The Pittsburgh Steelers will open their 2015 preseason Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings in the annual Hall of Fame game and on Friday, head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media to talk a little about what we might see in that contest.
For starters, Tomlin said that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, center Maurkice Pouncey, running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown, tight end Heath Miller and linebacker James Harrison are unlikely to play Sunday.
“In regards to participation, a lot of the participation will be determined by player availability, or health,” said Tomlin. “Specifically, positionally.”
Because of the current injuries that the Steelers have at the safety position, Tomlin said veteran Will Allen will play some Sunday. Additionally, he expects that young safeties Alden Darby and Ian Wild will both get long looks in the game.
“A lot of these guys we’re excited about seeing,” said Tomlin. “Whether it’s Darby or Ian Wild, we want to see these guys play football. They’ve worked their tails off, man, and we want to see what they’re capable of doing, and we’re excited about it. One man’s fortune is another man’s opportunity. We believe that, we live that and obviously we’re experiencing some short-term discomfort at the safety position with a number of guys out. But I don’t focus on the guys that are out, I think about what a great opportunity this game’s going to be for guys like Darby and Ian Wild.”
With Roethlisberger and Bruce Gradkowski not expected to play Sunday, Tomlin said we can expect to see a lot of Landry Jones against the Vikings.
“It’s going to be a significant game for Landry Jones,” said Tomlin. “He’s going to play a lot. We don’t have a predetermined snap count that we expect him to have. We’re going to let him play until we’ve seen enough and then maybe give someone else some work. So he could play the entire game, he could play the majority of the game. Our intentions are to get a good look at him.”
Tomlin was later asked if Jones has taken a step forward so far this year during training camp.
“I’ll let you know after Sunday,” said Tomlin. “We’re measured by what we do in stadiums. Obviously, his performance has been on a steady incline out there (on the practice field), but that’s out there. We prepare out there for what transpires in stadiums and I’m excited about watching him play.”
Tomlin said that running back Dri Archer will be the team’s starting return man Sunday against the Vikings.
“It’s going to be Dri,” said Tomlin. “Dri is going to handle both and then we’ll go from there. We got [Kenzel] Doe as a candidate, we got Sammie Coates as a candidate. Sammie might work in conjunction with Dri as an off-returner. C.J. Goodwin, we got a lot of guys to look at, but our priority is, at least first and foremost, both in punts and in kicks, will be Dri Archer.”