Part II of the final preseason battles and how important they are for a good number of the players currently on the roster. As Mike Tomlin said the other day in his press conference, this game is important and players still have a very real chance of making the roster off this game. If you’re on the bubble and you blow this game, your fate is most likely sealed. Conversely if you play well then you greatly increase your chances of avoiding the Turk.
Some players to keep an eye on who are either on the bubble or fighting for the primary backup spot to the the starters.
Alameda Ta’amu hasn’t exactly had a superb training camp or preseason. He’s struggled much like you’d expect a 4th rounder to do. That’s not to say that you expect them to play poorly but 4th-7th draft picks are usually projects to some degree. He’s still got a chance to make a big name for himself against the Panthers and give John Mitchell, Defensive Line Coach, the peace of mind that when he needs Ta’amu, the rookie will be ready. Most defensive lineman play each week even if they aren’t starters because the rotation of players helps keep everyone fresh, especially in the early part of the year when it’s hot. If Ta’amu can make the roster then it’s not a matter of if he’ll play but when. Again, I’m not saying he is or isn’t on the bubble but Mike Tomlin said this week that he Casey Hampton has a chance to play in the opener in Denver. Does that mean that Ta’amu is the 3rd NT? How much does Hampton play? How much does this hold up other positions if they want to carry Ta’amu? We’ll have to see after Thursday night.
Left Cornerback is still hotly contested, as is the Nickelback position. Cortez Allen had a superb game against the Bills, showing good technique in his coverage skills and a knack for getting into the backfield in blitzes. Keenan Lewis is the more experienced player and the coaches could decide to choose him over Allen for that very reason but no matter who wins the starting 2 Cornerbacks, Nickelback, and Dimeback are going to be well manned. Curtis Allen had himself a real solid game as well this past weekend and even though he could end up as the Dimeback, that’s still important. Injuries can happen anytime so all three young guys are going to continue to fight hard and be ready.
The starting Safety spots are not exactly up for grabs, and one can assume that Ryan Mundy is likely secure in the primary backup role. However behind him there are secondary players all fighting for a couple roster. Robert Golden, Damon Cromartie-Smith, and Will Allen are all in the mix with Golden probably being the one who’s fate will be toughest to decide just based on numbers.. He had an interception against the Bills and has been having good workouts all through the offseason, camp, and preseason. This one is a tough call, how much does experience play into it with Will Allen? As we know it can carry a lot of weight in final cutdowns. Some of these guys will be practice squad candidates if they don’t make the cut but for them to avoid that they’ll need to be sure tacklers and ball hawking cover men every chance they get.
Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester, and Brandon Johnson are all fighting for primary backup duties at inside linebacker. Spence had himself a good training camp and has been growing into his role during preseason. His biggest asset is his quickness and tackling. Johnson is the savvy veteran and has been rock solid for the most part since he came to the team. This is a big year for Sylvester but with him still injured it will be interesting to see how the final roster shakes out; he was hoping to have a big camp and preseason to show the coaches he’s ready to take the next step. That didn’t work out so well for him but it doesn’t mean he’s necessarily in trouble. Being a veteran carries a lot of weight in Pittsburgh.
Chris Carter all but has the OLB job in his back pocket but that doesn’t mean anybody is comfortable without James Harrison in the lineup. Deebo hopes to return in the opener but even if he does he could be limited which is where Carter steps in. Adrian Robinson has a great motor and some raw skills that can be developed but he’ll want to represent well in this game to improve his chances at a final spot.
This game is huge for so many players, which is why it’s probably the most fun to watch, even if it is preseason.