The Steelers first preseason game is just a little over twenty four hours away now. For some players, this game could make or break their role on this team. Let’s look at the top five players who have a the most to lose in tomorrow night’s game:
1. Mason Rudolph:
Mason Rudolph is scheduled to start the Steelers first preseason game Thursday night. A bad outing may put him hopelessly behind Dwayne Haskins in the race for the backup quarterback position. All indications are that Haskins is having a terrific training camp so far. https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2021/08/03/dwayne-haskins-has-been-surprisingly-good-in-steelers-camp/
Meanwhile the news on Rudolph have not been nearly as good. He will need a strong performance in Thursday’s game in order to keep his slim lead as this team’s primary backup quarterback. A lot can still happen between now and the opening game of the season, but the arrow is pointing down for Mason Rudolph right now. He really needs a strong performance against the Cowboys.
2. Benny Snell:
When the Steelers used their first round pick on Najee Harris, we knew someone in the running back room would be in jeopardy. The low key signing of Kalen Ballage might be an even bigger threat to Benny Snell however. We know Harris will be the starter, and it appears Anthony McFarland will fill the role of the change of pace back. That leaves the physical short yardage/ special teams ace as the only role left. That role is literally what Ballage’s calling card is since he entered the league. Benny Snell is going to have to really impress this off-season, or his roster spot may be in serious jeopardy.
3. Justin Layne:
Justin Layne is in danger of becoming another statistic in the ever growing failures of Steelers draft picks at corner. Like Artie Burns, Senquez Golden, and Brian Allen before him, Layne has been a major disappointment. He is under significant pressure from standout James Pierre for the primary backup corner role. Not only that, but Stephen Denmark is also making some serious noise in training camp so far. Layne needs to string together some impressive preseason games starting Thursday night, or he may find himself on the outside looking in for this roster.
4. Ulysees Gilbert III:
Even with the sudden retirement of Vince Williams, the inside linebacker room is a crowded one. The drafting of Buddy Johnson, and the conversion of Marcus Allen to linebacker seems to have the backup positions covered. That leaves Ullysees Gilbert III in a dogfight for a roster spot with this team. As we pointed out in our last 53 man roster preview, health is the major factor when it comes to Gilbert. Steelers 53 man roster prediction 2.0
In a perfect world, Gilbert is a much more athletic option for the role of the hybrid safety/linebacker role on this team. If he can stay healthy throughout the preseason, Gilbert would certainly give the Steelers brass some tough decisions at linebacker.
5. Jordan Berry:
It seems like the Steelers have been trying to replace Jordan Berry for years now. They essentially did last season, only to bring him back just a few games later. This time the team has gone as far as actually drafting a punter in hopes of improving the position. When Pressley Harvin III was drafted, everyone assumed that was the final straw for Berry. Reports out of camp however have the two neck and neck in the punting competition so far. If Berry can out punt Harvin in the actual games, he may just once gain find himself on this roster come September.