For those looking to make the cut or carve out an increased role for themselves, the preseason is often about responding.
The Steelers' 24-16 exhibition victory on Thursday night in Philadelphia included multiple examples of such.
Start with running back Jaylen Samuels, who managed 20 yards on 11 carries in mostly mop-up work on Aug. 5 in the Hall of Fame Game against Dallas.
This time Samuels accounted for a team-leading 45 yards on 10 carries (the average per attempt went up from 1.8 to 4.5).
He carried twice for 19 yards on the touchdown drive that got the Steelers on the scoreboard late in the second quarter
And he had a 17-yard reception and then carries of 4, 4 and 5 yards before finishing the third-quarter drive that put the Steelers in front to stay with a 1-yard touchdown run. Samuels also had a 17-yard reception on the march.
The running backs room now includes No. 1 pick Najee Harris and fourth-year pro Kalen Ballage (inactive against the Eagles but impressive this preseason). Second-year pro Anthony McFarland also appears well on the way to establishing himself as a complementary component after contributing very little as a rookie.
Samuels played as if he's noticed against the Eagles.
Punter Jordan Berry also represented himself well. He watched on Aug. 5 in Canton as seventh-round pick Pressley Harvin III unleashed a 48-yard trick shot that refused to enter the end zone on a couple of bounces along the goal line before being downed at the Dallas 1-yard line.
It was Berry's turn against the Eagles. His first punt traveled 40 yards and was downed at the Philadelphia 2, and his second covered 37 yards to the Philadelphia 7.
It's been Berry's situational punting that's frustrated (out of his own end zone, toward the enemy goal line). The boomers or the wedge shots when necessary have too often eluded him.
That wasn't an issue in Philly.
THE WHITE STUFF: Wide receiver Cody White missed what seemed like an eternity with a hamstring injury before finally getting back into pads and back onto the field this week.
That the Steelers kept him around during his convalesence betrayed what they think about the 6-foot-3, 215-pound first-year pro's potential.
Plenty of players get waived/injured in situations where they're facing an extended absence in camp.
The Steelers opted for patience with White, who comes from a football family and has spent time with the Chiefs, Giants, Broncos and Steelers since he went undrafted out of Michigan State in 2020.
White responded with a team-leading five receptions for 39 yards against the Eagles.
There's plenty there worth developing.
Take a look at the best black and white photos from the Week 1 preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY: As mentioned last week, any situational success running the ball for a team determined to run the ball more effectively is a welcomed development.
There was the Samuels 1-yard power into the end zone in Philadelphia. And a 1-yard touchdown run by McFarland on which he eluded the penetration of linebacker Alex Singleton, overcame running into the backside of offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. and willed himself into the end zone.
But the short-yardage play that stood out might have been gasp! a pass.
On third-and-1 from the Steelers' 39 with just under five minutes left in the second quarter the Steelers deployed tight ends Zach Gentry, Pat Freiermuth and Derek Watt on the right side of the formation and lined quarterback Dwayne Haskins up under center.
They didn't run it down the Eagles' throats, but Haskins' play-action fake to McFarland and then bootleg right resulted in an easy toss to McFarland in the flat that gained 7 yards.
A little smashmouth there might have made a statement.
As it was they moved the chains after giving the distinct impression they were going to run, or were at least thinking seriously about running.
Better that than a five-wide receivers set and a sideways pass from the shotgun.
X's & O's: Kevin Dotson entered at left guard with 9:30 left in the second quarter and played initially with what on this night was the starting offensive line, left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, center Kendrick Green, right guard Trai Turner and right tackle Joe Haeg. Throw Zach Banner in there for Haeg at some point and you might well be looking at the starting five up front on Sept. 12 at Buffalo … Cornerback Justin Layne forced a fumble last week and came up with an INT this week. He's been passed by James Pierre in the cornerback rotation but Layne isn;t going away … Defensive tackle Carlos Davis, all 6-foot-2, 320 pounds of him, covered the opening kickoff. Somewhere Brett Keisel had to be smiling.