For the starters, today’s game against the Cleveland Browns means very little. But for some members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, this is something akin to their Super Bowl. With the team expected to rest a number of starters, and likely limit the playing time of others, there will be opportunities for some lesser-utilized members of the roster to get onto the field and show the coaching staff something in a game setting.
Let’s explore some of the players for whom this game may mean something more than most:
Daniel McCullers: The fourth-year nose tackle has been inactive for most of the season because he lost out on the backup nose tackle job to L.T. Walton. The former sixth-round pick has seen limited snaps up to now, but should the starters be held back, he will get a good burn. Will it be enough to get the team to re-sign him to even a qualifying contract next year?
Stevan Ridley: It already seems as though the Steelers intend to use Ridley as Le’Veon Bell’s backup, in spite of the fact that he has only been here for a little more than a week. But even though he is likely to get minimal work at best provided that Bell is healthy once the postseason starts, getting the opportunity to see a lot of reps in the Steelers’ system would provide some peace of mind.
Eli Rogers: This has not been the first ‘big’ opportunity for Rogers, but this is, hopefully, the last game without Antonio Brown to stand in his way. If they give a lighter workload to some other receivers, Rogers could see quite a bit of playing time.
Beyond his offensive duties, the third-year wide receiver is also coming off by far the best game he has ever had as a punt returner, recording four returns of at least 15 yards, with two over 20 yards. Continued production in that area means continued reps in that role.
Justin Hunter: Another wide receiver further down the depth chart, the tall, fast underachiever has had a hard time seeing the field, and even when he has been on the field, he hasn’t always taken advantage of his opportunities. But he is coming off a touchdown in the last game and should get some good work today.
B.J. Finney: He has already made three starts this year, and has six starts in his career, but today will (likely) be his second at center, which was Finney’s natural position in college. He started this game a year ago and struggled, against the same opponent, so this will be a good benchmark for his progress.
Landry Jones: Remember that guy? He, too, started this game a year ago and had his ups and downs. This will be his first meaningful playing time in roughly a year, so it will be interesting to see what he looks like. Keep in mind, he even took fewer reps in the preseason—by far—than he normally does.