Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
For many players, the third preseason game is the last opportunity to make an impression on the coaches. That is particularly true for the players on the roster bubble.
Unfortunately, several of the bubble players won’t be on the field on Thursday, which drastically decreases their odds at making the final roster. Shaquille Richardson, Jordan Zumwalt and Eric Waters are three players whom Tomlin ruled out for the game.
Richardson was the only cornerback drafted by the Steelers this year, and there was hope that he could provide a young player who could eventually develop into a starter. Zumwalt had a chance to be a special teams ace, but he has suffered through a groin injury, while Waters was a popular name with training camp observers as a possible third or fourth tight end.
But they cannot make the team sitting from the sidelines, and Tomlin sent that message this week (via Bob Labriola of Steelers.com):
We’re getting to the meat of this thing a little bit, and if guys are going to make a move it’s kind of now or never. I like that feeling of urgency in the guys as we prepare this week and I think it’s creating a good competitive environment as we get back here in terms of continuing the team building on the South Side.
But there are a few players who will be on the field and competing for roster spots. Josh Mauro, Dan McCullers and Howard Jones are three players to watch as they must capitalize on all of their opportunities as the preseason winds down
Mauro and McCullers are very raw at this point, but both players have upside as potential starters or quality backups. Mauro moved ahead of Brian Arnfelt and Nick Williams and has been working with the second-team defense for most of training camp, while McCullers size could be a valuable asset against the run.
While both players need time to develop before they can be counted on stepping on the field with the defense, neither has been a complete liability. There is a bit more of a question when it comes to Jones.
Jones has recovered three fumbles and scored one touchdown—something that has certainly caught the eye of his coaches. However, he has not been the one to create the plays. That honor goes to Vic So’oto, another player vying for a roster spot.
When it comes to the final cuts, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes that Jones will be the “team’s toughest decision.”
Between Jones, So’oto, Mauro, McCullers and others, the front office and coaching staff will have a lot of thinking to do when it comes to making the final cuts.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all training camp observations were made firsthand. All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com, and all roster information is courtesy of Steelers.com.