Tonight is going to feel like an afterthought. A formality, really. The final preseason game is an utterly forgettable one to many fans. The broadcast even feels barely interested. Cutaways to sideline reports with starters in sweats and promos for some show on the CW that’ll last six episodes before going belly up. The league may not even have these games in the next CBA, especially as the league’s push for an 18 game season continues.
Which is a shame. Because to so many on the field, this game means everything. The last chance to make one of the up-for-grabs spots on the 53 man roster. Or the ten man practice squad, which is naturally even more wide open. Or an opportunity to put on tape for the rest of the league to check out.
Make no mistake. There are success stories from this game. Guys who have stamped their way to a roster spot for what they did in the preseason’s last moments. Here’s five Pittsburgh Steelers who are proof positive of that.
Isaac Redman (2009) – Redman was a name unknown to anyone outside of the small college of Bowie State when he signed as a UDFA. But he impressed in the preseason, a combination of power and sneaky agility, all of which was on display in the finale against the Carolina Panthers, the Steelers’ final preseason opponent since the Bush administration.
His biggest play was this ping-ponging touchdown run, stepping in and out of tackles before spinning over the goal line.
Redman finished the game carrying 12 times for 79 yards and that score, earning his way onto the roster and carving out, albeit a relatively brief, NFL career.
Stefan Logan (2009) – A guy like Diontae Spencer should look no further than Logan if he wants to see a path to the team. Granted, Logan tore it up all through the preseason but he iced things – Bill Hillgrove quipped it was time to contact a real estate agent after this 80 yard punt return score – against Carolina.
Logan spent the entire year as the Steelers’ return man before heading to Detroit the next year. At 38, he’s still playing football, signed to the Ottawa Redblacks’ roster which, funny enough, is where Spencer came from.
Roosevelt Nix (2015) – Nix was the longest of longshots entering camp as the #2 FB behind established veteran Will Johnson. His special teams play was his calling card finished off by this blocked punt versus Carolina in an otherwise miserable 23-6 loss in 2015. Nix’s role has expanded as the starting fullback but he’s become one of the best special teamers not just in Pittsburgh but the entire NFL.
Terrell Watson (2017) – Watson first got noticed in the goal line drill at Heinz Field and while he didn’t have a signature play, he put in a workman like performance of 19 carries for 87 yards, notching positive play after positive play. He flashed his power, carrying this poor safety across the first down marker for an 11 yard pickup.
He made the team as the #3 and though his stay was short, what he did against Carolina was key to making the team.
Josh Dobbs (2018) – And finally, you can look at what Dobbs did last year. Time and time again, Mike Tomlin’s admitted his performance in the finale is what earned his roster spot over Landry Jones, becoming Ben Roethlisberger’s immediate backup and seeing his first NFL action.
Dobbs tore up the Panthers’ defense in the first half, leading the offense to 17 points and a couple of great throws, like this dart to Justin Hunter downfield.
That’s reason enough to believe the current quarterback situation is still up in the air, including Dobbs’ job security, though his odds of being on the 53 man roster still look good. Devlin Hodges may change that by the time tonight’s over.