The Pittsburgh Steelers, unlike the Indianapolis Colts, will have their number on quarterback on the field for their third preseason game, barring the unforeseen over the course of the next several hours. I will be getting to the other subject in a moment, but for now, let’s talk about what we want to see tonight against the Tennessee Titans in the warm-up game, during with Ben Roethlisberger figures to see 20-25 snaps.
But we know what to expect from Roethlisberger at this point in his career, or so I would hope. The bigger question is how all the new and young pieces at wide receiver will work around him—and who will work when.
One of the interesting things that we saw in the last game was James Washington seeing a decent amount of time getting work in the slot. While he obviously shouldn’t expect to see a lot of time there during the regular season, it’s important for him to know and be comfortable in every role.
Eli Rogers continues to persist, and prominently, with the first-team offense when it’s been on the field. That seems to bode well for his roster security, but what about Ryan Switzer? Earlier in the week, Roethlisberger said that he wants to try to get as much work for as many receivers as possible in this game, so it will be tempting but perhaps fruitless to read too much into playing time.
Know what we really need to see? Zach Gentry and Christian Scotland-Williamson. No offense to them, but it’s glaringly obvious that neither Kevin Rader nor Trevor Wood are going to be making the 53-man roster. the Steelers need to see TODAY if either of the others are worthy of a roster spot, because if not, they’ll probably trade for a tight end during the week.
Defensively, I want to see Steven Nelson get tested in this game. He didn’t play extensively last time around, and when he did, he wasn’t challenged much. The rotation in the slot will also be something to definitely keep an eye on between Mike Hilton, Kameron Kelly, and perhaps Cameron Sutton getting work there as well.
In terms of defensive playing time, Tuzar Skipper has a golden opportunity with Olasunkanmi Adeniyi out, but where he really needs to make an impact is on special teams. If he can do that, the Steelers can work on finding a spot for him on the roster.
More globally, it would be good to see the defense record an interception. They don’t have one through two games so far, though they’ve gotten fumbles, but after averaging one interception every two games last season, you want to see better right now.
This might seem obvious, but given some of the injuries we’ve seen around the years, the primary focus of the third preseason game, even more than the others, is just to see everybody come out of the game healthy. This is the only work for some key players before the regular season, precisely to make sure they get to the regular season.