It’s here, it’s really here! Three down, one to go, and then destination Denver for Week 1 on Sunday September 9th. With the preseason winding down, there are still some spots on the 53-man roster and Practice Squad which are available and have yet to be settled. While the long-standing veterans have their jobs secure, there still exist plenty of players which will be fighting tooth and nail throughout this week to prove to the Coaching Staff that they have what it takes to be a part of this team. Due to the fact that the Steelers’ final preseason game is tomorrow, I thought that I should highlight a few players fighting for roster spots in particular which I will be keeping a close eye on during the game.
Robert Golden (Free Safety)
Like the player below him on this list, I believed all the way back in April that Robert Golden had a legitimate shot of at the very least making the Steelers Practice Squad during his Rookie season. So far, Golden has helped himself with some nice performances, and could even find himself with a roster spot as a backup Safety and Special Teams player come Week 1 for this team. Over three games, Golden has accumulated 5 Tackles, logged 2 Passes Defended, and had a nice break on an Interception which he returned 47 Yards last week. While he projects more as a Free Safety, Golden played both Safety and Cornerback in college at Arizona, and could find himself in some sub-packages in a year or two if he indeed stays on the roster past the preseason.
Corbin Bryant (Defensive End)
With a backup spot along Defensive Line available over the last week of the preseason, Corbin Bryant can seize the final 5-Technique position available with a strong performance. Bryant has done a solid job over the last two preseason games, and notched 3 Tackles and 1.0 Sack against the Bills last Friday night. Competition should be heated between Bryant and fellow youngster Al Woods, and both are sure each receive a decent amount of reps during tomorrow’s game to strut their stuff and win a job as the 4th 5-Technique in the rotation.
Drew Butler (Punter)
Do not get me wrong, Drew Butler has had a few inconsistencies here and there so far over his first three games. But when he has been on his game, the former Bulldog has sent some boomers and punted well enough to put the injured veteran Jeremy Kapinos’ job in jeopardy. So far, Butler has punted 19 Times for a whopping average of 47.7 Yards per boot, and stuck three of his 8 punts last Friday inside Buffalo’s 20 as well. While there is still one week to go, Butler could all but nail down the job with a solid effort and send Kapinos packing.
Derrick Williams (Wide Receiver)
The veteran from Penn State has definitely helped his cause (TD grab last week) to be a member of the Steelers 53-man roster come the opening weekend of the season. Wiliiams has accumulated plenty of experience on Special Teams during his career (42 Kick Returns 931 Yards in 2009), and could be used as the team’s 5th Wide Receiver if he beats out the younger players at his position. To earn a roster spot, Williams will have to unseat David Gilreath, Rookie Toney Clemons, and Tyler Beiler, and play well on all of the Special Teams coverage units he is assigned to during the game.
David Paulson (Tight End)
Because Weslye Saunders will be suspended, and David Johnson’s knee was shredded, the Steelers will be forced to carry a 3rd Tight End on their roster behind Heath Miller and Leonard Pope for the first four weeks of the regular season. Due to Pittsburgh’s need at the position, Rookie David Paulson could be called upon to fill the void and should receive some extensive looks tomorrow. Paulson (2 Catches for 11 Yards in 2012 Preseason) has very soft hands and could be developed into a complementary H-Back weapon in the Red Zone if he is deemed worthy to be kept long-term. If the former Duck does stay, he could be stashed on the Practice Squad for a season, develop his blocking skills and be ready to compete and contribute full-time in 2013.
The players I mentioned above are just a short list of some which I will be paying particular attention to tomorrow. Plenty of others like Woods, Gilreath, Clemons, Beiler, Cornerbacks Terrence Frederick and Josh Victorian, Safety Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, and Guards Kelvin Beachum and Ryan Lee will be laying it on the line during this week too. It should be at least intriguing to see how some of these hungry players duke it out over their final audition, and I am sure that the final roster will feature a few surprises. So let us sit, watch, and wait, and in only 11 short days the regular season will start. Then we will truly be: “Back to Football.”
Stats Courtesy of ESPN.com