"All the roads lead to this moment."
Those were the words from Coach Mike Tomlin when talking about the opportunity some young players will have on Thursday night when the Steelers take on the Carolina Panthers in the final preseason game.
For some who have already opened eyes, it will be a last chance to prove that they can be consistent with what they have put on tape. For others, it could be an opportunity for them to open some eyes, catch the attention of the coaches before the 53-man roster is decided by Saturday at 4 p.m.
But for all of them, it will be a chance to get more playing time with starters mainly getting a rest and young guys getting the snaps.
"I think you treat it like every other game," said rookie linebacker Ulysees Gilbert, who has opened plenty of eyes so far. "You don't put extra stress on it because it's another game to go out and do what you have been doing. It's the same game as game one, two and three. Just go out and play the game you know how to play and have fun."
Gilbert said one of the most important things is to not get caught up in the numbers game, not play the game worried about how many linebackers will be kept, but instead go out and just give it everything you have.
"I leave it up to God to control what I can't control," said Gilbert. "All I can control is to continue to play hard, continue to do what I can do, continue to learn the whole scheme, play hard every down, every game. It's a blessing to be out here. I am excited to be on this team and continue to play hard.
"I love playing the game of football. Any time I can get on the field, for defense, special teams, anything, I love the opportunity."
Gilbert is feeling more comfortable in the defense, something that has come with continued knowledge of the playbook as well as support from the veterans on the team.
"Just the confidence. All of the guys continue to help you. All the vets put their arm around you and make you be a better player," said Gilbert. "You go out there and play and have fun. When you have fun, nothing can harm you. It's a beautiful game. I love playing. I love playing fast."