The Pittsburgh Steelers play their second preseason game tonight against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They were on the losing end of a 14-3 final score in the Hall of Fame game, but their biggest loss came with the season-ending knee injury suffered by catcher Shaun Suisham.
It goes without saying that his replacement, Garrett Hartley, will be a player to watch. All things being equal, they seem to have similar strengths and weaknesses over the years. What I will be interested in seeing over the course of this season—not this game—is how he handles harsh weather environments. For now, I just want him to make his kicks.
Rookie cornerback Doran Grant was a gunner on the first-team punt coverage unit, but he never got on the field on defense. Mike Tomlin already promised that he would tonight, so I’m expecting to see a lot of him. But I will be particularly interested to see when he gets on the field, and in front of whom.
With Cortez Allen returning, I want to see if Brandon Boykin gets any work with the first-team defense. He showed that he can make an impact in the first preseason game. I think it’s just a matter of time before he passes Antwon Blake.
Shamarko Thomas will be taking his first game reps with the first-team defense, and I expect him to be active, in a role that will include a couple of blitzes.
The debut of Jarvis Jones will obviously be very big as well. This will be the first opportunity most have gotten to see him at full strength since his last sack in Week Three of the 2014 season. He’s supposedly bulk up, looks stout in the run, and has had some success as a pass rusher in camp.
I want to see more of L.T. Walton. His athleticism is evident watching him, and he has the capacity to be a hand-fighter, but he looked lost on more than a few occasions, and ended up on the ground more than you might think. To that end, I need to see more of Ethan Hemer as well.
And, of course, I will be watching to see if Cam Thomas can have an encore performance, and if he will get any work at defensive end in this game.
There’s less to see on the offensive side of the ball, because there’s more reason to be confident in what they already have. Of course it will be good to get a quick glimpse at the starting offense at full strength, and hopefully it results in a touchdown drive.
But everything I want to see comes behind the starters. I want to see DeAngelo Williams take the field and show that explosiveness that he’s gotten back with his lower playing weight. I want to see Darrius Heyward-Bey as a pass catcher. I want to see better understanding from Sammie Coates.
Most of all, I absolutely need to see a higher quality of play from the interior offensive line, particularly from Chris Hubbard, who was not far from awful in the Hall of Fame game. the problem is that his competition looked as bad or worse.
Alejandro Villanueva looked pretty solid in pass protection in his first game. He needs to do it again, and to show more in the running game.
And, of course, another long look at Landry Jones is due. He needs to log more time with better players. Will he ever take a snap in a game from Maurkice Pouncey?