PITTSBURGH – With one set of roster cuts complete, the 75 Steelers who avoided the call of the Turk earlier this week will get one final opportunity to earn their way onto the 53-man roster before the final cutdown Saturday.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reminded his players of that earlier this week as they prepared for the final preseason game tonight at Heinz Field against the Carolina Panthers.
Tomlin cited wide receiver Ryan Moye in 2013 and kick returner Stefan Logan in 2009 as two players who have gone from likely off the 53-man roster to on it following a strong performance in the preseason finale.
“Sometimes you have to study the history of this game to provide information for men so that they can know they have a legitimate opportunity to help themselves,” Tomlin said. “And some of the examples of that opportunity are sitting in that room with them.”
Logan returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown, and Moye had two receptions for 55 yards, scrambling for extra yards after each catch, and also added a hustling tackle following an interception that saved a touchdown.
“I just made the most of my opportunities,” said Moye, who is again fighting for a roster spot.
Moye and many others will hope to do as much tonight.
How much of an opportunity they get is unknown.
Unhappy with his team’s play last week in a 31-21 loss at Philadelphia, Tomlin hinted that several starters could see more than the series or two they normally get in the preseason finale.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, safety Troy Polamalu and some other key veterans probably won’t play. Their backups will see extensive playing time. Tomlin won’t worry about potential injuries.
“I don’t live in my fears in regard to protecting people,” Tomlin said. “It’s my job to make sure they’re ready, and we’re going to do that and try to do it as efficiently and professionally as we can. If they need work, they’re going to get it, whether it’s individual or collective.”
Two things the Steelers want to work on is their running game and run defense.
Using the much of preseason to work on their no-huddle offense, the Steelers have just 57 rushes for 163 yards. Starting running back Le’Veon Bell has only 16 carries and backup LeGarrette Blount has 13.
“I’m OK with where we’re at because we haven’t called a lot (of running plays),” Roethlisberger said. “Even when we were in the no-huddle … they gave us a lot of looks to throw the ball.
“We’ll do some more things, and I think the running game will be just fine.”
The run defense, meanwhile, has given up 4.8 yards per carry and 503 yards in three games. Much of the damage has been against the nickel defense, which includes only two defensive linemen. The Steelers have used that alignment more than two-thirds of the time.
Opponents have averaged 7.3 yards per carry against the nickel defense, including a 73-yard touchdown by the New York Giants. Against the 3-4 defensive alignment, the per-carry average has been a much more respectable 3.8 yards.
“We’ve got to be better,” said defensive end Cameron Heyward, who will be held out of the game because of a minor ankle sprain. “There’s got to be a sense of urgency going into the season.”
Odds and end zones
With Roethlisberger out, second-year pro Landry Jones is expected to start and see most of the playing time at quarterback. … This is the 12th consecutive year the Steelers and Panthers have met in the preseason finale. … The teams will meet again in the regular season Sept. 21 in Carolina.