For some Steelers, last chance to leave impression
Perhaps no one scrutinizes young players vying for roster spots more than proven veterans.
Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons has observed with interest rookies and free agents who have expended a wealth of sweat equity trying to convince coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert they are perfect fits.
For the most part, some players are simply numbers to Timmons. Their faces are still unfamiliar, but they are recognized for being diligent, determined and consistent.
“I really like 30 and 35,” Timmons said. “They have certainly pushed some of the older players, and I think that helps the team as a whole.”
Safety Robert Golden is No. 30, and cornerback Josh Victorian wears No. 35. They are long-shot free agents with an opportunity to enhance their odds at 7 p.m. Saturday with solid performances at Buffalo.
Coincidentally, 11-year safety Ryan Clark is impressed, too, with Golden and Victorian. He is convinced both are likely to be around Monday after the Steelers trim their roster to the league maximum 75.
Golden, a rookie free agent from Arizona, may find it difficult to find a roster spot, considering the Steelers have a number of experienced safeties, including perennial Pro Bowl starter Troy Polamalu, Ryan Mundy and Will Allen. Also, Golden is being challenged by free agent Myron Rolle.
Victorian spotted the competition a slight advantage, partly because he didn't participate in organized team activities and minicamp. The Louisiana Tech product has reeled in most everyone with solid performances against Philadelphia and Indianapolis, the latter a game in which his fourth-quarter interception helped seal a 26-24 victory.
“I feel like every practice and every game is important for me.” Golden said. “I have to compete at a high level every day. I don't feel any pressure because if I can compete against Antonio Brown, with Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball, then I can compete against anybody.”
It's difficult to make any roster, but there's plenty of competition at several positions for the Steelers, including defensive back, tight end and receiver. With the starters slated to get more playing time against the Bills, the window of opportunity for those on the bubble is closing.
Clearly, the pressure is on for young receivers David Gilreath and Toney Clemons. Linebacker Sean Spence, a fifth-round pick, has asserted himself during practice. And the stock of linebacker (and Monroeville native) Mortty Ivy and defensive end Al Woods continues to rise.
“It's never enough,” said Ivy, who had a blocked punt against the Colts. “You've got to get a splash play every week.”
Backup quarterback Byron Leftwich said the key is for everyone on the bubble to relax and let it happen.
“Everybody in the locker room embraces pressure,” he said. “It's what brings greatness out, especially when you're trying to get a job. You've got to be able to focus under these kinds of pressure. You can't let the fear of failing get in the way.”
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.