Later this evening, the Pittsburgh Steelers are set to play host to the defending NFC Champions, the Atlanta Falcons, in the second preseason game. While there is nothing between the two teams on the line, and the simple fact of the matter is that many important players on both sides will not be participating, there should still be plenty of illuminating information to draw from in the results.
And if you happen to be looking for something of a guide as to what you should be watching for while observing the game this evening, I am providing my interpretation of such a guide for you below.
It should go without saying that the greatest focus tonight should be paid at the wide receiver position, something that I will be covering in more detail later today prior to the game. The return of Martavis Bryant after more than a year and a half simply cannot be understated.
And while Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster will be non-participants, we should also see the debuts of Sammie Coates and Justin Hunter, who big, talented, and fast wide receivers with questionable hands and track records who could potentially be battling each other for a single roster spot.
After lack week’s announcement-but-not-really-maybe of the intention to put rookie T.J. Watt in the starting lineup over James Harrison, it would make sense to observe him with a keen eye in his second game of preseason action. He obviously flashed a lot the first time around, but can he repeat, and even build on what he did last game?
Across from him, Bud Dupree is back. While the future is with Watt, it’s also with Dupree, and when it comes to the present, there is far more pressure on the latter to perform in 2017 than there is on the rookie. The former first-round pick is going into his third year and still has a lot of live up to. This will be our first look at live game action since an offseason’s worth of intense training pursuing that goal.
The secondary is another thing to look for with the return of Artie Burns and Sean Davis. I’m especially interested in getting a look at Burns and seeing how he looks in coverage in comparison to last season. I’ve read all the training camp reports. Now I want to see it, in a game, against another team.
Offensively, there is still a lot to work out at running back, and hopefully James Conner can provide some clarity. I hesitate to think that they might be cautious with him, however, and only work him so much, with another two games coming up on Saturday and then the following Thursday. He is still recovering from injury.
Alejandro Villanueva’s first game as a millionaire. Another thing to look at. And the tight end position. David Johnson has frankly done more than Jesse James. I’d love for James to have a big game and make me look like a hater.
And yes, I still want to see more of Jake McGee. Can he really push for a roster spot, or is he fated to the practice squad? He needs to make some plays on special teams, the way Michael Palmer did, a few years back.