The Pittsburgh Steelers will be taking on the New York Giants tonight in their 2013 preseason opener at Heinz Field and there are three off-the-radar players that will be worth keeping an eye on. While all three should be considered long-shots to make the final 53 man roster, they still have a glimmer of hope should each play well over the course of the next several weeks.
Alan Baxter – Baxter, an undrafted, undersized defensive end out of Northern Illinois, is trying to make the transition to outside linebacker in the Steelers 3-4 defense. So far, the reports coming out of training camp have been positive about him and even linebackers coach Keith Butler referenced him last week during an interview when talking about the young linebackers on the team that have shown some positives. Baxter can use fellow outside linebacker Adrian Robinson as motivation and proof that an undrafted player making a transition to a new position on defense can indeed make the 53 man roster as Robinson was in the same situation last season. However, Baxter, is likely competing against Robinson this year, so his road will be tough. In reality, Baxter is likely competing for a spot on the Steelers practice squad, but a strong performance during the preseason, not only on defense, but special teams as well, certainly won\’t hurt his shot at making the 53.
Reggie Dunn – Dunn and his 4.0crap speed will be on display Saturday night as he is sure to get an opportunity to return at least a kickoff or two. Being as he doesn\’t offer much as a receiver outside of his blazing speed, Dunn will have to “wow” the coaching staff and make himself impossible to cut by duplicating some of the big returns that he had while at Utah. Anything short of that will mean he has to impress enough as a receiver to make the practice squad.
Justin Cheadle – Cheadle ended the 2012 season on the Steelers practice squad and this year is fighting for a spot on the offensive line as a reserve guard. Being as the Steelers will more than likely only going to keep eight offensive linemen in total, it figures that he will need to clearly outplay John Malecki during the preseason. Cheadle has worked with new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. before when both were with the Kansas City Chiefs last year and also reportedly worked some at center during the offseason. I doubt he will get any playing time over the ball Saturday night, but if he does, it will be a clear indication that they could be serious about him. More than anything else, Cheadle needs to show that he is again worthy of being on the practice squad.