The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their second preseason game of 2016 Thursday night at Heinz Field against the Philadelphia Eagles and that means there will be opportunities for several players who underperformed in last week’s game against the Detroit Lions to show that they can bounce back under the bright lights of the stadium. Below are five Steelers players in particular who fans should pay very close attention to Thursday night against the Eagles due to them all needing to show improvement over how they played in the preseason opener last Friday night.
WR Sammie Coates – After starting off training camp with a bang, the Auburn product and former third-round draft pick seemed to cool off some as the days at Saint Vincent College wore on. In last week’s preseason opener against the Detroit Lions, Coates played a total of 37 snaps on offense and while he did catch 3 passes for 18 yards in the game, one was double-caught and two others were fumbled post reception. With starting wide receiver Antonio Brown expected to sit out the Thursday night against the Eagles and the status of Markus Wheaton for the game still up in the air, Coates once again should receive quite a bit of playing time in the team’s second preseason game in order to show that he can bounce back and be a reliable receiving option on offense.
T Alejandro Villanueva – While the former undrafted Army captain only played 10 snaps in the opener against the Lions, Villanueva admitted that he didn’t play very well and on three plays in particular. Not only did he give up a sack last Friday night, he was also penalized once for illegal hands to the face. Against the Eagles, Villanueva is again expected to start at left tackle and thus could ultimately see extended playing time in this preseason game.
DB Sean Davis – The Steelers second-round draft pick this year didn’t have a great NFL debut against the Lions which included him playing some at both the nickel cornerback position as well as safety. He was obviously nervous and that’s certainly understandable. Davis not only got turned around early against the Lions by veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, he also failed to bring the big pass catcher down after giving up a catch to him. Davis needs to show better technique off of the line this week in addition to improving his tackling. He figures to once again play quite a few snaps against the Eagles Thursday night and that includes him likely getting work at multiple positions.
G/T Chris Hubbard – After a lackluster performance against the Lions that included him playing a team-high 46 offensive snaps at both left guard and right tackle, Hubbard needs to show this week against the Eagles that he can be a reliable multiple-position player. He is currently in a battle with interior depth offensive lineman B.J. Finney for a roster spot.
QB Dustin Vaughan – With starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sitting out once again and veteran backup Bruce Gradkowski currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Vaughan figures to see plenty of playing time against the Eagles after Landry Jones exits the game. Against the Lions last week, Vaughan didn’t look terribly comfortable in his decision making and ended the game with just 6 completions on 11 attempts for 50 yards. The knock on Vaughan entering this year centers around his accuracy so that’s one area to pay close attention to with him against the Eagles. Hopefully he’ll get to play more Thursday night behind more capable offensive linemen in order to have a good shot at showing he can be the team’s No. quarterback this year.