Fantasy Look: Preseason Game 1 – Steelers Versus Eagles
I know what a lot of you are thinking, fantasy in the preseason? While I will not get into projections and break downs until the regular season begins, I do want to write about what some fantasy relevant things to look for. This is an important game tonight even if it\’s only preseason as it\’s finally a chance to see where players are exactly on the depth chart, who flashes, who fails to impress and who\’s on the outside looking in. I will mainly review the opposition so you have some idea of what they\’re up against. For Pittsburgh Steelers related news, check out any of the numerous articles Dave has written that contain EVERYTHING happening at Latrobe.
The Steelers will play the Philadelphia Eagles tonight at 7:30 pm (EST). This game is in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field and is only available locally or via the NFL Preseason Live package. Philadelphia is a strong team and has a lot of talent on its roster. The early questions will be if this is the “dream team” part 2 or if this is a team that is ready to back up its hype:
- Andy Reid attended his son Garrett\’s funeral on Tuesday but is expected to be available for the game Thursday night.
- Michael Vick is predicting a bounce back season. He said he was only about 30% comfortable with the offense in preseason last year, while he is closer to 90% right now.
- Running back Dion Lewis appears slated to be LeSean McCoy\’s backup (handcuff). However, Reid normally uses his star runners quite a bit.
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is excited to play outside corner this season. He was used as a nickel back last season behind Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel but with Samuel\’s departure to the Atlanta Falcons, Rodgers-Cromartie now gets to start outside.
- Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans will get his first look with only his second NFL defense.
- With several injuries to the defensive line, former first round pick (2010) Brandon Graham is getting a chance at redemption.
- Brent Celek remains the number 1 option at tight end, but has missed 9 days with a sprained MCL. He will not be available for this game.
- Defensive end Jason Babin will be out Thursday night with his strained calf (2-3 weeks).
- Defensive end Trent Cole is day to day and will be held out as a precaution.
- Defensive tackle Mike Patterson is out for an extended period of time following brain surgery and is likely to start the season on the PUP list.
- 3rd round pick Vinny Curry is still limited because of a high ankle sprain.
- Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (1st round pick) will get a good chance to start early for this Eagles. He needs a strong preseason to solidify his position as a starter.
- 2nd string wide receiver Riley Cooper is injured for around 6 weeks with a fractured collarbone and 6th round pick Marvin McNutt will look to make a big impression.
- 2nd round pick Mychal Kendricks will be given every chance to start at strong side linebacker. He is currently coming off the field on passing downs in favor of 23 year old Brian Rolle (weak side linebacker).
- 4th round selection Brandon Boykin may have a chance to take Rodgers-Cromartie\’s old nickel back spot.
There are quite a few things to watch on the Steelers front. Who is the 4th or 5th used defensive end and how many snaps the reserve wide receivers get are all big ticket items. I will try to cover some of the fantasy relevant components:
- It will be interesting to see if and how much Ben Roethlisberger plays. While his injuries aren\’t serious, he probably wouldn\’t be in for more than a drive or two even if he was the picture of health.
- With Mike Wallace still a no show, it\’s Emmanuel Sanders chance to pull an Antonio Brown and impress in the preseason.
- This game will be a big determiner in who leads the clubhouse going forward for the many backup wide receivers. Look for Tyler Beiler and Toney Clemons to try and establish themselves.
- I don\’t think Isaac Redman will play too much, so it will be the Jonathan Dwyer versus John Clay show. Seeing Baron Batch and Chris Rainey will also be interesting to gauge how many reps they will get and how often both are used out of the backfield.
- Both David DeCastro and Mike Adams will start on the offensive line. What\’s interesting to me is seeing how long they stay in for. I also want to see how Trai Essex plays with his new weight.
- Rainey and Marquis Maze should be the primary returners. This doesn\’t count out Sanders, but as long as Wallace isn\’t present, he will be protected like Brown. Also, the health of Sanders might finally be a key point and prevent him from getting returning reps.
- The tight end position will be very interesting to watch. Heath Miller looks like he may be healthy enough to suit up. Weslye Saunders has to make an impression before his suspension and Leonard Pope will be wearing the black and gold for the first time. I\’ll be interested to see how much Jamie McCoy and David Paulson play and how often each are targeted in the passing game.
Follow me on twitter @chrisdimarino