When the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night at Heinz Field, the marquee players won't be on the field. No Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown or Le'Veon Bell. Instead, insert Landry Jones, Tyler Murphy and Roosevelt Nix.
As much as fans don't like the final preseason game, there is still plenty of meaning in the game for those players trying to establish themselves as the 51st, 52nd and 53rd players on the team's final roster. The game might not hold the excitement of a regular season game, but it certainly is still considered important for players and coaches within the organization.
While sitting down on Thursday evening to watch some football, here are five players to keep an eye on for a multitude of reasons:
Michael Vick - Mike Tomlin said at his press conference Tuesday he hasn't chosen who would be the primary backup and the third-string quarterback between Vick and Landry Jones. While the majority of the fan base laughs at such a thought, Vick will have to prove his worth on the field by showing not only his athleticism, but also his understanding of Todd Haley's offense. Jones knows the offense, but can he execute enough to guarantee his spot on the team? How Vick plays will certainly influence such a decision. Look for Vick to get plenty of reps at Heinz Field for the first time in a black-and-gold uniform.
Sammie Coates - Coates was once thought to be the perfect fit to replace Martavis Bryant during his looming four-game suspension, but a rough preseason has seen him play strictly with the backups. The team has turned to veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey to replace Bryant for the first quarter of the season, and it will be up to Coates to prove he understands the offense and can make plays. If he succeeds, it would force the team to rethink its decision, particularly if Heyward-Bey is unable to step up when the team needs him most.
Anthony Chickillo - Chickillo's spot on the team's 53-man roster is anything but secure. After a phenomenal start to training camp, Chickillo has struggled to make plays on the defensive side of the ball. As Chickillo is in a battle with the likes of Terence Garvin and Howard Jones not only as a backup linebacker, but also as a special teams player, the sixth-round pick out of Miami will be looking to etch his name on the 53-man roster with a solid outing vs. the Panthers.
Tyler Murphy - The former Boston College quarterback has turned heads with his ability to catch the football since being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Steelers in 2015. Murphy seems destined for a spot on the team's practice squad, if he clears waivers, but the suspension of Martavis Bryant opens the door for another receiver to step up and make plays. Murphy will look to continue his solid play this preseason in the finale against the Panthers Thursday night.
Jordan Berry & Brad Wing - The only real training camp battle will come down to the bitter end. These two Australian-born punters have had some tremendous games throughout the preseason. Both have shown great distance and hang time on their kicks, but ultimately, the deciding factor might have nothing to do with kicking the ball, but with their ability to hold for new placekicker Josh Scobee. It seems that the team will have to split hairs in making a decision between these two punters, but the choice must be made, and a good performance on Thursday could be the deciding factor for one of them.