Even as the first team units finally made their way onto the field in the team’s third preseason game, Saturday night against the Detroit Lions was still all about the depth and the players battling for roster spots for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the team’s 26-20 victory over the Lions, Steelers battling for a spot on the 53-man roster had moments to continue making cases for a roster spot, beginning partway through the first half when Steeler starters began to check out. Though 3-0 this postseason based largely on the play of those depth options, Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin is far from ready to consider his team’s depth solidified.
“We’re still very much developing it. I liked some of the things that I’ve seen thus far, but man, these are significant days that lie ahead. Not only between now and our next game, but also just between now and September 12th for us,” Tomlin said postgame after Saturday’s win. “And those aren’t idle days, man, we got to continue to grow. We have to continue to develop people, they have to continue to be developed. And so we’ll roll our sleeves up and go back to work tomorrow.”
September 12th is the date the Steelers take the field for their first regular season game, against the Buffalo Bills. But two weeks earlier, on the final day of August, teams must trim their rosters down to a 53-man group, with up to another 16 on the practice squad.
That leaves potential Steelers at every position another 10 days (and one preseason game) to campaign for a job. As highlighted by Alex Kozora, some on the bubble strengthened their cases Saturday night. Mathew Sexton had his second big return of the preseason to finish among the players benefitting from the game. Elsewhere on the box score, Kalen Ballage had over four yards per carry on a team-best seven rushes, while players like Jamir Jones and Marcus Allen (splitting a sack and adding QB hits) continued strong preseasons on defense. Even former Lion Miles Killebrew made the most of an audition against his former team, with a Pittsburgh-high six tackles in the victory.
The depth at every position for Pittsburgh will return to practice this coming week, with one final major date looming prior to cuts: Friday night, when the Steelers play their preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.