On Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers take part in their final preseason contest of the year, hosting the Carolina Panthers. Less than 24 hours after everyone leaves the field comes the final wave of roster cuts, as teams get down to the 53 men, they'll be taking with them into the regular season.
For those on the roster bubble, this final game is their last chance to state a case as to why one of those valuable roster spots should be theirs. This is the main purpose of the fourth preseason game and is the main reason why this is worth your viewing time.
See You Later, Charlie Batch?
With injuries to big-name players dogging the Steelers on both sides of the ball, it's possible the team carries just two quarterbacks in the regular season this year.
Clearly, starter Ben Roethlisberger's primary backup is Byron Leftwich, and if the team chooses to hold onto Jerrod Johnson, it could easily be via the practice squad, which leaves 37-year-old Charlie Batch the odd man out.
We've only seen Batch on the field in one preseason game, Week 2's contest against the Indianapolis Colts, in which he completed seven of his 10 passes for 84 yards. We all know that Batch is a fairly reliable, if not explosive quarterback who doesn't cause much harm or chaos when he's been asked to start.
However, Leftwich has clearly surpassed him on the depth chart, and now the number of injured players the Steelers are carrying could result in this being Batch's last game in Pittsburgh (barring any other surprises).
With linebackers James Harrison, Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester all spending much or all of the preseason sidelined with injuries, younger, more marginal linebackers have been given ample opportunities to make their presences felt. That includes undrafted rookie Adrian Robinson, who will be trying to further distance himself from the roster bubble on Thursday.
Thinness at outside linebacker has thrust Robinson to second on the depth chart at right outside backer behind Chris Carter, but he needs to show more if he is to convince the Steelers they should keep extra linebackers on the roster this year.
Robinson is a situational pass-rusher type and he's done well in that capacity in the preseason, but young Steelers defenders are also required to show skill on special teams and he has yet to prove himself in that area.
He'll certainly get enough playing time with the special teams unit on Thursday night; if he stands out, his job is far more safe come cut time on Friday.
Another undrafted defender who could end up bumping a veteran off the roster is safety Robert Golden. Golden has had five tackles, an interception and two defensed passes this preseason. In college, he played both safety and cornerback, making him a candidate to someday take the field as either a free or strong safety without much difficulty.
His versatility and athleticism are very much an asset, but, just like Robinson above, Golden will have to stand out on special teams to be worth the roster spot. He could force Will Allen off the roster if he does, but he could wind up passing through waivers and heading to the practice squad if not.
The Steelers have a lot of good, young defensive depth, which will make Friday's decisions that much harder to make.
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