PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger is freaking out over the Pittsburgh Steelers' winless preseason, except for the part where he's not.
"I'm so worried, can't you see it on my face?" Roethlisberger said with a laugh. "It's the preseason, and we're taking this time to work on things and get better, but we'll be ready to go when it's time."
Maybe, but history isn't kind to teams who can't find a way to end up on the right side of the score at least once in August. The Steelers have never made the playoffs after going 0-fer in exhibitions, including an 8-8 mark in Bill Cowher's final season as head coach in 2006.
Translation: the backups better be ready on Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.
While Roethlisberger and other starters will barely break a sweat — if they even play at all — the reserves will try to win a football game and hope they win over coach Mike Tomlin in the process.
The only position battle up for grabs is at punter, where Drew Butler and veteran Brian Moorman will get one last chance to state their case. For two dozen other players hoping to avoid being cut when the roster is trimmed from 75 to 53 this weekend, the preseason finale offers an opportunity to show they're worth keeping around.
The biggest question marks are at linebacker and wide receiver. Rookie Vince Williams and veterans Brian Rolle and Marshall McFadden are in the mix to back up Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote.
Williams, a fifth-round pick out of Florida State, has already recorded 10 tackles through three games while adding a sack and a pass breakup. He also committed a critical personal foul penalty last week against Kansas City due to a horse collar tackle.
It's the kind of miscue that can make coaches reconsider a roster spot, something Williams knows he has to avoid if he wants to survive the final round of cuts.
"I've done all right, but I'm never a guy who's going to settle or be complacent," Williams said. "There's always more I can do and more ways to improve my game."