Steelers Roster: Five Non-Starters Who Increased Their Stock in Preseason Win Over Colts

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 19: Jonathan Dwyer #27 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against Kavell Conner #53 of the Indianapolis Colts during the game on August 19, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Free agent signee Jason Ford may have had time to unpack upon arriving in Pittsburgh. But probably didn't have time for much else outside of a quick study of the playbook.

He must have been in such a hurry, no one remembered to inform him is merely a training camp body.

In making a no-particular-order list of the five Steelers players who increased their stock, Ford's story makes him compelling enough for inclusion. If he had a story like FB Will Johnson, who was noticed by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin while he was scouting someone else, we haven't heard that story.

He probably wasn't scouted by anyone. But he had to have impressed those same people who looked past him in the 2011 draft with his eight-carry, 42-yard performance in the Steelers' 26-24 win over Indianapolis in Preseason Week 2.

Highlighted among that was the big man's nifty spin move to elude a defender and chug forward for a few more yards. Maybe he learned that grace and agility from former teammate RB Rashard Mendenhall who was the Big Man on Campus at the University of Illinois when Ford was a redshirted freshman.

Mendenhall doesn't have Ford's size, though, and despite the nimble footwork he displayed, he ran much more with power than many of the backs the Steelers have seen in a while.

I'll let NBC analyst and former Steelers receiver Hines Ward draw comparisons to Jerome Bettis. I'll stay a bit more even-headed and suggest he's a talented player, and someone the Steelers will now take a look at for the practice squad. For running backs, the Steelers practice squad is closer to a future roster spot than it is with any other team.

A fellow running back, Jonathan Dwyer, was equally impressive. He ran with great balance and vision on most of his carries, although he still showed some hesitance in two of his eight carries. For the second game in a row, Dwyer had the team's longest run of the night, and all but assured his inclusion on the 53-man roster.

In fact, he's earning regular season time with each passing game. Injuries to Mendenhall and Isaac Redman will likely lead Dwyer to another early exit in the Steelers' preseason game Saturday at Buffalo. They'll rest him up for the regular season.

Helping the running game better than any other taxi-squader was rookie OG Ryan Lee. Undrafted out of Furman, Lee played with a certain aggression, as if he was mirroring LG Willie Colon. The sub offensive line isn't very strong, which makes Lee stand out even more. We may hear his name in the future, and definitely will if he continues to improve.

OLB Adrian Robinson seemingly has unlimited room for improvement, and that's a compliment. He's noticeably better with each snap. He's an example of how deep this Steelers' rookie class is. The Colts were overwhelmed by the former collegiate defensive end, who's added moves to his quickness around the edge. It took him all of one snap to register his first hurry of the night.

You wouldn't think Tomlin would go out of his way to refer to Robinson as a "one-trick pony," but he did. I'm not sure if Tomlin could pay him a higher compliment. Seeing Robinson in run support against the 3s is one thing, and there's a reason why, to this point, we aren't seeing him against the 1s. However, with the precarious depth situation the Steelers are in at linebacker, Robinson's chances of being a miracle add to the 53 aren't flatlining yet.

Saving the most impressive for last, WR David Gilreath, whom we've already written about extensively. The best way to put it is Gilreath looked like a pro receiver. He made a great catch on a 3rd-and-6 throw by Charlie Batch, making the grab and a nice move to the outside to gain a few extra yards. He wasn't really noticeable in the first game, but jumped off the film in the second. He's clearly the front-runner for the Steelers 5WR position right now, but that battle will go down to the wire. There's still an outside chance of the Steelers picking up a veteran or maybe even keeping just four wide receivers. Don't bet on that, but it's a possibility.


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