When the Buffalo Bills face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers this afternoon, there will be several position battles we will be monitoring closely. (It's probably safe to assume the coaching staff will have an eye or two on these players, as well.) It's a good time to note the team will need to cut 14 players by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, September 1. Final cuts to 53 are due just four days later, on Saturday, September 5.
5. Boobie Dixon v. Bryce Brown
Both took part in individual drills at Thursday's practice after being out for an extended period of time, but there's a chance neither will play. Dixon is the presumed leader of the battle thanks to his special teams ability and head coach Rex Ryan's negative comments on Brown's fumbling issues. As they say, you can't make the team from the training room, so Brown might push through an injury to try to make an impression.
4. Matthew Mulligan v. MarQueis Gray v. Chris Gragg v. Nick O'Leary
That's been the pecking order for a few weeks now, but none of them can seem to put a stranglehold on the backup tight end roster spots. Mulligan might have a leg up as the best blocker of the group. Gray and Gragg both had big drops against Cleveland, but Gragg was able to make up for it later with three catches on the game-winning drive. O'Leary has been running with the scout team at camp.
3. Tony Steward v. A.J. Tarpley v. Randell Johnson v. Michael Buchanan v. Quentin Groves
The battle at backup linebacker has only heated up since the injury to Ty Powell. Slotting in as the primary backup to Preston Brown has been Steward, while Tarpley's play has largely not met expectations. Every one of these guys behind Steward will need to make some consistent plays to make the final roster.
2. Chris Hogan v. Marquise Goodwin v. Deonte Thompson v. Marcus Thigpen
Only Goodwin and Thigpen are expected to play against Pittsburgh, but Goodwin can lock down a roster spot with a good performance today. He'll start in place of four injured Bills receivers, a list that may include Hogan. Thigpen's jack-of-all-trades play could also land him on the back end of the 53-man roster, but he'll need to do it in multiple phases. Hogan is out until at least next week, while Thompson's injury is still nebulous in severity, but he's been noticeably good in his time on the field.
1. Matt Cassel v. Tyrod Taylor v. EJ Manuel
Duh. Game on. Manuel starts, with Cassel and Taylor both playing with the ones. If I were a betting man, I'd say Taylor is the final quarterback through the rotation because the second team offensive line he'll finish his night with is horrendous, and Cassel couldn't survive that beating. Matt Simms will probably play a bit for that reason, too.