The fourth week of the preseason is upon us and this will be the last week for players to prove they belong on the 53-man roster come Week 1 when the Steelers face the Cleveland Browns.
Most positions already seem solidified, but about five spots remain up for grabs on Thursday either for savvy veterans or young, upstart rookies to make the roster.
Here are four guys on the roster bubble who need to show up in a big way:
The fifth-round rookie out of Penn State has missed half of the preseason, and now he’s fighting for a roster spot with numerous other defensive backs right there with him. Four safeties are virtually guaranteed to make the roster. Terrell Edmunds, Morgan Burnett, Sean Davis, and Nat Berhe seem like relative locks for the 53-man roster, either for their safety play or, in the case of Berhe, their talents on special teams.
Due to Berhe’s shortcomings as a safety, it seems likely the Steelers will keep five safeties. That leaves Allen in a competition with Malik Golden and Jordan Dangerfield, who both have had their ups-and-downs this preseason.
If Allen has a good game against the Panthers, I’d consider him likely to be on the roster. If he doesn’t, he may find himself on the practice squad and vying for a roster spot next season.
Allen’s skillset is purely that of a strong safety. A strong run defender, but mediocre in coverage, Allen best spot on the roster would be in the box as a backup for Morgan Burnett and Terrell Edmunds, rather than as a backup for Sean Davis. If they want to go the versatility route, Jordan Dangerfield seems much more likely to make the roster as the third-string Strong Safety and Free Safety. If they truly want Edmunds to play only in the Strong Safety role and want a true Free Safety, then Malik Golden seems likely to get the nod for the roster.
By missing time, Allen hasn’t gotten to show off his talents, and a byproduct of that is allowing others to possibly sneak onto the roster in his place. But I trust Allen’s complete strong-safety skill set over Dangerfield’s and Golden’s. That’s what I believe will get him a spot on the 53-man roster.
Prediction: 53-man Roster
This one might be more controversial, but given Mike Tomlin’s comments on Matt Wile possibly having a shot at the roster, Berry needs to have a consistently good game on Thursday.
I don’t think his job is in jeopardy as much as some seem to believe, but nonetheless, his punting has been inconsistent for the entire time he’s been in Pittsburgh. This preseason has been no exception for the inconsistency of Berry’s punts, and he should be looking over his shoulder at Wile.
Wile himself has had a decent preseason, but thus far, he’s traveled around the league as a camp-body punter to no avail. Given the way Berry has punted this preseason, Wile has a chance, but a slim one at that. That’s why Berry absolutely must be given the edge, considering his punting has shown more impressive flashes.
Prediction: 53-man Roster
I love me some Fitz Touissant. The guy is a survivor and he came into this preseason looking better than ever. While he’s not any good on kickoffs, Touissant has shown more burst and balance this preseason than ever before in his career. If Fitz were to be our third-string running back this season, I wouldn’t be dissatisfied.
But he’s up against stiff competition in rookie Jaylen Samuels. Touissant is a better runner than Samuels, but Samuels is a far better receiver, and he continues to improve as a runner and blocker. Samuels’ vision has improved and, last week versus the Titans, Samuels broke out to show what he can do.
With the Steelers now seemingly keeping six wide receivers, it seems hard to envision a scenario where both Touissant and Samuels make the 53-man roster. Both guys are completely different players stylistically, but only one can make the roster. Touissant and Samuels should both have ample opportunities to prove themselves on Thursday.
I love how Touissant has come out looking better this year; I just don’t believe it’ll be enough. Advantage Jaylen Samuels.
Prediction: Cut Touissant, add Jaylen Samuels to the 53-man roster
If Adeniyi doesn’t make the roster, he’s easily going to be the toughest cut of them all. As a player, he’s had a good training camp and his success carried over to the preseason games. He’s been stellar in all the areas they have needed him to be, but he hasn’t shown all that much on special teams.
If there’s one reason why he will be cut, it’s because his special teams value is little or none. That’s why Anthony Chickillo and Keion Adams will absolutely make the cut. If the Steelers plan on keeping five OLBs, it’s obvious Adeniyi will make it — but will they?
If they choose to only keep nine LBs, they have to choose between Adeniyi, L.J. Fort, and Tyler Matakevich. Out of those, Matakevich is likely safe due to his special-teams prowess alone. Fort is an athletic play-maker, or at least has shown this preseason he can be just that, so he too has made himself a tough cut. However, Adeniyi has arguably been the best pass rusher this preseason, and has a high possibility of being poached.
This leaves the Steelers with the option of cutting either Coty Sensabaugh or Brian Allen and carrying five CBs, or going with only four safeties, either of which option seems undesirable.
Regardless, I believe the Steelers make the sacrifice in the secondary and cut Coty Sensabaugh, thus enabling them to keep Adeniyi on the 53-man roster.
Prediction: 53-man Roster