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Elijah Riley prepared to cement his spot on the Steelers 53-man roster

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster is vastly improved from last year, and when you talk about position battles leading up to the preseason finale on Thursday night, there aren’t as many as once thought. But that doesn’t mean those battles don’t exist heading into the Week 3 preseason game vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

One of the battles which has been driven to the forefront for the Steelers has been the battle at the slot cornerback position. Arthur Maulet held down that spot on the roster in 2022, but after his release the competition is between Chandon Sullivan and Elijah Riley.

Riley, a safety by trade, has had a very positive offseason, and has turned heads with his versatility. While some suggest the team keep both Sullivan and Riley, which is an option, Riley would provide them an option at slot cornerback, as well as in the deep secondary.

Head coach Mike Tomlin has been pleased with Riley as he is now entering Year 2 within the team’s defense.

“I think he’s showing that he has been here,” said Tomlin. “And that’s a reasonable expectation, a guy that’s familiar with our environment and familiar with our schematics and so forth. And he could focus his energies on just the play or the quality of the play and he has taken a significant step in terms of productivity in stadium, on defense and in teams and good for him. Good for us.”

Riley himself knows just how important it is to be comfortable not just with the new team, but the defense. With this comfortability comes increased expectations.

“Second year in the system, there is a little bit more of an expectation,” said Riley. “I feel more comfortable, taking it in stride, detailing my work so I am in the best position I can be.

“I want to be someone the team can rely on no matter where I am placed. If they need me to learn safety better, that’s what I’m going to do. They need me to learn corner, I’ll tap into my college days and learn how to play corner again. Wherever I need to be put on special teams, I’m willing and wanting to be there.”

Throughout his time with the Steelers Riley admits he has learned a tremendous amount about the game, about defense, and what to expect from Mike Tomlin and the defensive coaching staff.

“I have learned a lot,” said Riley. “My football IQ has increased. I’ve learned more about the flow of the game, taking it from level 100 to level 400 in certain aspects. Being around the coaches here, they have helped me detail the game beyond the X’s and O’s, what to expect, what to anticipate, how the flow of the game works. I am very grateful to have taken the steps I have from rookie year until now.

“Getting to where I was from West Point was a challenge. When I got here for a little while, I was finding my way, trying to figure out where I belong.

“Now I feel like I am at the point where I know I belong, and I am doing everything I can to stick around.”

As for this Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons in Preseason Week 3, Riley is going to just put his best foot forward and trust that his play this entire offseason will be what is necessary for him to make the team’s Week 1 defense.

“I am going to go out there and put on my best performance,” said Riley. “I want to show I am consistent, disciplined and diligent in my work ethic. Beyond that I am not trying to do anything outside of my cylinder to prove myself in any sort of way. I am here to show I am working to get better every single day.”

The Riley and Sullivan battle will be one to watch, and if the Steelers end up keeping both it likely means they like the depth and versatility they have at the position. A good problem to have.

Be sure to stay tuned to SCN for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the preseason and the regular season.


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