Pittsburgh Steelers: Which Steelers Have Gained the Most Stock This Preseason?
Players have been trying all through camp and the first three games to raise their stock enough to earn a spot in the black-and-gold when the Steelers visit Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Sept. 9.
Here’s a look at who has raised their stock the most so far this preseason.
David Gilreath, WR
Gilreath was a nice prospect that looked like he was in the battle for one of the final receiver spots. He had been around the league before but hadn’t really stuck with a team.
It’s a different story now. Gilreath wowed against the Indianapolis Colts and showed that he can be successful in this offense. He seems like a guy who could be a valuable fifth or sixth receiver and also can contribute on special teams units.
Gilreath has made himself the top candidate to get a spot at receiver from what originally was a wide-open field. At this point, I’d say he’s in.
Derrick Williams, WR
Williams was a mildly disappointing former mid-round draft choice that hadn’t stuck with Detroit. He was considered a possible candidate for a backup job but not one of the top ones.
I’ve believed in him all along and he finally came through against the Bills. He showed good route running and a nice ability to create yards after the catch. He scored a touchdown and put himself in a good spot to be a backup receiver for the Steelers.
I think if there is only one receiver spot open it will be between Gilreath and Williams. At this point, it looks like Gilreath is ahead, but they will both get a lot of time in the final game to prove themselves.
Steve McLendon, NT
McLendon was regarded as the stop gap between Casey Hampton and Alameda Ta’amu. Most thought he would keep the seat warm for each, but very few predicted that he would emerge as a candidate to do more than be a part-time starter.
This has been a very pleasant surprise. McLendon came in determined and he has made his play stand up. He has proven to be more athletic than Hampton and also has been markedly better than Ta’amu. He now looks like the kind of player who needs to start long term.
The most encouraging thing of all with McLendon has been the chemistry he has with Ziggy Hood. That has made a big difference in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and shutting down the running game.
Will Johnson, FB
There were a lot of questions about whether or not the team would really employ a traditional fullback. Johnson was also secondary to David Johnson for the role. There were questions about whether the younger Johnson could unseat a valuable veteran.
David Johnson’s torn ACL removed him from the competition in the first preseason game. Since then, Will Johnson has been very good as a lead blocker in the run game and seems to mesh well with what Todd Haley wants to do.
At this point, I’m still not sure a traditional fullback is what the Steelers need, but Johnson has done enough to earn a roster spot and a chance to prove that he can be valuable in that role the way David Johnson was before.
Jerrod Johnson, QB
Johnson looked like a camp arm. Behind Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, both experienced veterans, he didn’t seem to have any shot at making the roster and I thought he’d be a player we’d be saying goodbye to after two preseason games.
The problem with that theory was that Johnson used those preseason games to increase his stock. He’s now a viable backup option and a player the Steelers will have to think seriously about keeping around, at least on the practice squad.
The Steelers can’t go on with Batch and Leftwich forever. They are both older veterans that aren’t likely to last many more seasons. Ben Roethlisberger routinely gets banged up and could use a strong backup that can operate the offense. Johnson now looks like someone who could be that guy. I’m excited to see him Thursday.
Cortez Allen, CB
I originally placed Allen behind both Curtis Brown and Keenan Lewis in the competition for the starting job at cornerback opposite Ike Taylor. He was a small school guy that hadn’t shown near as much promise as a rookie as he has done this year and I wasn’t sure exactly how he might fit.
Allen has been one of the best playmakers on the team and has easily surpassed everyone’s expectations. He’s put Brown on notice and on the bubble for a prominent role, as well as given Lewis all he can handle in the starting job competition.
Allen may win that job for himself, but if he doesn’t, I’d still expect him to be a big part of the success on defense this season. He’s just proven to be too good to be overlooked anymore.
Chris Rainey, RB
Rainey came in as a draft pick that had tantalizing speed and looked to be a fit in the receiving game. He also seemed like a good bet to compete for a job as a returner, but few had any notions of using him often in the backfield.
Rainey is another player that has surpassed anything that was expected before camp. He became an integral part of the rushing attack and surprised by being very good on screens as well. He seems like he can shoulder a bigger load than people expected.
When the return game has worked, he’s been a big part of why. The Steelers are transitioning to a new special teams coach, but Rainey will be the returner barring something shocking. He’s good enough and shifty enough to be very dangerous.