With the first preseason game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants only hours away, Stevenson Sylvester and Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith are slowly sliding off the edge of their respective bubbles.
Both players joined the Steelers in 2010. Sylvester was a fifth-round pick in the NFL draft. Cromartie-Smith was an undrafted free-agent signing. Both have managed to stay with the Steelers so far, but their road may be coming to an end.
Both men have endured their share of injuries, which at times have prevented them from training and participating. However, something about each man has kept the team intrigued in spite of the missed time; and these are bottom of the depth chart/practice squad guys.
Sylvester has been a backup inside linebacker during his stay, but his special teams contributions have been the deciding factor between active and inactive roster designations. On the depth chart, he has been buried behind James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, and Larry Foote.
Even now with Farrior gone, Marshall McFadden and Vince Williams are crowding the roster even more as they continue to grow. Sylvester has taken practice reps at outside linebacker this off-season and knows his responsibilities inside, but there may not be enough room for a 'jack of all trades, master of none' guy.
Cromartie-Smith has been hanging around the Steelers practice squad, patiently waiting for a chance to join the active roster among the safety ranks. For most of his stay, Ryan Mundy and Will Allen have been holding down the fort behind Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. In 2012, Robert Golden joined the fold. He made a rare fifth safety on the final 53-man roster.
Now in 2013, enter rookie Shamarko Thomas, who some have already begun to dub the heir apparent to Polamalu's position. Golden remains with the team and is currently listed second on the depth chart behind Clark. Cromartie-Smith is listed second to Polamalu, but it is his job to ward off a hard-charging Thomas.
Roster spots will be few and far between for players who cannot uphold the standard. On the defensive side of the ball, there may be one seat for a utility/special teams guy - if any at all. Both men have the advantage of competing against inexperience. A strong performance by either could establish a need for their services when planning for the 2013 NFL regular season.
Join the discussion in BTSC's 'Steelers vs. Giants Open Thread' during the game and share your opinion on how these and other prospects are performing through your eyes.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Steelers vs Giants: Derek Moye vs Justin Brown
- Steelers vs. Giants: Joe Long vs. Mike Farrell
- Steelers vs Giants: Nicholas Williams vs. Hebron Fangupo
- Steelers vs. Giants: Welcome to Pittsburgh Ryan Steed
- Why I love the first game of the preseason, and you should too
- Steelers film breakdown: Kelvin Beachum, not Marcus Gilbert, should start at right tackle
- Mike Tomlin loves him some hambone
- Greg Lloyd: 'guys are not truly football players anymore'
- Steelers vs. Giants: Broadcast information and online stream
- Steelers Roster Bubble: Chris Carter vs. Alan Baxter
- Steelers waive CB Jackson, re-sign OT Mike Farrell
- Preseason TV ratings show why Pittsburgh is a Steelers town
- Giants vs. Steelers: Defensive and special teams depth charts
- Giants vs. Steelers: Offensive depth chart
- Steelers vs. Giants: 5 players to watch in the preseason premier