Steelers Roster Bubble: Linebacker, running back got a lot more competitive

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

With outstanding performances from Vince Williams and Brian Rolle and pedestrian effort from Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers' linebackers and running backs positions became less defined in terms of the 53-man roster.

Much ado will be fairly made of the performance of the Steelers linebackers in their 18-13 preseason-opening loss to the Giants Saturday. Marshall McFadden was considered the front-runner for the primary inside linebacker back-up position, and he showed why with an impressive display of aggression and speed.

Brian Rolle, considered a longshot to make the roster, has to be given more of a look now. Same for Vince Williams, who, for all the slings he took for being a one-dimensional player, showed that one dimension usually includes the guy with the ball. Terence Garvin, a rookie out of West Virginia, turned heads, as did Kion Wilson.

Stevenson Sylvester played one defensive snap and seven special teams plays, and he made a nice open-field tackle on the play in which Markus Wheaton Gilbert-ed him.

That's all of the Steelers' non-starting inside linebackers. How often is this position discussed without typing the name "Lawrence Timmons?"

On the outside, the competition between Adrian Robinson and Alan Baxter took on a literal form, as it appeared Robinson was certain to capitalize on Baxter's inability to gain possession of a Giants fumble in the fourth quarter. Robinson fell on it in the end zone, scoring the Steelers' only touchdown. Both looked impressive in their time on the field. Both took steps forward, as OLB Chris Carter didn't do anything newsworthy.

While LaRod Stephens-Howling got the benefit of a line that had a series to get warmed up, Jonathan Dwyer made little of his opportunities. Some will argue - and fairly so, to an extent - he didn't have any room in which to run. Watching the game again, it appears Dwyer ran a zone play as if it was an iso, and didn't press the line of scrimmage particularly hard. A still target is a dead target in the backfield. And he wouldn't be battling for a roster spot if his production was 100 percent dependent on the ability of the offensive line.

Don't tell John Parker Wilson (four sacks) that, either.

With Bell likely to be back for the team's second preseason game Aug. 19, both Dwyer and Redman have to view it as the last chance they'll have before a cut could be reasonably anticipated. With the way Stephens-Howling ran last night, there's all but no chance now both could make the team. One of them will finally have to do what they've failed to do for more than a year now - clearly beat the other one out.

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