PITTSBURGH – For players hoping to earn a spot on the Steelers’ 53-man roster, time is running short.
NFL teams must trim rosters from 90 to 75 by Aug. 27, a day before the Steelers play their final preseason game, then get to 53 players by Aug. 31.
In other words, it’s time to make an impression.
Linebacker Terence Garvin knows the feelings many unproven or injured players are experiencing as they wait to find out if they’ve made it another day or whether it’s time to start searching for another job.
As head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday when speaking about injured rookie inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, “It’s the witching hour not only for him, but for everyone who is missing time due to injury. That’s just the unfortunate reality of this in certain situations.”
Zumwalt will miss his second consecutive game with a groin injury Thursday when the Steelers travel to Philadelphia for their third preseason game.
Garvin was in a similar position last year. He wasn’t injured like Zumwalt, a sixth-round draft pick this year, has been, but he might have been in an even more tenuous spot.
Undrafted out of West Virginia, Garvin went unsigned in the free-for-all process in the days that followed the draft as well.
A few weeks later, the Steelers called him about coming to Pittsburgh for a tryout with a number of other players still looking for work. He was signed because of that workout, with no guarantees or promises.
Garvin not only earned his way onto the roster, he appeared in 15 of 16 games in 2013, making one start in the nickel package. He was a core member of the Steelers’ special teams units, making nine tackles.
And yet, the 23-year-old linebacker is still trying to prove he belongs.
“I just know what’s going on a little more,” Garvin said. “But it’s still the same competition. You’ve got to compete every day. You’ve got to come out here and prove yourself every day. I’ve still got the same mindset. I’ve got to show what it is that I do. I didn’t get drafted. I’m still trying to prove myself that I can do this pretty well.”
The Steelers feel good about his progress.
Garvin and Zumwalt, both inside linebackers, were asked at times to slide outside in the offseason workouts.
It was a big move for a player Tomlin likes to call the “Big Safety” in reference to Garvin’s playing days at West Virginia, when he lined up at linebacker and safety.
Garvin, who came in as a 6-3, 223-pound rookie, put on 12 pounds in the offseason to better fit the part. He also did some unconventional training.
“I did a lot of stuff like MMA and learned hand usage and stuff,” Garvin said. “I worked on the outside with different pass rush moves, just trying to put my whole game together. It was pretty cool. I know how to cover pretty well from college. I’m just trying to learn how to pass rush on the outside and work from the inside.”
The added versatility could come into play when the coaching staff starts crunching numbers next week as it pairs down the roster.
“I can do a lot of different stuff on defense,” Garvin said. “I can do a lot of different stuff on special teams. I feel like I can get to the ball pretty well. I feel like I can do whatever they ask me to do.”
Odds and end zones
Tomlin expects linebacker Jarvis Jones, who missed Saturday’s preseason game against Buffalo with a groin injury, to return against Philadelphia. … In addition to Zumwalt, Tomlin said tight end Eric Waters (concussion), cornerbacks Shaquille Richardson (knee), long snapper Greg Warren (knee) and center Cody Wallace (finger) will not play against the Eagles. … Safety Will Allen (hamstring), cornerbacks Tauren Poole (hamstring) and Devin Smith (hamstring) and fullback Will Johnson (hamstring) are questionable. … Tomlin said he hasn’t decided on exactly how long the first-team units will play against the Eagles but that it will be longer than they played against the Bills. The starting offense and defense played well into second quarter against Buffalo.