The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Carolina Panthers Thursday night in their preseason finale and below are eleven things to look for during the game.
Jones I – Rookie quarterback Landry Jones figures to get a ton of playing time against the Panthers, and it will likely be the last time he sees the field until next preseason. The Oklahoma product has looked pretty shaky at times so far, and the hope is that he can at least get the arrow pointing in the right direction Thursday night.
Jones II – Felix Jones has now had a full week to absorb the play book, and we should get to see quite a bit of him against the Panthers as a result. In addition to playing at running back, Jones very well could get a few more chances as a kick returner. Should the Steelers ultimately decide to carry four running backs and one fullback to start the season, Jones will need to show Thursday night that he is worth more to the team than Jonathan Dwyer.
By a Nose – One would think the Steelers will keep either Alameda Ta’amu or Hebron Fangupo on the 53 man roster, so both now have one last chance to state their case as to why they should be kept. Fangupo might be ahead on the depth chart, but Ta’amu has outplayed him, in my opinion.
Mr. Wilson – When the Steelers signed Kion Wilson to a futures contract early in the offseason, I would have bet my house that he wouldn’t make the 53 man roster. Now, with one preseason game left to be played, Wilson appears to be one of just a few players who special teams coordinator Danny Smith will insist on having. Watch him close Saturday night.
Dunn Done? – Return specialist Reggie Dunn injured a shoulder in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs, and he missed some practice time this past week as a result. While his chances of making the roster are still slim, they will get even slimmer if he doesn’t play against the Panthers.
Where’s Carter? – If the Steelers didn’t lack experienced depth at the outside linebacker position, then Chris Carter might have been sent packing last week. He might very well wind up making the roster by default, so it would be nice if he actually started showing something on defense.
Return Of The Hyphen? – Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling put on a show in the preseason opener against the New York Giants, but a knee injury has forced him to miss the last two games. If he doesn’t play against the Panthers, then it might be time to question his availability for the start of the season and possibly even his roster spot.
Beachum Finally The Center Of Attention? – Is this the week that we finally get to see Kelvin Beachum play center or will Mike Tomlin want to see him play quarterback first. Enough is enough. Let the man get in some work over the football early before he has to play left tackle.
Butler Versus Moorman IV – This punter battle sure must be too close to call. Brian Moorman got off to a good start, but Drew Butler might actually be ahead right now. Could one shank Thursday night result in a knockout?
Moye, Double Moye – Has Derek Moye really outplayed rookie Justin Brown? It sure seems that way, but I don’t think this battle is over quite yet. A roster spot is on the line so expect to see quite a bit of these two with Jones at quarterback. The loser likely goes to the practice squad next week.
Get Your Johnson Ready – The Steelers used the game last week against the Chiefs to knock the rust off of tight end David Johnson, who had just been removed from the PUP list. This week against the Panthers I expect he will get more than the nine snaps he received last week as the team really needs to see if he is over his knee injury.