With two games left, and cuts coming after both of them, the position battles the Steelers have this preseason are intensifying.
Pittsburgh's 26-24 win over Indianapolis Sunday answered a few questions, posed a few more and put to rest none of them. A few spots are still anyone's to win and could come down to performances in the final two preseason games.
The tape of Sunday's game is going to show RB Chris Rainey's stock drop a little bit and RB Baron Batch's increased. WR David Gilreath took possession of the front-runner spot for the 5WR position with authority while the challengers continue to languish. OT Mike Adams fell further away from the necessary standard of protecting the life of the quarterback behind him, and OG Kelvin Beachum is all but cut at this point.
A few quiet chargers are starting to make more legitimate claims for inclusion in the final 53-man roster.
Safety - While there clearly is no battle for the starting positions - Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu had those spots locked up years ago - the depth at both positions has been in question. And it may not be as dire as some previously thought.
Veteran Will Allen is competing, there's no doubt about it, but with each snap, Robert Golden is proving himself to be an aggressive player with a nose for the ball. He was in on a pass break-up last night after playing very well in run support in the preseason opener.
The main issue is the fact Clark will not play in the team's opener at Denver due to the medical condition he has that is aggravated by the high altitude of the Mile High city. That likely thrusts Ryan Mundy into the starting role, and requires a back-up to be able to play if/when needed. Is that Golden, or will the Steelers stick with the veteran due to his sizable advantage in experience?
Myron Rolle, a fan favorite, doesn't seem to be showing enough on the field to dust the luster off Golden, and may be out of the running sooner rather than later.
Running back - Out of nowhere, a new candidate emerges. On a night where Rainey fumbled and Batch averaged 2.4 yards per carry, Jason Ford and his Bus-sized butt ran with power and grace. He produced enough - 42 yards on eight carries - to make people notice. While this can be viewed as a testament to the growing concern of run blocking depth on the Steelers' preseason roster, his size and ability to continue moving after contact make him a legitimate darkhorse candidate.
It's more likely he wouldn't have been wearing a black and gold jersey last night had RB Isaac Redman not sat this game out, you have to give him credit; he made the most of his opportunities.
Jonathan Dwyer erased any shred of doubt of his inclusion on the 53-man roster with another solid performance. While Batch looked much better, and was the guy offensive coordinator Todd Haley called upon in the team's hurry-up offense early in the game, barring the unlikely scenario of the Steelers keeping six running backs, Batch still appears to be the odd-man out.
Outside Linebacker - With James Harrison and Jason Worilds out for the foreseeable future, it was a game in which Chris Carter could have taken a step toward becoming not just Worilds' injury replacement, but as the next long-term starting outside linebacker in Pittsburgh.
He didn't do much to justify that. He didn't do anything to eliminate himself from the competition, either. His development is critical to the Steelers' defensive success this season, simply because two of the three top OLBs are injured, and there isn't really anyone behind him.
Except undrafted rookie Adrian Robinson, who, with each passing game, is making it more and more difficult for Tomlin to cut him. Brandon Johnson does not look strong enough at the point of attack to be considered a viable option, and Stevenson Sylvester's MCL tear will keep him out for the next three to four weeks.
Robinson showed great leverage in run support despite getting taken out a play or two, and continued to flash his impressive first-step quickness. Each passing day makes questions regarding the stability of the position tougher to answer, but expect the Steelers to kick the tires on a veteran or two in the next few days.