Football is back, y’all! There is nothing like knowing football is on the horizon, and Steelers fans across the globe could not be more excited. As we countdown the days until the Steelers take on the Jaguars in Week 2 of the NFL Preseason, let’s take a look at who could lock up a roster spot with a good performance.
The most interesting battles to watch in the first game may be in the wide receiver room, simply because of the incredible depth at the position. There are quality receivers the Steelers will be forced to part with before the season begins, but how many of them will there be? Do the Steelers keep, say, seven receivers? That seems highly unlikely, but there are at least that many receivers that own a valid argument to make the roster. Making a final decision on who is cut will be incredibly difficult for the Steelers front office and coaching staff.
Quarterback will steal the most spotlight, although it seems highly unlikely we see anyone other than Mitch Trubisky Week 1. The biggest battle, in my opinion, is the fight for QB3. Mason Rudolph has been lighting it up in training camp, but if the Steelers try to stash Chris Oladokun on the practice squad, the rookie is unlikely to hang around long-term, considering multiple teams in the league showed interest in him during the pre-draft process. He would likely be claimed by a team who suffers an early-season quarterback injury.
The point being, there are many directions I could have gone here. However, below are the three players I believe are in need of a big game the most against the Jaguars.
Talk about a guy who looks lost. After the retirement of Vince Williams, the Steelers had hoped their future at BUCK linebacker would come in fourth-round pick Buddy Johnson, but he has done nothing to prove he is worthy of making this roster, let alone becoming a future starter. There is still time for the physical linebacker to turn it around at the NFL level, but without some sort of silver lining during the preseason, it may not happen with the Steelers. 2022 seventh-round selection Mark Robinson has looked impressive throughout camp, and free agent acquisition Genard Avery, who is also capable of playing middle linebacker, takes up another roster spot, making Johnson’s outlook all but clear heading into Saturday’s matchup. He needs a strong performance more than anyone else on this roster.
There was a decent amount of sizzle surrounding Durant when the Steelers signed him as an undrafted free agent, but we are still waiting to get even one whiff of steak. Durant failed to make an impression in Week 1 of the preseason, carrying the ball twice for a grand total of four yards. The waiving of Master Teague has potentially opened the door for a healthy running back to garner attention, but at this point, it is hard to see Durant beating out either Benny Snell or Jaylen Warren for RB3 on the Steelers roster. He will need to make quite the impression with any opportunities he may receive on Saturday night.
Connor Heyward has become the leader in the clubhouse for TE3 on the roster, and former Packers third-round pick Jace Sternberger has flashed receiving upside throughout training camp and is making a strong case to make the roster himself. While not all hope is lost for Kevin Rader, it certainly looks as if his best chance to remain with the team is on the practice squad. Rader has displayed dependable blocking abilities since arriving with the Steelers, but the Pittsburgh native has been unable to garner much attention from Steelers quarterbacks in the passing game. In a normal year, Rader’s blocking ability in and of itself could be enough to keep him around as a third tight end, but there is simply too much competition this year, and Rader’s competitors provide more versatility and athletic upside. He needs an impressive performance not only as a blocker, but also as a receiver, against Jacksonville Saturday night.
Which Steelers do you think have the most to prove against the Jaguars? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC as we prepare you for another great season of Steelers football!