The Pittsburgh Steelers will open their 2015 preseason Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings and the extra game this year will allow the team to get a long look at the players on the bottom end of the roster. I really look forward to watching several young Steelers players get work in this game and below are eight of them who will really have my attention both during and after.
Make sure to look for gif breakdowns on most of these players starting on Monday.
Alejandro Villanueva – The former Army captain will finally get to play on the offensive side of the football during a preseason game Sunday night and I certainly can’t wait to see the 6-9 tackle get plenty of work. Villanueva has now had nearly one full year to learn from Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak and so far during the training camp practices the reviews have been positive. Being as starters Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert are both unlikely to play more than a series or two Sunday night, Villanueva might play three full quarters or more. I’ll be looking to see if that big frame of his hampers him in any way and if he is able to use those long arms of his well.
C.J. Goodwin – When the Steelers offense takes the field for the first time Sunday night, look for Goodwin to be one of the starting wide receivers along with veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey. Even though Goodwin was with the Steelers last preseason, he never played a snap on offense, so you know he’s excited to show how much he’s developed over the course of the year that included him being a fixture on the team’s practice squad. I will expect him to do the little things such as working back to the quarterback when needed in addition to run blocking. Also, if Goodwin wants to make a move on Heyward-Bey, he better flash on special teams.
Anthony Chickillo – The Steelers sixth round draft pick has lost a little weight since he was drafted and according to our practice reports, his transition from defensive end to outside linebacker is going very well. While a lot of the work Sunday night at left outside linebacker will go to rookie first-round draft pick Bud Dupree, I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of Chickillo in the second half. With Shawn Lemon already gone, Chickillo now has a solid shot at making the final 53 man roster this year. He will, however, need to show up Sunday night on special teams and that’s something he wasn’t asked to do much at Miami.
Ian Wild – The Steelers are very short at the safety position due to injuries so that will result in Wild getting a lot of burn against the Vikings. Wild showed during his time in the CFL that he’s not afraid to hit and that he can also move well in space. He can do it all on special teams and that includes long snapping on both punts and kicks. I doubt we’ll see him do that Sunday night, but we’ll certainly see him on all of the core units.
Jawon Chisolm – Don’t be surprised if Chisolm gets the bulk of the carries Sunday night against the Vikings as the Steelers are likely to sit Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams and Josh Harris. Sure, Dri Archer will play and likely start and while Chisolm is certainly a long-shot to make the final roster, he should have five games to show he belongs in the league and at least on a practice squad. Chisolm wasn’t even on a team a few weeks ago, so you can bet he has a huge chip on his shoulder right now. The all-22 will show us whether or not he has the vision, feet and burst to play in the NFL.
Cameron Clear – Sure, all eyes will be on rookie tight end Jesse James, but we know he’s a near lock to make the roster already. Clear is an intriguing tight end prospect and one who could have a future with the team after first serving a year on the practice squad. Expect the Steelers to use Clear quite a bit Sunday night in two tight end sets and we’ll be watching to see if he’s the team’s next Matt Spaeth or just another rookie undrafted free agent tight end that will be looking for work come September. Watch his run blocking very close and look for him on special teams as well.
Miles Dieffenbach – While I do look forward to seeing undrafted rookie offensive lineman B.J. Finney play Sunday night, I find myself more intrigued by Dieffenbach based on his college tape that I’ve seen. Had he not gotten injured in 2014, Dieffenbach likely would’ve been drafted a few months ago. Look for Dieffenbach to get a lot of burn at guard Sunday night and I won’t be surprised if he receives snaps on both sides. We should get a good look at his potential upside in this game and I really want to see him work on the move.
Joe Okafor – Normally I don’t get too excited about players who are added after the start of training camp, but Okafor certainly has impressive tape. Yes, he is a small school player, but his measurable are great and they match what you see on the field. He has experience in a 3-4 defense and he played up and down the line in that system at tiny Lamar. He’s not going to make the Steelers final 53 man roster, but there’s still time for him to land a spot on the practice squad and especially being as his current competition for that spot is really bland. Will he play much Sunday night? Maybe not, but he could be a difference maker in the fourth quarter if he does. Watch how athletic he is and how he runs to the football.