The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to play their most important game of the preseason later today as they host the Tennessee Titans in their first contest of the year on home grass. This is the tune-up game, which is expected to include the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden, and Cameron Heyward participating. And there are several things that we will want to watch for.
First and foremost is who else will be playing. There are a number of players walking the injury tightrope who have not been ruled out. I am especially interested in seeing if outside linebacker T.J. Watt is going to be able to make it back in time for some level of participation tonight, though I’m expecting that the team will remain cautious and instead let him play extensively in the finale.
On the flip side is Bud Dupree, who did make it back last week after suffering a concussion. He missed most of training camp and only had one practice in when he played, so he should be much better prepared this time around. He generated some pressure last week, though you’d like to see him beat a left tackle in this game, even if not for a sack. That won’t be an easy task against the Titans.
We should get an extended look at Sean Davis playing free safety in this game as well. He sat out the last game and did not play long in the opener. This will be a preview of the season to come, and a big part of that will be seeing him work with Morgan Burnett, who has been ailing a bit this past week.
What I would really like to see is a glimpse of the dime, dollar, and quarter packages tonight and how rookie safety Terrell Edmunds will be utilized within it. The dollar defense will be difficult to present because Mike Hilton is not going to play after suffering a knee injury covering a punt last week. Would they use Coty Sensabaugh as the seventh defensive back?
Offensively, the thing I’m most interested in seeing is how far James Conner can continue to push after an impressive preseason performance so far in limited work. He has run very well so far, so I want to see that continue, but I also want to see his repertoire expand into the passing game. I hope to see extensive work in that department throughout the game.
How will James Washington look in his debut working with Roethlisberger? And will anybody outside of the top three wide receivers on the depth chart step up? Marcus Tucker has been pretty quiet so far, as has Justin Hunter, and Damoun Patterson needs to open eyes every week if he hopes to make the roster.
Which quarterback is not going to play? Mike Tomlin said that all four likely won’t play, and that Roethlisberger and Landry Jones will. If Joshua Dobbs does not play, that would be very bad news for him.
Will any of the day-three rookies do anything? Joshua Frazier has been very quiet, Marcus Allen has been injured. At least Jaylen Samuels has started to move forward, and in particular has gotten a lot of burn on special teams with 25 total snaps across four different units.