May 4, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers free agent wide receiver Marquis Maze (3) participates in drills during rookie minicamp and orientation. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
The fourth and final preseason game has the least intrigue of any game all year, with the possible exception of the Pro Bowl. Starters will play about a series, if they play at all, and the bulk of the game is comprised of players who are essentially already cut, but the team is required to field players because they sold tickets at full-price.
The real entertainment rests in the fringe guys who are close enough right now where their performance in tonight's game could put them on the active roster, or on the street.
Instead of just specific players, we're going to focus on position groups as well, and the players within those groups, because the roster can come down to positional groups, and the depth a team may have there.
It's possible one of those young receivers makes the team based on the speed of their contributions tonight on offense and special teams. Gilreath backed up a strong performance in the Steelers' 26-24 win over Indianapolis in Preseason Week 2 with zero catches on one target - or the same line for Maze. Clemons didn't get a look at all. For whatever this is worth, the preseason game production between these three has been mostly zip.
Gilreath: four catches, 78 yards, 5 targets, 0 TDs (one kick return, 22 yards)
Maze: 0 catches, 0 yards, 2 targets, 0 TDs (four punt returns, eight yards, one kick return, 28 yards)
Clemons: one catch, 14 yards, two targets, 0 TDs
Beiler: one catch, 30 yards, one target, 0 TDs
It's clear the Steelers really wanted a rookie return man to stand out this preseason, but none have. Between Maze and Gilreath, the only two on this list to have a listed return, kick returns have been fairly bland, but punt returns from Maze have been substandard (amid a coaching change), and rookie RB Chris Rainey has clearly been the most impressive to this point. Special teams performances did not help any of these players out.
Statistically, Gilreath would have the edge, but it's more likely the Steelers would consider the reaching special teams' implications as opposed to pure receiving statistics to justify the selection of the fifth receiver.
There's always the sense of potential as well, and the one with the pro-ready body is Clemons, despite netting just one catch, albeit with limited opportunities.
One of them will have to break out tonight if any of them wish to make this team.