The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their second preseason game of 2017 Sunday night at home against the Atlanta Falcons and while quite a few starters will once again sit the contest out due to either injuries or a coaching decision, there will still be plenty of younger players worth paying close attention to throughout the evening.
Below are 10 offensive players that Steelers fans will likely want to watch closely Sunday night against the Falcons along with reasons why.
WR Martavis Bryant – Bigger, faster, stronger? That certainly appears to be the case when it comes to Bryant. The Steelers freakish wide receiver hasn’t played in an NFL game in well over a year so it will certainly be great to see him back on the field again Sunday night. Bryant should see quite a bit of action in the first half and we should expect him to be targeted deep a few times as well.
RB James Conner – Even though he reportedly didn’t do much of anything during Friday’s practice, the rookie running back is still expected to make his NFL debut Sunday night at Heinz Field. Assuming he plays, Conner will likely get 10-20 offensive snaps in addition to getting some much-needed burn on special teams. The hype surrounding Conner in Steelers Nation has been pretty big ever since he was drafted and it is now time to see what the third-round selection can do with the football in his hands against another NFL team.
WR Sammie Coates – Coates came off the Steelers Active PUP list this past week and just at the right time. The former third-round draft pick out of Auburn reportedly had a solid training camp practice Friday and now it’s time to see how he performs inside a stadium again. Coates’ 2016 season started off with a bang but went south quickly after suffering a hand/finger injury. Coates needs to show not only that he can still catch the football, but also that he’s willing to fight to make combative catches as well. Is he still a one-trick pony? It’s time to find out.
WR Justin Hunter – After a strong start to training camp, Hunter has since cooled off quite a bit. Not only did he miss the Steelers preseason opener with an unspecified injury, he also closed this week out with a clunker of a practice on Friday that reportedly included him drawing the ire of head coach Mike Tomlin. Hunter currently has one leg outside the NFL so he needs to have three solid preseason showings if he wants to stick around a little while longer.
QB Joshua Dobbs – Dobbs absolutely must be on this list again. The Steelers rookie quarterback will make a second consecutive preseason start Sunday night and this time around we should all expect much better play from the Tennessee product. In his first start, Dobbs’ accuracy wasn’t great as several of his passes were high. Additionally, both of his interceptions in that game were poor decisions. He really needs to take advantage of as many preseason snaps as he can get.
TE Xavier Grimble – While Grimble played 11 offensive snaps in the preseason opener in addition to 13 special teams snaps, he was shut-out on the stat sheet. Yes, he had a touchdown wiped out by a holding call, but we need to see more out of him moving forward into the preseason not only as a receiver and a blocker, but as a special teams contributor as well.
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint – Toussaint, who will likely start again Sunday night at running back, needs to rebound on Sunday. In the preseason opener, the former undrafted free agent gained just 19 yards on six carries and only one of those was “successful.” We know he can pass protect. Moving forward, we need to see him have a higher rate of successful runs if he wants any shot at making the roster again.
T Jerald Hawkins – The Steelers 2016 fourth-round draft pick didn’t have a very good showing in the preseason opener and it’s important that he rebounds Sunday night. Hawkins will more than likely receive extended playing time once again at right tackle against the Falcons. This will be Hawkins’ third preseason game of his career.
RB Terrell Watson – Watson showed a lot of promise in the Steelers preseason opener as he rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Four of those runs were deemed “successful” ones and we’ll be looking for more of those Sunday night in addition to seeing how he plays without the football in his hands. The Azusa Pacific product remains a perfect practice squad candidate entering the team’s second preseason game.
TE Jake McGee – While McGee didn’t register any official stats in the preseason opener, he did a lot of little things well in that contest both on offense and on special teams. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to catch a pass or two Sunday night for us to see just how well-rounded he might be. Like Watson, McGee appears to be a potential practice squad candidate at this stage of the preseason.