Today is the last time that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to play a game in which the results don’t count for some time. For some players, however, this final preseason game could mean a great deal, and that doesn’t necessarily mean earning a roster spot with the Steelers.
Simply getting the opportunity to put quality tape down in extended playing time could help some players currently on the roster land with another team, should they not make it with Pittsburgh. Somebody like Matt Feiler would immediately come to mind, but there are others as well, such as Justin Hunter, Brian Allen, and Jake McGee.
Most of the Steelers’ starters are not going to play in this one, for obvious reasons, but there are still plenty of players for whom this will be a big game. I think one of them would have to be rookie quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who has not looked good in the preseason so far. A better performance in the preseason finale would at least make people feel better.
Following recent developments vis-à-vis the sudden acquisition of notable talents, we could find ourselves watching some players battling for roster spots that they would not have otherwise, and that means playing more, or playing period, in tonight’s game.
With Joe Haden displacing Ross Cockrell, his only shot of remaining is to play very well tonight in the hopes of sticking over Coty Sensabaugh, who was already threatening his starting job. Likewise, the addition of Vance McDonald puts David Johnson and Xavier Grimble on notice. One of them is probably not going to be retained.
Some younger starters, however, are likely to continue to play a bit, like Artie Burns and Sean Davis, provided that the latter is not banged up. Burns hasn’t looked all too confident during his preseason play, so a good showing heading into the regular season could be beneficial.
We could even see Martavis Bryant suit up and play tonight as he gears up to play his first meaningful game in about 20 months. He reportedly requested additional playing time in the second half of Saturday’s game as he works to knock off some rust.
Two young players for whom this game will be huge are running back Terrell Watson and cornerback Mike Hilton. The latter will probably start the game in the slot, and he could potentially earn that job. Watson is looking to win the number three running back job.
Another running back who could factor in is Trey Williams as a returner. He didn’t get a chance to return a kick in the last game, so I would like to see him get that opportunity tonight.
If Hunter has any prayer of making the team, he also needs to blow up. But even that may not be enough to salvage his chances, because who would rightfully be impressed by a fifth-year veteran beating up on Carolina’s second- and third-string secondary?