard or center Thursday night in addition to his normal second-team load at right guard. Don’t sleep on him just because he’s an undrafted free agent and currently perceived as being outside the roster bubble.
Jordan Berry – Berry can punt, he can kickoff and he can hold. Not only can he do those three things, he does them well. Thursday night at Heinz Field, Berry will be able to make one final statement as his battle with Wing goes one last round. He’s really had a few booming punts this preseason and you’d have to think a few other teams around the league have noticed.