The Pittsburgh Steelers wrap up their preseason schedule tonight against—who else—the Carolina Panthers, thanks to whom Pittsburgh was able to acquire their starting running back for the first two games this season, DeAngelo Williams.
Hopefully, Williams will not be playing tonight, or at least not playing much. He played 10 snaps against the Bills and showed absolutely everything that needed to be seen. What we haven’t seen is quality play from Josh Harris, who is expected to be Williams’ backup for those two games. It is not necessary, but it would certainly be a comfort to see a good showing from him.
After getting skipped over by L.T. Walton, it may be interesting to see what kind of playing time Cam Thomas ends up getting tonight. Did the Steelers just want to get a good look at the rookie, or might they seriously be considering alleviating themselves of Thomas’ $2 million base salary? Their recent restructures suggests the former, but it wouldn’t hurt for him to put together another solid game.
Anthony Chickillo should see a ton of work tonight. This may well be the game in which he determines whether or not he’s on the 53-man roster or on the practice squad. But that includes special teams. Making a tackle there or throwing a block wouldn’t hurt.
Will Lawrence Timmons play at all after missing the last three preseason games with a turf toe injury? Or will his next snap be the season opener in New England?
Doug Legursky needs to get a long look tonight, if only simply to re-acclimate himself to contact after being out of the game since his mid-season injury last year. But behind that, I will be closely monitoring Chris Hubbard and B.J. Finney, as one of them figures to make the initial 53-man roster, barring a waiver pickup.
There is a temporary opening for wide receiver that is coming down to Tyler Murphy, who is evidently the front runner, and Shakim Phillips, who has made more plays, but also dropped more. Phillips has done more on special teams.
I don’t think that Jesse James is at risk of getting cut, but he hasn’t looked quite as good as he had in the second preseason game. He will get a lot of work tonight, so a good showing would certainly be welcome.
Ross Ventrone has yet to play this preseason. If he still doesn’t play tonight, I can’t see him making the 53-man roster. I wouldn’t exactly call him an established veteran. And if Gerod Holliman hopes to even make the practice squad, this is his last opportunity to make an impact of any kind.
Veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey has been inexplicably inactive for two of the team’s four preseason games for unknown reasons, but he will be the third receiver for the team’s first four games. He should be getting a lot of work, from the first snap to the last, potentially.
Then there’s Michael Vick, who flashed quickly with a 63-yard pass, and showed some mobility, but also looked like a quarterback who hadn’t even taken many practice reps recently. He only got two drives in the last game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays a half, or even more.
As always with the final preseason game, you’re going to want to pay close attention to special teams. A couple spots are won or lost there annually, including the practice squad. Maybe Roosevelt Nix manages to stick around that way. The Steelers only have four tight ends/fullbacks on the roster, so it would make sense.