The young linebackers that are all competing for a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers final 53 man roster have played well collectively as a unit on defense so far during the preseason, but head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday during his press conference that this week he really wants to see what they each can do Thursday night on special teams in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.
"Excited about watching these young linebackers sort themselves out in one last opportunity," said Tomlin. "Really just made a point to them this morning, less about what they do on defense and more about what they do on special teams. I think we need more consistency and above the line effort from some of those guys in that regard, and I think the ones that distinguish themselves will be ones that show an aptitude for play making and understand of football in that phase."
One of those young linebackers competing for a roster spot is sixth-round draft pick Vince Williams and Tomlin was asked to comment on the progress he has made so far during the preseason.
"He's done a nice job to this point," Tomlin said. "Like all young players he's done some positive things, some things we'd like to see him improve on both on defense and special teams, and it's a big week for him like it is some others. Whether it's him or Marshall McFadden or Kion Wilson or Terence Garvin. It's just a big important week for those guys."
The Steelers released linebacker Stevenson Sylvester on Sunday, so that almost guarantees that Marshall McFadden will make the final 53 man roster as a third inside linebacker. Williams seems to be well on his way to making the roster as well, so now we have to see whether or not the team will keep a total of four or five inside linebackers.
Should they wind up keeping five, which seems like a good bet right now, it will mean that Brian Rolle, Kion Wilson and Terence Garvin are all likely fighting for that final roster spot. Rolle, unlike Wilson and Garvin, is not eligible for the practice squad, so that could wind up playing heavily into the final decision.
Thursday night against the Panthers it will be interesting to see which player plays alongside McFadden when the second-team defense takes the field, but more importantly, it will be fun to watch these young linebackers try to stick out on special teams as that ultimately will decide who stays and who goes.