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Which Steelers Players Could Make ’11th Hour’ Roster Charge?

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Steelers DT Khalil Davis

The final preseason game of the season is always the last chance to make an impact for some Pittsburgh Steelers players.

After taking on the Detroit Lions for the preseason finale at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday, the Steelers will make their final cuts for the 2022 season on Tuesday, getting down to a 53-man roster and 16-player practice squad from the 80 players currently still on the roster.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that each position battle will come down to how players perform in the final preseason game, and he recalled this week of how several players have played their way onto the team in the last preseason game over the course of his career.

“I think it’s important that we always provide that perspective,” Tomlin said Friday. “That people charge through the barn doors in the 11th hour. You know, when we used to be in the four-game system it used to be the Carolina game historically. And guys like Arnold Harrison always ran their way onto the roster in the last game, and so I’ll give them those examples. And they’ll add to that legacy with their efforts.”

Harrison was a slender, undrafted linebacker that made his NFL impact primarily as a special teamer, but he was with the Steelers for four training camps from 2005-09 and made the team each time. He finished his career with just 35 tackles — but two Super Bowl rings.

Is there another Arnold Harrison on the 2022 Steelers? Here’s a few players to keep an eye on during Sunday’s final preseason game to see if they can run make, as Tomlin put it, an 11th-hour charge onto the roster:

OT Adrian Ealy

Ealy was just signed by the Steelers this week and only has a handful of practices under his belt. He’s been cut a half-dozen times already in his little over one-year-old NFL career, but the gigantic (6-foot-6, 321 pounds) offensive tackle possesses an upside that none of the other Steelers reserve linemen have.

If that sounds familiar, it’s nearly an identical paradigm to when Zach Banner made the team just a week after being signed in 2018. Ealy also wears No. 72. 

With the status of tackles Joe Haeg (concussion protocol) and Chuks Okorafor (unknown, missed practice Friday) up in the air, Ealy will probably get as much playing time he can handle on Sunday.

DT Khalil Davis

Khalil, the twin brother of Steelers 2020 draft pick Carlos Davis, already had one big preseason moment when he swallowed whole Seattle’s attempt at a trick play on the final snap of the preseason opener.

He’ll probably need another couple moments like that if he’s going to claw his way onto the roster at a crowded defensive line position. But like Ealy at tackle, he should probably get lots of chances on Sunday.

Veteran starters Cam Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi and Tyson Alualu will play, but probably not much, and second-teamers Montravius Adams and Isaiahh Loudermilk both won’t play at all. 

OLB Hamilcar Rashed Jr.

Rashed just joined the Steelers earlier this month after being waived by the New York Jets, but he’s already hung on through two rounds of cuts at the outside linebacker position, and appears to be on the cusp of making the 53-man roster.

Rashed, Derrek Tuszka and Delontae Scott are the three players that have gotten the most playing time behind starter T.J. Watt and injured presumptive starter Alex Highsmith. Highsmith likely won’t play Sunday and Watt has nothing to prove.

The job here is two-fold. Rashed would have to beat out one of the two incumbents in Tuszka and Scott. He’d also have to look good enough doing it that Omar Khan isn’t tempted to take a swing at the waiver wire to bolster the depth at a critical position. 

FS Elijah Riley

Riley is another former Jets castoff — it can’t be a good thing for any team to be sporting more than one of those, but nevertheless. Unlike Rashed, he plays at a position where the Steelers have plenty of depth.

So much that they’ve been playing all three of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee at the same time. Tre Norwood, nominally a safety, plays everywhere, and Miles Killebrew is a trusted special teamer.

Where does Riley fit in? No idea. But the West Point alum can make some plays, and enough defensive backs that can do that is never a bad thing. If the Steelers are really planning on using three safeties, they might feel they need more than four bodies at the position.

WR Cody White

White has kind of been the forgotten man at wide receiver for the Steelers this preseason as Miles Boykin, Gunner Olszewski and Steven Sims seems to have separated themselves from the pack in rounding out the Steelers wide receiver rotation.

But White hasn’t stuck with the Steelers for the last two years for no reason, and he could get a chance to show why on Sunday. If there’s an Arnold Harrison-like player on the roster, White might be it.

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