Training camp has ended, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have reverted back to taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While training camp might have seen a lot of work put into the team and the roster, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well, since training camp is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is really one that lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the preseason looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Game Edition – Who will win or lose a roster spot tonight?
This is the last round before the games start to matter. This is also the last shot for many players to make a push for a job that pays hundreds of thousands of dollars, versus possibly working in a grocery store or fast-food restaurant for the next several months.
The final preseason game is very often when jobs are won and lost at the back end of the roster, and in the case of the Steelers, there is no exception. There is a case nearly every year in which a player comes on who has his biggest opportunity to perform and either steps up to earn the job, or falters and loses what he might otherwise have had.
The biggest candidate for winning a job is rookie Tyler Matakevich, who is at a disadvantage in comparison to his veteran competitors because he lacks their level of experience and performance on special teams. He has done all he can up to now in his playing time, but he will be given a long look tonight as a final audition to steal a job from somebody else.
The biggest candidate to lose a job might well be Xavier Grimble, and even that job could be on a temporary basis if Ladarius Green is able to return at some point during this season. But the Steelers currently only have two other viable tight end candidates, and Grimble is the third. His inconsistency makes him susceptible to being replaced by a pickup from another team, however.
There are many opportunities to be found in the secondary, if there is anybody able to step up and claim it. The two most likely candidates would seem to be cornerbacks Montell Garner and Al-Hajj Shabazz, who in addition to their defensive responsibilities have put together some solid special-teams snaps.
Chris Hubbard and B.J. Finney should also be able to solidify their likely roster spots tonight, and perhaps the pecking order between Fitzgerald Toussaint and Daryl Richardson can be sorted out, which will have implications for when Le’Veon Bell returns from suspension.