It's only exhibition, but these Steelers could solidify roster spots vs. Eagles

| Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

The game counts for nothing, but for many wearing a Steelers jersey, it could count for everything.

Around the NFL, there's a phrase to describe it — “the all-important third preseason game” — and while it's almost become a cliche, it is true.

After the Steelers' starters play the first half, or most of it, or perhaps even a series into the second half Thursday night in Philadelphia, there will be no tomorrow for 15 players on the roster.

There also won't be a next week because they'll be gone before the fourth and not-that-important preseason game Aug. 28 against Carolina at Heinz Field. After that, another 22 will be cut before the season starts.

The Eagles game is meaningful for everyone — the starters, especially quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, want to gear it up, develop a rhythm, get into a regular-season mode because they'll likely play little if at all against Carolina.

The defense will get a test in the Eagles' hurry-up, fast-paced offense that operates at a higher rpm than any the Steelers will see during the season. And for the bottom 50 or so players on the roster, this is the time jobs are won — and, more often, lost.

“(We're) getting to the meat of this thing a little bit, and if guys (are) going to make a move, it's kind of now or never,” coach Mike Tomlin said.

Here are 10 players who will have much on the line at Lincoln Financial Field:

Cam Thomas, DE/DT — The Steelers just brought back Brett Keisel, and how much the 12-year veteran plays could be dictated by how well, or poorly, Thomas performs.

Steve McLendon, NT — He needs to show more after missing part of camp with a concussion.

Markus Wheaton, WR — The No. 2 starting wide receiver's job is his to lose. He hasn't done it so far, and he doesn't want to start now.

Brad Wing, P — The best punter in college football three years ago wants to make sure the Steelers don't have to shop on the waiver wire during Week 1 like they did last season.

Mike Adams, OT — He's gone from starting a year ago to competing for a backup's role.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR — Rookie Martavis Bryant has made more plays than this former first-round pick, and time is running out.

Landry Jones, QB — He might not get in this one, but he'll likely play a lot against Carolina. He hasn't shown much in two years, and it's time he did.

Chris Carter, OLB — He was yanked after one series against Buffalo, and his roster spot is in jeopardy.

Howard Jones, LB — The ace of the special teams so far, can he make another big play?

Antwon Blake, CB — The Steelers badly need a reliable backup here, but he hasn't shown consistency.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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