The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off their first win in the preseason since 2012, in a game in which the first-team units scored two touchdowns and held strong at the goal line, but had to be won by a defensive turnover in the 11th hour. Here are a few of the things I will be watching for on offense in the tune-up game to the regular season.
Of course, where was a sudden change of plans yesterday following the arrest of the team’s top two running backs. Starter Le’Veon Bell did not make the flight, while LeGarrette Blount did, but I’m not sure I would assume he will be allowed by the coaches to play.
If he does not, then the Steelers will be getting a nice, long look at their running back depth, considering both Tauren Poole and fullback Will Johnson are questionable to play.
Presumably, Josh Harris and Miguel Maysonet will be asked to take the bulk of the carries. However, given yesterday’s news, perhaps Poole will suddenly feel much better. Either way, today figures to be a good opportunity for one of these players to state their case for a spot on the 53-man roster rather than the practice squad.
Backup center Cody Wallace is also listed as out for this game. I’m hoping that this means rookie Wesley Johnson will once again be playing center with the second-team unit. I was encouraged by what he showed last week at center, and he could help solidify his spot on the roster with a good showing against higher quality competition.
Neither Guy Whimper nor Mike Adams played particularly well at left and right tackle, respectively, last week. As a matter of fact, on opposite sides, they also struggled in the preseason opener. Can they possibly provide some stability in the third time around?
Kelvin Beachum didn’t have his best game a week ago. His run blocking in particular was poor, after a stronger showing the week prior. If the Steelers hope to be more ambidextrous in their ground attack, they will need to see Beachum improve his run blocking from last season—though David DeCastro pulling doesn’t hurt either.
We did start to see some of the reserve tight ends get some work last week, with Michael Palmer and Rob Blanchflower leading the way with 16 and 14 snaps, respectively. Eric Waters took just one snap and suffered a concussion, and probably will not play today. Even Bryce Davis received a few snaps.
But so far, only David Paulson has been able to make any plays from the tight end position, even if his blocking has been as poor as it ever has. Unless one of the other tight ends can unseat him, he still figures to make the roster by default.
Last, but not least, with the Steelers expected to play at least the first half with their starters, it’s time to see some of the borderline receivers get some playing time with starter Ben Roethlisberger with the benefit of the first-team offensive line. This means players like Martavis Bryant, Justin Brown, Derek Moye, and even Darrius Heyward-Bey.