Training camp is nearly upon us as the month of July comes to a close. Within a week’s time, the NFL will start to ramp back up as all 32 teams start to report for training camp to prepare for preseason action and the eventual beginning of the 2022 regular season.
While some players like T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward have their roster spots locked up and will look to likely manage their reps during the preseason, other players will have to make the most of every opportunity that they get as they sit on the roster bubble. The Pittsburgh Steelers are no exception to this, and Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox recently published a piece where he picked out three names that will have to show out in training camp as well as in the preseason games in order to secure a roster spot for the regular season.
S Karl Joseph
The first name Knox brings up in his piece is S Karl Joseph. A former first-round pick in 2016, Joseph hasn’t exactly lived up to that billing over the last several years. After having his fifth-year option declined with the Raiders, Joseph signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2020. He played well in his limited time with Cleveland as he recorded 67 tackles, two tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and an interception. After Joseph was waived by the Raiders again during the preseason in 2021, he signed with Pittsburgh and spent most of the season on the practice squad, seeing only 17 defensive snaps in 2021.
“Unless Joseph is too good to ignore in camp, he’ll likely be the odd safety out. He’s set to carry a cap hit of $895,000 with none of it guaranteed. The Steelers don’t necessarily need the savings—they have $13.8 million in space remaining—but they also have no reason to pay a safety who may not see the field.”
With Pittsburgh returning Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew, and Tre Norwood along with signing Damontae Kazee this offseason, Joseph could easily be the “odd man out” like Knox references above. He is clearly on the outside looking in at the moment and will have to stand out in training camp practices as well as in preseason action to earn a roster spot.
CB Justin Layne
Justin Layne is the next Steeler mentioned in the article, and for good reason. The fourth-year CB out of Michigan State hasn’t made much of an impact at all on the defensive side of the football in his first three seasons, playing 145 defensive snaps total in his NFL career. He currently has no PBUs or INTs to his name, and in his extended playing time back in 2020 where he played 117 snaps on defense, Layne allowed an 83.3% completion percentage for 127 yards and a TD, equating to 138.5 passer rating allowed.
“Joe Haden remains unsigned, but Pittsburgh added Levi Wallace to start alongside Cameron Sutton and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also have James Pierre, Tre Norwood, Arthur Maulet, and undrafted rookie Chris Steele. Pierre (414), Norwood (388) and Maulet (379) all played significantly more snaps than Layne last season. As an undrafted rookie, Steele will be a cheaper option as a special-teamer and depth piece.”
While Layne has been a capable special teams contributor (599 snaps the last three seasons), he needs to show more as a defender in order to justify a spot on the roster over the likes of Pierre, Maulet, and Norwood who contributed more on that side of the ball last season. Making a similar splash like he did at times last preseason this year could go a long way for him sticking on the 53-man roster.
WR Miles Boykin
The last played mentioned in the piece is recently acquired WR Miles Boykin. Boykin was waived by the Baltimore Ravens this spring, and Pittsburgh opted to claim him off waivers. Pittsburgh showed a fair amount of interest in Boykin coming out in the pre-draft process, and rightfully so considering his freakish athletic profile as well as his high football character. Still, Boykin was a raw prospect coming into the league, and a combination of injuries and lack of development to-date has severely held back his statistical production. Through three seasons, Boykin has amassed 33 receptions for 470 yards and seven TDs.
“Between Austin, Pickens, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, the Steelers should have four locks in their receiver room. The Steelers also have the likes of Steven Sims, Miles Boykin and special-teams ace Gunner Olszewski—the latter being a first-team All-Pro in 2020 and is another potential lock. Anthony Miller isn’t a lock but will have a good chance of sticking if he can rekindle the chemistry he shared with Mitch Trubisky when both were with the Chicago Bears.”
Given that Boykin plays a similar role that Claypool does as a vertical Z-type receiver, he will have to make his bones as a core special-teamer, running down kicks and punts like he showcased in Baltimore to make the roster as the fifth or sixth receiver on the depth chart. He will also have to stay healthy, having dealt with several different injuries during his tenure in the league. The talent is there for Boykin to make an impact, but not he must capitalize on that talent with the opportunities he gets this summer to secure a roster spot.
What are your thoughts on the names listed above as players “on the bubble” for Pittsburgh? Who do you think is the most-likely name to make the roster? Who else would you have included on this list? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!