It's Not Too Late

Jim Wexell breaks down the Steelers' final few roster battles before tonight's preseason finale in Carolina.

Stevenson Sylvester used the fourth preseason game last year to make the team.

The year before that it was Stefan Logan who "made this team in this game," according to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

"I am not trying to place too much emphasis on it," Tomlin said of tonight's preseason finale at Carolina. "But I do acknowledge decisions are undecided and how guys perform will be a factor on the other side of it."

Decisions are undecided indeed.

Take Corbin Bryant for example. He's a 6-3 3/8, 297-pound defensive end who went undrafted. He signed with the Steelers on July 30. The date is significant because the Steelers signed the other 20 undrafted rookie free agents July 26-27.

Bryant signed later, not as a thrown-in camp body, but because he'd been mulling over several offers. He was what personnel people call "a priority free agent."

Bryant started 35 games as a 4-3 defensive tackle at Northwestern. He finished his career with 19½ tackles for loss, 4½ sacks and four separate school/league awards for academics, sportsmanship, team work, and work ethic. He also had a sack in the Texas vs. Nation All-Star Game.

Much like the undecided decision, Bryant is a known unknown, and the Steelers would be tempting the rest of the 3-4 teams by waiving him and hoping he clears and comes back on their practice squad.

The Steelers lost another one like him two years ago. Sunny Harris, who like Bryant was a 6-3¾, 298 3-4 style defensive end, flashed similar skills two years ago. The Steelers lost him on waivers, but were fortunate to claim him later in the season.

The Steelers may not want to take that risk with Bryant, who's a better player. Those who watched No. 71 in the fourth quarters of the Washington and Atlanta games this preseason know that.

So Bryant is one player whose future can be written tonight. Here are some of the other players and battles to watch:

* NT: Chris Hoke vs. Steve McLendon – The 320-pound McLendon had a sack last week and at 25 years old has youth on his side. But the 35-year-old Hoke has had a good camp and McLendon is still eligible for the practice squad. If McLendon wouldn't clear waivers, the Steelers could fill the PS spot with Anthony Gray.

* CB: Crezdon Butler vs. Keenan Lewis – Lewis hasn't been bad, but his body language betrays an apparent lack of confidence. So far he's played and proven more than Butler, who flashed a burst of speed on that 95-yard interception return last week.

* CB: Cortez Allen vs. himself – The fourth-round pick has Redshirt Year written all over him. All he has to do is not look awful, IF he plays tonight.

* OL: Keith Williams vs. Chris Scott – Both are eligible for the practice squad. Williams didn't play at all last week – not a good sign – but Scott did and was awful. Williams may know less in his first year here, but he's been better than Scott – so far.

* TE: John Gilmore vs. Weslye Saunders – Bruce Arians has resigned himself to Gilmore, the 10-year vet, because Saunders is just too raw to play for an offense that will contend for a championship. But Saunders played well last week, and he might be able to force the head coach to choose him with a big game tonight.

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