The third preseason game, as you know, is the tune up. The Pittsburgh Steelers took off the bubble wrap from their key players and select starters played well into the third quarter. The guys you saw most often are ones who are going to make the 53 man roster. Which is why seeing so much of defensive end Lavon Hooks was noticeable.
Throughout camp, and the first two preseason games, Hooks had been running as the third team left DE. But Saturday night, as reader Chris originally pointed out to us, he worked as the second team RDE over Johnny Maxey, who has occupied that spot throughout. Maxey wasn’t hurt either or playing another position. He cycled in as the third team RDE for a few snaps later in the game. Hooks wound up, by my count, playing 13 snaps, while Maxey only saw eight, including the final three of the game.
What once was thought, by me and others on-hand, was a secure spot for Maxey seems much more questionable. Hooks, evidently, either perked up in practice in a big way or Maxey got in Mike Tomlin’s doghouse. Hooks was with the team last year and after missing the first four practices of camp this year, had a decent camp. He’s versatile, able to play inside or out, with some functional strength.
This was probably his final shot with the team. Shelf life for guys near the end of the roster is the equivalent of a banana. Quietly, Hooks hung around stars on the defense, telling friend of the site Ron Lippock he worked out in Arizona with Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and others.
“Tuitt has been a big help. I’ve been training in Arizona with him, Cam – Golden and James too. Tuitt helped me on breaking things down – my mentality. To go full speed – not slowing down whether I’m messing up or correct.”
On a roster that is rounding out the edges and position battles, there aren’t many spots up for grabs anymore, The last defensive linemen spot has opened back up. The team will only keep a 6th and final one and I’d be floored if Daniel McCullers was still in consideration.
It also raises the possibility of the team targeting the position on the waiver wire. The team did so in 2015 by claiming Caushaud Lyons off waivers, though he wound up never appearing in a game.
One name to throw out at random, and this is all speculation by me, is to target the Tennessee Titans’ Angelo Blackson. He’s in danger of getting cut and has an NFL resume, 2.5 sacks his rookie year. Kevin Colbert was at his – Auburn’s – Pro Day in 2015. Working under Dick LeBeau, the system would generally be the same.
While the preseason finale generally doesn’t carry much excitement, it’s a position battle to keep a close eye on.