Many fans would love to forget about the Pittsburgh Steelers' most recent defeat to the Buffalo Bills. If a 43-19 drubbing wasn't enough to drive even the casual fan mad, there is still one more preseason game to go before the games actually start to matter.
When the Carolina Panthers visit Heinz Field on Thursday, it will be the last chance for those players who made it through the first wave of cuts to prove themselves to Mike Tomlin and company. It is time to take a look at whose stock might be rising, falling or flat-lining as the regular season inches closer and closer.
DeAngelo Williams - the veteran running back is making his transition to Todd Haley's offense rather seamlessly. Williams got the nod with the starters Saturday, and showed the burst, vision and decisiveness which made him a hot fantasy commodity in his days with the Carolina Panthers. Williams looked to be every bit of the player the Steelers were hoping could fill the void in Le'Veon Bell's absence for the first two games of the regular season.
Darrius Heyward-Bey - Heyward-Bey didn't even suit up vs. the Bills on Saturday, and many might ask why his stock is rising. The answer is simple. With Martavis Bryant's suspension upheld by the NFL, it will be Heyward-Bey who will benefit the most from this unfortunate situation. Some thought Sammie Coates might be the recipient of more repetitions, but if media announcing Heyward-Bey to be the next man up wasn't sufficient, Ben Roethlisberger said just that on Tuesday when talking with the media. Heyward-Bey is in line for more playing time, but how he handles those reps is 'to be determined' considering he had only 3 receptions in 2014.
Ryan Shazier - Shazier isn't perfect, and a second year player will make mistakes, but if there is one thing encouraging about Shazier is if he makes mistakes, he makes them fast. Fans of the Steelers know how fast Shazier is, and that speed has been on display throughout the preseason. Hopefully his athleticism continues to be a bright spot for the defense in the regular season - we all know that side of the ball can use all the help it can get.
Josh Harris - Returning from a foot injury, Harris was determined to prove his worth, and his roster spot, against the Bills on Saturday. Turns out, he did the opposite. While rushing for only 20 yards on 10 carries, Harris coupled such dismal production with atrocious pass protection skills which lead to two quarterback sacks and several hurries. If Harris wants to be on the team's 53-man roster, he must perform well on Thursday against the Panthers.
Howard Jones - The 2014 training camp/preseason darling who scored two touchdowns as a special teams/defensive player has yet to show any growth in 2015. Jones was thought to be competing with the likes of Terence Garvin and Anthony Chickillo for the spot on special teams as well as linebacker depth. Other than a sack against the Green Bay Packers, Jones has yet to prove he is any different from his 2014 self, which could mean the end of the road for the Shepherd University product.
Kevin Fogg - Fogg had been having a phenomenal Spring, training camp and preseason until the Buffalo game. Fogg was beaten on several occasions, but which defender wasn't on Saturday? Hopefully his performance can be chalked up to a "one bad game" type of performance, but the Steelers will want to see more from him on Thursday before deciding to keep another defensive back on their final roster.
Cody Wallace - Wallace isn't going anywhere, in terms of a roster spot, but his performance Saturday was far from inspiring. Wallace has experience and is possibly feeling pressure of having to fill the shoes of Maurkice Pouncey as the team's anchor along the offensive line. Nonetheless, the pre-game jitters might want to get worked out before September 10th when the Steelers play the New England Patriots and the games actually count.
Anthony Chickillo - Count me in as a person who has been waiting to see something, anything, from Chickillo which would guarantee him a spot on the roster as a backup OLB and special teams player. Although his play has been solid, it hasn't been as good as hoped against much lesser competition. Chickillo will see plenty of reps Thursday, and a big game could equate to game checks if he is able to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
The Steelers host the Panthers at Heinz Field Thursday at 7:30 p.m. EST.