5 Bills to Watch vs. the Steelers

There is plenty of reasons to watch Saturday's game against the Steelers. Here are five Buffalo Bills who are looking to impress against Pittsburgh.

The Buffalo Bills will play their third preseason game of the season on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is generally the game when starters play an entire half and sometimes into the third quarter. It’s also a big game for players who are trying to remain on the roster. On September 1, Buffalo will have to take its roster from 90 players down to a maximum of 75 players. It’s an important game for many players on the team, but here are five players to watch on Saturday.

Fred Jackson

Jackson is expected to be Buffalo’s No. 2 running back this season behind LeSean McCoy. Saturday will be their first glimpse of Jackson in live action after the back suffered a hamstring injury in camp. Jackson, 34, is entering the final year of his contract with the Bills and it could be the final year of Jackson’s career.

It will be interesting to see how much success Jackson has behind Buffalo’s revamped offensive line on Saturday. The running back had career highs in receptions and receiving yards in 2014, but a career-low in YPC (3.7). If Jackson starts off the season slow in terms of rushing, it may open the door for Karlos Williams to get more carries early in the year. Saturday will be Jackson’s latest opportunity to prove that age is just a number.

Marcus Easley

Easley is one of the best special teams players in the league. No one can argue that based upon his play the last few seasons. That said, he’s never really developed into a wide receiver.

Easley’s roster spot seems pretty safe after signing a four-year, $7 million contract in the offseason but how many specialists can the team carry? Buffalo has to make some tough decisions to make between Easley, Marcus Thigpen and Jordan Gay. It’s tough to justify carrying three specialists but Easley can make life easier on the Bills if he contributes as a wide receiver over the last two preseason games. Keep an eye on Easley versus the Steelers.

Nick O’Leary

It’s now or never for O’Leary. When asked if O’Leary will make Buffalo’s 53-man roster, Rex Ryan simply answered with, “I don’t know.” Sixth round picks aren’t generally safe to make a roster, but when Buffalo drafted O’Leary, many assumed he’d have a great shot due to the lack of depth at the position.

Through training camp and the preseason, O’Leary has done nothing to stand out from fellow backups MarQueis Gray, Matthew Mulligan and Chris Gragg. In fact, he’s fallen behind all three of them. Gray is in line to be the team’s second tight end, Mulligan has been the team’s best blocking option at the position and Gragg has outplayed O’Leary, especially as of late. If the tight end doesn’t stand out against Pittsburgh, his odds of making the roster will be slim-to-none. There’s a chance O’Leary would go unclaimed if cut. If that’s the case, the Bills may add him to their practice squad.

Jonathan Meeks

It’s likely that the Bills only carry four safeties. Right now, Meeks finds himself as safety number five. He’s currently listed behind Corey Graham, Aaron Williams, Bacarri Rambo and Duke Williams. Graham and Williams are locks to make the roster, but Meeks still has a chance to surpass Rambo or Duke Williams. His odds aren’t great, but the door is still open for the third year safety. Meeks will need to have a strong game on Saturday to save his roster spot.

Ross Cockrell

Cockrell missed a few weeks of training camp after suffering an injury at an inter-squad scrimmage. Since then, he’s lost plenty of snaps and opportunities to Ron Brooks and Mario Butler. Both have had strong camps and preseasons and may have already locked down roster spots. Cockrell needs a strong performance on Saturday to convince Rex Ryan to carry seven cornerbacks early in the season. There’s no word on how long Leodis McKelvin is out for, but the team may carry an extra cornerback until he’s 100 percent. That could open the door for Cockrell. That said, he’s running out of time and opportunities. On Saturday, Cockrell really needs to prove that he deserves a chance on the 53-man roster. 

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