In terms of the path most of the players on the bubble will have to use to make this roster, Tomlin was definitive.
“One of the things that’s big in this game (against Carolina) is the kicking game,” said Tomlin. “Many of the guys who are fighting to improve their position within the group and carve out roles for themselves at the 11th hour, we’re not talking about defensive backs who are going to play defensive back, or wideouts who are going to play wideout. Usually we’re talking about defensive backs who are going to be gunners or corners in the kicking game. A lot is written and said about how they perform offensively or defensively, but what they do on special teams is going to be a significant element in determining who sticks and who does not.”
In that vein, there is another name to be added to the lore of the preseason finale. In 2008, an undrafted rookie linebacker named Patrick Bailey made three special teams tackles against the Panthers to win a spot on the 53-man roster. Bailey went on to be voted the Steelers’ Rookie of the Year, and he ended up with his name on the Lombardi Trophy after the Steelers completed the 2008 season with a victory in Super Bowl XLIII.
Some of the players not expected to see any action on Thursday night are
Two players who fall into neither of those categories are
Keisel, just re-signed before last week’s game against the Eagles in Philadelphia, will be looking at his first action since the 2013 regular season finale against the Browns. He is someone who will use this preseason game to round into form for the regular season.
“I’m interested in taking him to the deep end of the pool to see if he can swim a little bit,” said Tomlin with a smile. “We’ll see how he does.”
Jones is in a different category. The second-year pro from Oklahoma could start on Thursday night, and even if he doesn’t he’ll be the quarterback who plays the most for the Steelers. Jones goes into the final having completed 13-of-26 for 127 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 48.1.
“It’s a big-time opportunity for him, and I look forward to him showing what he’s capable of from that perspective,” said Tomlin, who than added what he needed to see from Jones on Thursday night.
“Just consistent, above the line play, and that’s about as straight of an arrow as I can fire.”