The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Washington Redskins Monday night at FedEx Field in their second preseason game of the season and below are eleven things to look for during the game.
Dwyer, Dwyer, Head On Fire – It\’s possible that both rookie Le\’Veon Bell and Isaac Redman will be held out of the game against the Redskins as a precaution due to the injuries they suffered in practice last week. Should that wind up being the case, Jonathan Dwyer would figure to get the start at running back. Last year during the preseason, the Georgia Tech product led the team in rushing with 147 yards on 28 carries, and he showed a lot of fight in those games. Unless the Steelers decide to keep five running backs and one fullback on their 53 man roster, Dwyer figures to be battling Baron Batch for the fourth running back spot right now, so not only does he need to have a good showing on offense Monday night, but special teams as well.
Beachum Center Of Attention – Unless there has been a last-minute change, this is the week that we should finally get to see second-year offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum play some center. Just as John Malecki saw snaps last week in the preseason opener with the first-team, Beachum figures to do the same this week. He\’s worked at the position all throughout the offseason and should get a chance to show what he\’s learned, and if he can handle the position.
The Rookie & The Hyphen Get Special Treatment – Head coach Mike Tomlin said during his Saturday press conference that rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton will get a chance to return punts Monday night while running back LaRod Stephens-Howling will get a chance to show his experience as the kick returner. The Steelers more than likely want Wheaton to win the punt returner job, so they won\’t have to use Antonio Brown back there. Based on what we saw last week in the preseason opener, Wheaton can only be an improvement.
What Can Brown Do For Us This Year? – Third-year cornerback Curtis Brown figures to play this week after missing the game last week with an ankle injury. While he is a great special teams player, he has yet to show he can play cornerback against top notch competition. Brown had a horrible preseason last year and failed to play well when asked to contribute later in the season due to all the injuries at the cornerback position. It\’s time for him to turn the corner just like Keenan Lewis did last season.
What Can The Younger Brown Do For Us This Year? – In his professional debut last week in the preseason opener, rookie wide receiver Justin Brown caught four of six passes thrown his way for 32 yards. While he has yet to win a spot on the Steelers 53 man roster, it appears as though they will give him every chance to make it his. For a second week in a row the sixth-round draft pick should get plenty of playing time with the second-team offense, and he will be expected to make a few more plays like he did last week.
Everybody Go Deep? – Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger admitted this past week that the game plan used in the first preseason game included working mostly on the short passing game which included using the running backs out of the backfield. Will this be the week that the first-team offense works on the vertical passing game? They need to, and I suspect they will. Roethlisberger says his arm is as strong as it\’s ever been thanks to his offseason kayaking conditioning program, so this week we need to see if he can “row” it deep
Shamarknado Safety Dance – Last week, rookie safety Shamarko Thomas played 27 snaps and they all appeared to come at the nickel cornerback position. This week, I suspect we will finally get to see him play some safety alongside Robert Golden, so we will all watch closely to see if indeed, he is grasping the defense well in regard to that position.
Widening The Gap In The Middle – Surprisingly, all the young middle linebackers played well last week as Marshall McFadden, Vince Williams, Brian Rolle, Kion Wilson and Terence Garvin each showed flashes during the game. Now, can a few of them take yet another step forward and come up with a big play or two on defense in order to separate themselves from the rest of the pack? Special teams play is important as well for this group of players, and you can bet that Danny Smith will be looking for a few of them to separate themselves in that area.
The Real McCoy? – Tight end Jamie McCoy was a late scratch last week with a wrist injury so Michael Palmer was rushed into 19 snaps worth of playing time as a result. The Steelers need another tight end that can block being as Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth both figure to miss the start of the season, so McCoy needs to show he can function as both an in-line blocker and as fullback once Will Johnson leaves the game for good. While he is way down at the bottom of this list, McCoy might very well be the most important player to watch against the Redskins.
Long Shot? – Joe Long didn\’t get a chance to play last week in the preseason opener, but with Justin Cheadle now sidelined with a hamstring injury, the move of Guy Whimper to guard should afford the Wayne State product the opportunity to show what he has at one of the two tackle positions. The Steelers are still looking for an eight offensive lineman who can play tackle to make the roster, so Long needs a near-perfect showing if he wants to throw his hat into the ring for the spot.
No Knock-On Woods Again – Both defensive end Al Woods and rookie undrafted wide receiver J.D. Woods had good showings last week against the Giants. Al led the team in tackles with nine, while J.D. showed he has great hands and great concentration while hauling in two of the three balls thrown his way. Al is a lock to make the roster, but it would be comforting to see that last week wasn\’t a fluke. J.D., on the other hand, is more than likely competing for a spot on the practice squad, but there\’s still time for him to show he deserves the fifth wide receiver spot on the final 53 man roster.
In the comments below, let us know a few of the things you will be looking for in the game as well.