Key Roster Battles Heading Into Steelers Preseason Finale

The Pittsburgh Steelers now have one preseason game let on their 2014 schedule and that means the final roster cuts are just over a week away. While most of the spots on the final 53 man roster are already spoken for, a few battles for the remaining spots are still likely ongoing. Here is a look at several of the remaining battles that I have identified following the Steelers 31-21 loss Thursday night to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Justin Brown vs. Darrius Heyward-Bey – After getting a lot of run during the OTA sessions and early training camp practices, Brown has cooled off considerably. In the first three preseason games he has all of three catches for 15 yards and that includes him not catching any passes Thursday night against the Eagles. Part of the blame could go on the poor quarterback play in the first two games, but invisible is still invisible and that includes his work on special teams. On the flip side, Heyward-Bey finally came alive Thursday night with his three catch showing that included a long touchdown. Is there a chance both make the roster, or is this an either/or situation with one week of preseason action left?

David Paulson vs. Rob Blanchflower – Did any of you see Paulson play on offense Thursday night? I didn’t. He was relegated to special teams duty while Blanchflower saw 19 snaps with the second-team offense. I ruled out Blanchflower making the roster a few weeks ago, but perhaps that was premature. This battle could come down to the preseason finale and that’s assuming the team even has plans to keep a true third tight end.

Wesley Johnson vs. Guy Whimper vs. Mike Adams – As bad as Adams has looked during the preseason, the team still might already consider him a lock. Johnson has been stuck at center all throughout the preseason and that’s something I didn’t expect to happen. Whimper is still Whimper and he and Adams have been rotating tackle spots. Whimper has also yet to play any at the two guard spots and that’s concerning as well. There’s a good chance that all three make the final 53 if offensive line coach Mike Munchak gets to keep nine offensive linemen.

Chris Carter vs. Vic So’oto vs. Howard Jones – Thanks to the first-team defense having to play deep into the second half Thursday night So’oto and Jones were limited mostly to playing on special teams. They logged four snaps each on defense while Carter played 17 snaps with the second-team. The Steelers aren’t going to keep all three of these players and they might not even keep two of them.

Will Allen vs. Mike Tomlin – Allen sat out a second-straight game Thursday night with a hamstring injury. In my opinion, his spot comes down to whether or not Tomlin trust the play of Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden. Allen is a favorite of Tomlin’s, but the veteran really needs to get some playing time in the preseason finale.

Brad Wing vs. Adam Podlesh – Here we go again. Podlesh is winning this battle without even showing up. Wing has a 40.3 average and a 35.8 net average on 17 punts. Is the Steelers 2014 punter currently on another team’s roster? Yuck.

Bryce Davis vs. Luke Ingram – Who would’ve thought we would have this small battle going on a few weeks ago? If veteran Greg Warren isn’t ready to go in a few more weeks, it’s likely that either Davis or Ingram will need to be kept initially on the 53 man roster. Both players played five snaps Thursday night and we’ll know in a few days whether or not both will be around for the preseason finale.

Landry Jones vs. History vs. Numbers – Jones did not play Thursday, but figures to get a lot of playing time in the preseason finale. History says Jones will be kept as a No. 3 quarterback, but you have to wonder if the can get by with him being on the practice squad to start the season.