Steelers vs Panthers – What I’m Watching For On Offense

The Pittsburgh Steelers were embarrassed last week in their 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, what was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Despite that, however, it doesn’t seem as though the coaching staff is overly concerned with forcing extra reps onto the starting units, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Here is what I will be watching for with the offense in mind for the preseason finale.

Second-year quarterback Landry Jones is expected to take the vast majority of the reps in this game—possibly even all of them, although that’s not yet certain. He could very well be playing with his football future.

If he struggles as much as he has been, he could force the Steelers’ hand and cut him, carrying only two quarterbacks. They could carry him on the practice squad, of course. Right now it doesn’t seem as though there would be much of a market for him.

The running back position has also gotten a lot more interesting since Tuesday. The Steelers cut three of their running backs, leaving just Josh Harris and newest signee Stephen Houston as the only two remaining fringe candidates. Houston is an interesting candidate from a measurable perspective. I anticipate that the two will get a lot of work to find out amongst themselves who gets to stay on the practice squad.

There’s still a lot to look at from the wide receiver position. Markus Wheaton could still use some work in his first year as a starter, while Martavis Bryant could stand to show some consistency, even if they are both assured a roster spot.

The intriguing element lies behind the top four, with three primary candidates vying for only one or two spots on the 53-man roster.

Second-year receiver Justin Brown has more or less been the presumptive fifth receiver throughout the offseason, but the reality is that he has shown very little during the preseason. He needs to show something to make sure he makes the roster. Darrius Heyward-Bey stepped up last week, and will need to continue to do so on both offense and special teams.

Meanwhile, Derek Moye will have to hope to get some quality opportunities, which have been scarce. While I wouldn’t put it completely out of hand, it’s not overly likely that the Steelers keep seven wide receivers between the roster and the practice squad, especially with Dri Archer in the mix.

There’s still quite a lack of clarity at the third tight end position as well. Only David Paulson has been able to exhibit anything as a pass catcher, but his blocking has left much to be desired. Michael Palmer is a player that does a little bit of everything. Rookie Rob Blanchflower needs to really step up—and play well on special teams—to show that he doesn’t need a year of seasoning on the practice squad.

Finally, we have the offensive line, and there should be lots of work for the second-string linemen. If Cody Wallace doesn’t play, then we’ll have our third extended look at Wesley Johnson as a center in three weeks. He has acclimated himself well so far and can solidify his roster spot tonight, but it would still be good to see him show some of his versatility.

I don’t think that the Steelers will give up yet on Mike Adams, but it’s possible that the Steelers could look at the waiver wire to try to upgrade Guy Whimper if he has a shaky performance as the presumptive eighth lineman. It’s also possible that they only carry eight linemen in total and say goodbye to Whimper.

Meanwhile, there’s still at least one practice squad spot to go to an offensive lineman. One would assume that Chris Hubbard, who spent all of last year there, would be in the driver’s seat, but rookie Will Simmons has quietly performed reasonably well, particularly in the last game. He could provide competition for Hubbard with a good performance tonight.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • srdan

    My main thing on offense this game will be Mike Adams. I challenge people to watch his performance against the Eagles. To my untrained eye, he looked really good on the left side. He looked nasty, finishing blocks. I hope they keep him there and let him go against the carolina ones Dline if they play. Their Dline is arguably the best in the game. I still think(hope) this kid may get it.

    The rest of the offense will be hard to judge with ben sitting.

  • steeltown

    Is Wallace ready to play with that fractured finger? I’d consider playing Wes the entire game, if possible. If Palmer makes some more noise on special teams, like he has in the past I don’t see why you don’t keep him and relegate BFlower to the PS for the time being. If we’re keeping 5 or even 6 WRs plus Archer and Will Johnson I really don’t see the need for Paulson who is basically just another pass catcher.

    With the other guys it will be interesting to see how they respond to extended looks, meaning L.Jones, Houston/Harris and Simmons/Hubbard

  • JohnB

    wonder if Gilberts contract motivated him…

  • srdan

    Hmm great point. Didn’t think of that angle.

  • cencalsteeler

    I would like to see the offensive line open some nice holes for the backs. That’s one thing I haven’t seen all preseason. A lot of dancing, waiting and cut backs. Let’s take a page from the Eagles and open something up for these backs. I honestly think we haven’t seen any back reach 2nd gear (other than Archer on that pass). The other thing I’d like to see is more consistency in the passing game. Both Landry and Grad need to start making crisper throws. I’d also like to see Haley call a game for Landry that doesn’t require 5 step drops (at least in the beginning). 3 step drops and quick routes will get him comfortable and keep him from holding the ball too long. He’ll gain confidence as the game goes on and it will help establish a rhythm for him as well.

  • Mark_K

    Id like to see more of Wes also……but I keep thinking that the Steelers must have had both Hubbard and Browning ahead of Wes on the depth chart based on how sustitutions were done. If Browning didn’t get hurt it seems like Wes would not have gotten a single snap in the Giants game. Not sure why more analysts don’t think Hubbard makes the roster and Wes goes to the practice squad. Seems like Wes should have been getting second team reps all along if he was slated for the active roster…….

  • steeltown

    I think Hubbard lost some confidence in the coaches after the poor performance earlier in the preseason. Not only that, Wes might have more position flexibility even though he’s been playing C primarily. I think Hubbard is strictly an OG

  • Mark_K

    I guess my rationale is that you would normally have the starting 5 plus Adams(T) and Wallace(G/C) active. If a guard is injured and can’t go one week Wallace would get the start. You would then want the next best guard active. At this point I still think that is Hubbard, then Whimper, then Wes

  • steeltown

    True enough, but to that wouldn’t you want that OG to also be able to backup C in case Wallace also then goes down

  • Mark_K

    You would have to lose Pouncey and Wallace……if Wallace goes down starting as guard Hubbard would come in at guard. Any week that Pouncey and Wallace both go down you will be in the same situation

  • steeltown

    Which is possible.. I guess im just saying between his poor showing in preseason and lack of versatility he might be front runner to be relegated to the PS. We haven’t seen Wes much at OG, if at all, but I bet he’s just as capable as Hubbard and Whimper… which isn’t saying much

  • Mark_K

    Guess we will see how they do tonight, hopefully against some of the better Carolina DL to get a good test. I think they only faced Philly’s third team line

  • steeltown

    Yea and I would like to see Wes get some snaps at OG tonight, but he’s the only C on roster behind Wallace (and Wallace has the finger fracture)

  • Ken

    sounds like this whole game may revolve around Landry. If he gives them nothing then its just a wasted evaluation time for the offensive players… 3 and outs and a punt. I will leave Brad alone because he did make a few nfl type throws last week, but gosh it could be ugly tonight.