5 Steelers Who Are Now Wildcards to Make the Team

The Pittsburgh Steelers added plenty of depth in free agency and the NFL Draft. Which is great unless you're roster spot isn't guaranteed.
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers bulked their offensive and defensive depth with the 2021 NFL Draft, which leaves some pieces with uncertain futures this summer.

While rookies like Buddy Johnson and Tre Norwood fill the depth chart, they'll leave deep position groups with too many players and not enough opportunities.

So, what happens to the wildcards? These three players are walking into camp without any guarantees, hoping to see as much success in 2021 as they did last season.

Marcus Allen, LB

Marcus Allen converted from safety to linebacker last summer and made the most of his time spent on the inside. The former Penn State stud continued to rave about how knowledgeable he was playing inside the box because of his time as a Nittany Lion, and filled in well for the Steelers when called upon in 2020.

Allen played in 14 games, starting two, and contributed 30 tackles, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits last season.

Now, it's a tough situation for Allen and company. The inside linebacker room is filled with the addition of Johnson and the signings of Vince Williams and Robert Spillane. Allen will be fighting for playing time - or to make the roster - with all three, and nothing is certain for the hybrid linebacker.

Depending on how much they like Allen/Spillane, you'd have to imagine both are on the brink of making/missing the team this season.

Anthony McFarland, RB

Last year, Anthony McFarland spent most of his rookie season on the bench. The fourth-round pick rushed 33 times for 113 yards but was caught in a running back room desperately trying to figure themselves out.

McFarland had potential coming into the NFL, but his current team might be holding back any playing time in the near future. The Steelers will let Najee Harris be their franchise runner for the time being, while Benny Snell Jr. handles tough-runner situations.

Jaylen Samuels remains a question mark in Pittsburgh. He doesn't do much on the contribution end, recording just 459 yards in three seasons, but the Steelers like the veteran.

It'll be up to McFarland to prove he's a more capable Samuels this summer, and deserves a roster spot moving forward. The Steelers won't keep four runners active throughout the season, meaning it'll come down to the second-year back and Samuels for the final spot.

Joe Haeg, OT

Joe Haeg was signed to be a security blanket for the Steelers this season, like Stefen Wisniewski was last year. If the Steelers need a reliable veteran to step into a role, Haeg is the guy, and will remain the guy until proven otherwise.

Here's the issue; he doesn't need to prove anything. Haeg can have a great training camp, spend all summer showing off his veteran presence on the field and still end up getting the short end of the stick.

Dan Moore Jr. doesn't scream instant starter, but all he needs to do is show he's capable of playing at an NFL level in some capacity, and Haeg is on his way out.

Much like Kevin Dotson forced Wisniewski out last season.

This summer depends on Moore more than Haeg. And if the Steelers found a future starter in the fourth round this offseason, Haeg's time in Pittsburgh could be short.

Antoine Brooks Jr., S

No one had huge expectations for Antoine Brooks heading into the NFL, but the former sixth-round pick seemed to have potential as the Steelers' next hybrid player. 

All those expectations are slowly fading as the second-year safety will now battle a handful of undrafted rookies, seventh-round pick Tre Norwood and newly signed safety Arthur Maulet for a roster spot this summer. 

Brooks needed to be fine-tuned coming into the league. He wasn't very effective in pass coverage and had some things to work on when it came to instinct. If none of those are cleared up this training camp, it's hard to believe he'll be a favorite to spend more time on the active roster this year than he did last season. 

Justin Layne, CB

Justin Layne did himself no favors by being arrested in Ohio last month. The third-year cornerback was looking at his first opportunity to earn starting time in the NFL, but now could be on the backburner of the Steelers' plans. 

Pittsburgh didn't add many options to their cornerback room, but their handful of undrafted corners could compete for a roster spot with Layne. If James Pierre proves to be a more valuable option beneath Cam Sutton on the depth chart, Layne is looking at a slim chance he sees the field on defense this season. 

Lack of depth will work in his favor, but all Layne needs is one undrafted rookie to shine and he's on his way to the open market.  

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.