For obvious reasons, this year’s training camp is unique in itself. Regardless of that, football is still full steam ahead and that means decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks who will remain onboard and who won’t. With that said, there are a few eye-popping defensive players on the Steelers’ roster who currently remain on the roster bubble ahead of the 2020 season.

The Steelers defense is among one the best units in the NFL. With so much talent across their defensive group, roster bubble players will have to take every rep in training camp like it’s their last, in order to make an adequate sales pitch to the coaching staff as they look to earn a spot on the final 53 man roster.

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Can Marcus Allen go one better in 2020?

Defensive back Marcus Allen was drafted in the fifth round out of Penn State in 2018. Prior to the start of his NFL career, Allen was most recognizable for blocking the field goal against Ohio State, leading the Nittany Lions to victory and turning around the program. Since being drafted, things have not gone to plan. Allen heads into his third season having dealt with injuries and being used mostly as a special teams player, appearing in just three games over his first two seasons.

He played well in the pre-season last year, notching an interception to seal the game against the Tennessee Titans. Ultimately, Allen was waived and designated to the practice squad before being activated to the main roster for the team’s season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.

How has Allen looked in training camp thus far?

While Allen is a very good athlete and played well in Penn State’s defense, he has yet to shine in the black and gold. Appearing in only three games in two seasons means that Allen needs to really pop in camp. The good news is that he has been doing a solid job, getting the attention of coaches, including several reports that indicate he’s been among the most improved players in camp.

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In a loaded secondary, Allen is at his best when he is in the box. He is a great athlete with big hit ability. If he can show that he can be a key contributor as a run-stopping safety, he could see his playing time increase as the season goes on. If not, he could find himself back on special teams, the practice squad, or potentially looking for a new team.

Tuzar Skipper has a chance to impress in his second opportunity 

Another guy who has gone through a phase of being signed, waived, and signed again, Tuzar Skipper is in his second tour of duty in Pittsburgh.

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He was in camp with the Steelers last season before being waived in September and spending the majority of the season with the New York Giants where he had a fumble recovery in six games played before being waived in October and moved to the practice squad. The Steelers claimed him in November.

How did Skipper fair in previous training camps?

Skipper looked good during the 2019 pre-season. He had two strip-sacks, showed an ability to get into the backfield, closing in on the quarterback and the opposition felt his presence at the line of scrimmage. At this point, it’s a matter of the pecking order and how much he impresses.

T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree are the obvious starters, and players like Robert Spillane and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi have more experience with the team. However, an argument can be made that Skipper is more explosive than both Spillane and Adeniyi. If he can impress during the final stages of camp, he could edge out one of the final spots, joining the rotation and serving a role on special teams.

Can rookie Carlos Davis secure a spot on the defensive line?

Davis was drafted in the seventh round out of Nebraska this past April and will be competing for a spot in a crowded rotation of defensive lineman.

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The Steelers’ defensive line was already very deep prior to the draft. While Javon Hargrave departed to join the Philadelphia Eagles, Dan McCullers has shown that he is capable of holding the starting job, and Pittsburgh also acquired Chris Wormley from the division-rival Baltimore Ravens to add even more depth in the middle.

Who is Davis competing with for a roster spot?

So where does that leave Davis? He moved around on the defensive line during his time with the Cornhuskers, so his versatility will play to his advantage. That said, Isaiah Buggs is someone who the team expects a big leap from in 2020 and will have his opportunities and reps to show if he is capable of taking that anticipated jump. Tyson Alualu is going into his fourth season with the Steelers, and he is someone who’s versatility will also be put on full display this season as they plan on using him in a variety of ways.

Davis’ main competition for a roster spot will be with Cavon Walker and Henry Mondeaux. If he were to make the 53-man roster, it would be a role predominantly on special teams, but nonetheless a spot on the Week 1 roster. If not, he’ll all but certainly find himself on the practice squad rather than being outright released.