The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to cut their roster from 80 players all the way down to 53 by August 30th. Here’s who needs to shine in the preseason finale.
On August 30th by the 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time deadline, every NFL team will be asked to cut their roster from 80 players all the way to 53 prior to the start of the 2022 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers have already made a few interesting decisions during the second wave of cuts, and there’s no doubt we are in for a few more surprises.
At this point, nothing is etched in stone yet. The preseason finale might not mean much to players who have already locked up a spot on the Steelers roster, but it certainly could have implications for players on the bubble. Here are four players who will need outstanding performances in the preseason finale against the Lions to help their case prior to roster cuts.
Can Miles Boykin convince Steelers to keep a sixth WR?
For what it’s worth, I do think that Miles Boykin is inside of the roster bubble at this point, and I predicted him to make the team on the latest episode of the Still Curtain Podcast. However, the Steelers have kept just five receivers on the roster in recent years, and Boykin needs to convince them that he’s worthy of taking up a roster spot as the WR6.
Gunner Olszewski seems like more of a lock at this point after playing with the first team offense during the preseason. The team also has invested more in him financially and his former All-Pro status as a special teams ace is going to make him stick. Boykin would be a luxury on the roster who wouldn’t see a ton of snaps on offense. He needs to make some big plays on special teams this week to secure his spot on the Steelers roster.
Has RB Jaylen Warren shown enough yet?
I really like what I’ve seen from Jaylen Warren throughout the summer and I think the Steelers do too. The question becomes: has he done enough to beat out one of the higher investments on the team in front of him? Over the past several years, Pittsburgh spent a pair of fourth-round picks on both Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland, and they won’t throw them away lightly.
Warren has played well enough to earn a roster spot, in my opinion, but the team often keeps just three running backs. If they are not willing to devote a roster spot to a fourth, one of these three will be the odd man out. If Warren doesn’t play well in the finale, Pittsburgh may try to stash him on the practice squad and allow him to compete again next summer.
OG John Leglue on the outside looking in
Though the Steelers are no strangers to keeping nine offensive linemen from time to time, I have John Leglue just outside of the roster bubble at this point. I thought the big offensive guard had an excellent game against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 of the preseason, but he really struggled against the Jaguars last week. He was responsible for the pressure that forced Mason Rudolph into taking a safety.
Leglue was a respectable stop-gap starter for Pittsburgh late last season, and I don’t think he’s had a bad summer at all. However, the team probably can’t afford to keep two backup guards this year when the depth is stronger at other positions. He needs to ball out against the Lions in the preseason finale.
CB Justin Layne is a longshot who needs to shine
Of the players listed, I think Justin Layne has the worst chance of making the Steelers 53-man roster in 2022. The pecking order is a good indication of this. During the preseason, James Pierre has been seeing the field much earlier.
Though he was a former third-round draft choice with great size and quality athletic traits, Layne simply hasn’t shown enough early in his career. However, he is coming off a game in which he recorded an interception and had a pretty solid performance. It would take the perfect storm to make it at this point, but if he can muster up a few more splash plays in the finale, perhaps that will be enough to stick around as the final CB on the Steelers roster in 2022.
There will be a lot on the line for many young players this week, but for those on the Steelers roster bubble, their preseason finale could prove to be one of the most important performances of their NFL careers.