Michael Pierce's big game in Thursday night's preseason finale couldn't have had much better timing.
Not only did the undrafted rookie defensive tackle shine in his last opportunity to impress coaches before Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline to cut the roster to 53.
He also did so in front of his family. His dad, who played at nearby Tulane like Pierce, was in the stadium along with his mom and grandmother.
"It's a real special feeling," Pierce said with a smile. "This was kind of a homecoming for me. It was awesome to put a good effort out there for those guys as well."
Pierce made the play of the game for the Ravens, bulldozing Saints offensive lineman Marcus Henry to notch a sack/strip and then recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. He notched another sack later in the game, but it was called back because of defensive holding.
It's not the first time Pierce has stood out. He had a strong training camp and paired that with good preseason games before his breakout Thursday night.
Pair that with an injury to Carl Davis (ankle), and it could put Pierce on the right side of the bubble. Davis will get an MRI on his ankle, but his injury isn't season-threatening.
"Michael played really well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's played well throughout. He's had a good camp. He has played well when he has been in there in games."
Pierce is a 6-foot-0, 339-pound prospect. He played at Tulane for two years before transferring to Samford, where he earned first-team All-Southern Conference honors after making 48 tackles, 2.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss.
He showed his brute strength on the touchdown, as he pushed Henry well into the backfield before pouncing on Saints quarterback Luke McCown. While it's Pierce's first NFL touchdown, he actually scored two touchdowns as a fullback in goal-line situations at Samford.
"I just wanted to get a real good push," Pierce said. "I watched Brandon Williams do it a plethora of times on film and in the few preseason games he did play. … [Henry] gave in a lot more than I initially expected, so I wanted to get off the block and get to the quarterback as quick as I could."
Pierce already beat out fellow undrafted defensive tackle Trevon Coley, who was released in the first round of cuts. Now he could be the player who extends Baltimore's 12-year streak of keeping an undrafted rookie on the 53-man roster.
Pierce took 43 snaps (sixth-most on the team and the most of any defensive lineman) and received a positive 1.0 grade from Pro Football Focus.
"I'm blessed to have the reps that I did today and I think I made the most of them," he said.
"We all know that, as rookies, the cut is coming. Everyone in the locker room has worked real hard to make the team. As for me, there's nothing else I can do and I hope I've proved to the coaching staff that I deserve a spot on the team."