With the preseason finally over, last night was our last chance to see each of these bubble players on the Pittsburgh Steelers state their case for a spot on the final roster or the 10-man practice squad. Final cuts should come today, so with those decisions looming, I decided to go back and take a look at how each player in our positional battles performed in their last preseason game.
1. CB Kevin Fogg vs. CB B.W. Webb
Alex Kozora made a good point last night when he observed that, despite the assumed “competition” here, Webb has ran over Fogg all camp and in every preseason game. That doesn’t lock Webb in, but it is a strong indicator that the team likes what he brings to the table as the 5th or 6th corner.
I wish Webb was a little quicker back to the football, but there is something to be said for a guy who is rarely out of position in coverage. Webb is a smart player who plays the pocket with ferocity, and will tackle and bring physicality in run support. His special teams prowess is well known, and his tackling is the main reason why. Webb isn’t a great athlete or the most instinctive player, but he is a good leader and a vocal player, constantly telling his teammates where to line up and correcting assignments for them. Pittsburgh values guys like that, which is why I think he makes the team in the end.
Fogg hasn’t made the decision an easy one however, mainly because of his propensity for splash plays in practice and during preseason action. He nearly pulled off a diving interception of a horribly overthrown ball last night, but couldn’t control the ball all the way to the ground. Fogg’s biggest edge would be in ball skills, as he has shown the ability to get his head around and make plays in the air against bigger receivers. Fogg isn’t as physical or as experienced, but I think the Steelers would love to land him on the practice squad.
Both players finished the preseason with 14 tackles and two passes broken up, while Fogg added an interception in the first preseason game that came courtesy of Webb ripping the ball free from the receiver at the catch point.
2. OT Kelvin Palmer vs. OT Mitchell Van Dyk
Both of our practice squad-hopeful offensive tackle went down with what appeared to be serious injuries last night, as Van Dyk’s right leg was immobilized and he was carted off on the penultimate play of the game. It had been a terrible game for Van Dyk, who was bullied badly at the beginning of the game, actually getting thrown back into Vick on one Carolina sack (also gave up another later in the game). He missed on his punch several times and couldn’t anchor against power rushers. His injury appeared to be very serious, so injured reserve may be in store for Van Dyk.
Palmer gave up a pressure on his third snap of the game, but was solid for much of the rest of it until his injury. Given the state of the offensive line depth, I seriously doubt either player makes the roster and both could be placed on injured reserve today.
3. P Jordan Berry vs. P Brad Wing
Berry got the start last night, which would seem to be a big positive for him, and the punter delivered in a big way with booming punts of 55 and 57 yards from right around his own goal line. Wing only got to punt once, and not until the third quarter, while Berry had five strong showings in the first half. I think the new kid may have knocked off the incumbent Wing.
4. WR Shakim Phillips vs. WR Tyler Murphy
Not much to say here, as Phillips made one catch for 16 yards and Murphy made one for eight yards. Very quiet night for the offense as a whole, so both Boston College players’ production was limited as a result. For the preseason as a whole, Phillips finished with eight catches for 134 yards and a touchdown, while Murphy also grabbed eight balls for 90 yards and a score. I have Phillips with four drops and Murphy with zero.
5. S Alden Darby vs. S Jordan Dangerfield vs. S Gerod Holliman vs. S Ross Ventrone
Darby played well last night for the most part, making a great special teams open field tackle and closing quickly on a throwing window to lay out a receiver at the catch point. He finishes the preseason with 15 tackles and a sack.
Dangerfield was quiet (for him) last night, but still managed to corral four tackles. He’s still at his best in run support and in the box, where the majority of his 19 tackles came. His forced fumble on a big hit on special teams will linger in coaches minds as well.
Holliman had one tackle last night to finish the preseason with four, and I don’t think he played on defense until the second half. His one tackle was running a guy out of bounds, so he still hasn’t answered anyone’s questions about physical play or his tackling ability.
Ventrone finally saw his first defensive snaps of the preseason, but his only tackle came on special teams. Hard to know if the team already knows what to expect from him and want to see more inexperienced players get playing time, or if Ventrone just clearly isn’t a part of their plans moving forward. He’s the toughest assessment on the roster right now in some ways, as he really only helps them as a gunner on special teams. That shouldn’t be undersold however, as Ventrone might be one of the best in the game at that role.