Pittsburgh, PA —
On the afternoon before the Steelers’ final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium, the team has already cut down to its 80 player roster and will use tonight’s game as a barometer of who will make the final 53-man set. The final preseason game will be the last time many currently donning a Steelers jersey will ever do so, unless they are lucky enough to make the practice squad. After handing the Atlanta Falcons a 34 to 16 trampling, the Steelers will be looking for players who make a difference and stand out in such a way as to truly compete for a cherished spot and a 2011 regular season with the team.
The Falcons game
Peter King of Sports Illustrated has predicted that the Falcons will end up in the Super Bowl this year, but the Steelers were able to handle the Atlanta team with tenacity and create a bit of doubt on that prediction. Receiver Antonio Brown stole most of the show with four catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Even though Brown admitted it is preseason, he said, “I’m doing some great things…you just want to continue to work hard and buid and stay focused.” One of Brown’s receptions went for 77 yards and a score. Ben Roethlisberger looked fresh and finished his play going 11 for 16 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers were able to score in four of six first-half offensive possessions. Although Atlanta moved the ball well, the Steelers defense was too much for them to handle. Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and William Gay had trouble matching up one-on-one with Falcons receivers, but re-signed linebacker Lawrence Timmons showed his worth with six tackles and catching a deflected Matt Ryan pass to return it 44 yards and set up a field goal by Shaun Suisham. The biggest highlight of the second half of the game was a 95-yard reception return for a touchdown by Crezdon Butler. Rashard Mendenhall had one touchdown run. Unfortunately, backup quarterback Byron Leftwich was hit on a play and broke his left arm early in the second half of the game.
Reducing to league-mandated 80 player roster
The Steelers were forced to release four players Tuesday in order to meet the NFL’s 4 p.m. deadline. Those who were released were: inside linebacker Chris Ellis, wide receiver Terrence McCrae, cornerback Niles Brinkley and defensive tackle Anthony Gray. On Sunday, tight end Vaugh Charlton joined receiver Eric Greenwood, receiver Kevin Moore, cornerback Kevin Dockery and tight end Miguel Chavis who tore a pectoral muscle against the Falcons.
Most likely the following players will also not make the final roster, either due to injury, lack of production, or too much depth at a certain position to keep them:
- Kicker Swayze Waters
- Defensive End Jarrett Crittenton
- Defensive back Macho Harris
Making the final preseason game count
Players like Tyler Grisham understand what it is like to play your heart out only to find out that you didn’t make it to the final ’53’. Grisham has spent the majority of the past two seasons on the Steelers’ practice squad. This preseason he’s shown that he wants to be noticed and is willing to fight for position. The Steelers are possibly the deepest at the wide receiver position, and that could hurt Grisham’s chances. Grisham said, “I’ve allowed fear and anxiety to take its course a little too much in the past and so now this year I feel like… I’ve done a better job…going out and playing.”
Jonathan Dwyer and John Clay are both trying to seal a deal as possibly the fourth running back in the depth chart. Dwyer calls every day “an interview”, and though he has led the team in rushing during the preseason, he knows that the bulldozing John Clay still has a good shot at taking it all away from him. “It’s not how many reps…it’s what you do with those reps…” Dwyer insisted. Clay said, “I’m just climbing up…proving myself…the coaches have to know they can count on me.”
This could be one the most important games of some of these ‘on-the-cusp’ players’ lives.
What to look for against Carolina
Doug Legursky will start tonight’s game at the right guard position. The battle for the position has be ongoing between Ramon Foster, Tony Hills and Legursky. Coach Tomlin said that the decision was made in part because of Legursky’s consistency and competitiveness. “Going into the offseason, I was going to fight for a starting position and that’s what I’m doing.”
With Byron Leftwich out of the rotation, veteran quarterback Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon will battle for the number two spot on the roster behind Roethlisberger. Batch will get the start against Carolina. Coach Tomlin said, “We haven’t decided the distribution of reps. All we have decided is that Charlie will start first and Dennis will also play.”
Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not play this week.
This game will showcase as many young players as possible in order to protect those who’ve already locked up permanent roster spots. Watch for intensity and desire from the young players.
The following players will not participate:
Ike Taylor, Chris Carter, Jerricho Cotchery and Maurkice Pouncey
Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton, Bryant McFadden
Coach Tomlin said, “This time of year…you want to give everybody an opportunity to show what they are capable of. And quite frankly, playing with nicks and so forth are part of the evaluation process…”
Time: 8:00PM EDT
Radio: Available on WDVE 102.5 FM locally (Pittsburgh), Sirius Radio:132, 970 ESPN
TV: KDKA (Pittsburgh)
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