Final exam: For the past four months they have been tutored by coaches, had pop quizzes, and have been tested on the field and in the classroom.
On Thursday night at Heinz Field, when the Steelers play the Carolina Panthers in the preseason finale, a lot of young players who have gone through Steelers Football 101 will have one last shot to score a winning grade.
"It's a final exam. It's weighted," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "It is because as you want to see how they perform under duress or anxiety, or pressure because that is reflective of this journey that we are about to get on, that is a regular season.
"So, I don't mind drawing them all in, telling them how important this game is because it is and seeing how they perform knowing all of that. I think you will learn a little about them in the midst of that and that is ok."
History lesson: Tomlin spoke to the players about Thursday's game, reiterating that it's the perfect opportunity to prove you belong on the 53-man roster. He brought up different players who stood out in the final preseason game during his tenure, including Antonio Brown covering a punt in 2010 and Ross Ventrone making splash plays.
"We have been working hard this week to highlight how important this week is versus Carolina," said Tomlin. "I've been here, I think 12 seasons now, so you get a little perspective. Carolina has been our fourth preseason partner the whole time I've been here, so I go back and I look at some of those games and I look at guys that have made significant steps in that game to make a case for themselves and go onto not only making the team, but also in perspective of careers that developed based on things that have happened in this game.
"We've used historical video to illustrate that to guys. I understand the range of emotion in terms of guys working for positions and roles within this team. I want them to know that it's still very much in their control. I want them to be singularly focused on this performance. I also want them to know that they are not alone. This is not something that is mystical. Many of their teammates have gone through this same process and utilized performances in this game as a springboard to their careers.
"I am excited about watching these guys lean in at the tape and really put an exclamation point on what's been good work."
The Steelers prepare for the Week 4 preseason matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
Like riding a bike: The Steelers acquired Ryan Switzer via trade on Monday, and Tomlin would like to see the newest addition to the black and gold on the field on Thursday night. Tomlin doesn't think it will be an issue for him to adapt to the return game without much time to prepare.
"That guy has been a returner all his life," said Tomlin. "I'd imagine it's like breathing, swimming, or riding a bike. I don't imagine it being really significant."