The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Indianapolis Colts in their second preseason game Sunday night and that means we will get to see former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and his new prized pupil, quarterback Andrew Luck.
As we do every week, is a list of 10 things to watch for in the game as the Steelers look to even their preseason record to 1-1 at home and in front of a national television audience.
More Fullback – The fullback position had a significant role in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles as one was in the backfield at the snap of the ball well over 20 times Thursday night. Now that David Johnson is out for the season, Will Johnson will likely get a long look at the position this week and he will likely be followed by Jamie McCoy, who was working with the running back group this past week. The newly signed Jason Ford figures to also get some work at the position and we should get to see a tight end or two once or twice in the backfield as well.
OLB Rotation – With James Harrison and Jason Worilds not likely to return to action any time soon, the depth at both of the outside linebacker positions must be sorted out. Chris Carter will once again start on the right side opposite LaMarr Woodley and he figures to get another extended look, Last week against the Eagles it was Brandon Johnson who replaced Woodley on the left initially and he was followed by Stevenson Sylvester and then Adrian Robinson. Both Johnson and Sylvester received work inside during that game as well and it will be curious to see if the same rotation is used this week. Albeit late in the game last week, Robinson flashed, so it will be worth watching to see if he gets snaps earlier this week or even gets a chance on the right side at all. Last week Mortty Ivy followed Carter into the game, but he did not stick out. I am rooting for Robinson to get the second team looks on his more natural right side against the Colts. Regardless of where he lines up, he is exciting to watch.
Colon Power Activate – This will be the first game for Willie Colon at left guard after he sat out last week with an ankle injury. We have no idea what the starting offense hopes to accomplish this week, but it would be nice to see the power run to the right at least a few times to watch Colon pull. The power pull is something the Steelers are once again likely to do a lot of again this year, only in addition to it mostly being to the right, they figure to be able to do it in both directions now with the addition of David DeCastro. Even if Colon is not on the move a lot, it will be our first good look at him at the position regardless.
Flexible Tackles - Max Starks is not ready to play this week and rookie Mike Adams, who returned to practice field after suffering a sprained knee and ego last week, will not start if he suits up. All week the Steelers have been working Marcus Gilbert at left tackle and Ramon Foster at right tackle to test their position flexibility. While Gilbert will return to his normal right tackle spot when Starks is ready, it will be good to get him some meaningful snaps on the left side should injuries strike again this year. A good showing by Foster at the right tackle would further fortify the positional depth of the offensive line. Both Gilbert and Foster both figure to get work at their original positions after the first team is done for the night.
Bounce Back Brown – It wasn\’t an overall bad performance by Curtis Brown last week as he admitted to falling down on the first long touchdown and not getting his head around on the second one despite tight coverage. Cornerbacks get beat in the NFL and they must have a short memory because of it. Brown once again figures to replace Ike Taylor after he leaves the game and he will continue his development Sunday night. Keep in mind that Brown is essentially still a rookie after not getting an offseason last year due to the lockout, which led to him only getting to see the field his rookie season on special teams.
Wide Receiver Youths – Mike Tomlin was asked this week if any of the young wide receivers on the roster had separated themselves from the group yet and he replied that it depends on what day you ask him. That means that inconsistency still exist and that is not encouraging news. While wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery offered some praise for the play of both Derrick Williams and Tyler Beiler in the game the against the Eagles, nothing has been settled yet and none of the group stood out on special teams accept for a few punt returns by Marquis Maze. Maze only works in the slot position though and Chris Rainey offers that ability as well as the ability to return punts. If none of these young receivers separate soon, the Steelers most likely will keep only four receivers on the 53 man roster with Rainey serving as the fifth. The coaches stated this week that they want to get a good look this week at David Gilreath, who sat out against the Eagles with a minor foot irritation. Watch for him against the Colts.
Bearded Cam – Cameron Heyward sat out the first preseason game against the Eagles, but will play Sunday night against the Colts. He figures to get time initially at the right defensive end spot once Brett Keisel exits the game. Like Heyward, this will also be the first preseason game for Keisel as well after he missed the Eagles game due to the birth of his son. The last time we saw either of these two players was in the loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Wildcard game. Keisel left that game with a groin injury, while Heyward showed he still has a ways to go before he is ready to take over the defensive end position on the right side.
Golden Opportunity – With Ryan Clark scheduled to sit out the week 1 game in Denver due to his sickle cell trait, the Steelers might decide to carry 5 safeties on the opening day 53 man roster. Golden figures to be battling Damon Cromartie-Smith for that possible spot right now, so he needs to start flashing more during his playing time and show up once again on special teams this week as well.
51 Spence – Rookie Sean Spence showed great sideline to sideline speed last week against the Eagles, but he must improve on getting off his blocks better against the Colts on Sunday. He looks comfortable for the most part in the defense and his second game should show even more development. Spence was slowed by an ankle injury this week in practice, but all signs point to him being healthy enough to play after working on Friday.
Beachum & Buddy Lee – Kelvin Beachum played both left tackle and left guard last week against the Eagles and had some struggles at both spots. Cutting out the penalties for starters should be his primary goal and I expect him to have a much better showing this time around. Ryan Lee played very well at left guard against the Eagles, albeit coming against scrubs. While Lee doesn\’t figure to get any looks in the game against Colts with the second team unit, another solid performance late in the game could force the Steelers to really start considering him for the practice squad, if they aren\’t already. While watching him play, consider the term “country strong”, as that is how I described him in my offensive line breakdown of the game against the Eagles.