The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Detroit Lions at home Saturday night and that contest will be the team’s third preseason game of 2021. While there will understandably be a lot of eyes on the Steelers 2021 draft picks and other rookies that will play Saturday night against the Lions, I wanted to highlight eight players in this post that I feel need to be watched closely that figure play in this contest and that have yet to play in any preseason games so far this year.
QB Ben Roethlisberger – The Steelers veteran quarterback will be making his 2021 debut Saturday night at Heinz Field so it will certainly be interesting to see him get work with the first-team unit. We don’t know how long Roethlisberger will play Saturday night, but it figures to be at least for two series and maybe more. We’ll be looking to see how much he’s under center Saturday night, how many times he uses play action and his ability to push the football down the field. Roethlisberger will also play behind the Steelers rebuilt offensive line that now features a rookie center so it will be interesting to see how the quarterback’s playing time ultimately plays out against the Lions.
ILB Joe Schobert – The Steelers traded for Schobert over a week ago and Saturday night the veteran inside linebacker will make his Pittsburgh debut starting alongside Devin Bush. Schobert is expected to wear the green dot Saturday night and thus be in charge of communicating out the play calls and getting the defense set. The overall play of the Steelers inside linebackers hasn’t been great so far during the preseason so it will certainly be interesting to see how well Schobert and Bush play together Saturday night against the Lions. Schobert is an incredibly smart football player and used to learning new schemes and systems so hopefully his Pittsburgh debut goes well.
T Zach Banner – Will Saturday night finally be the 2021 debut of starting right tackle Zach Banner? Signs are certainly pointing to that being the case. Banner had most of his 2020 season wiped out by a knee injury that required surgery. The Steelers really need to get their first team offensive line some work together during the preseason. It’s finally happened some in practice as of this past week and so it’s time for it to happen now in the preseason as well. It’s been nearly one full year since Banner suffered his knee injury so he should be ready to resume playing now.
RB Benny Snell Jr. – The Steelers fourth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft has yet to see any preseason game action due to a minor injury that he’s been working back from the last several weeks. Snell should finally make his 2021 debut Saturday night at Heinz Field, and not only will that likely include him carrying the football a few times, he figures to be asked to play some on special teams as well. Snell very well could be battling new Steelers running back Kalen Ballage for a roster spot these next few weeks so it’s important that the Kentucky product has a particularly good showing Saturday night against the Lions.
DT Cameron Heyward – CB Joe Haden – S Minkah Fitzpatrick – DT Tyson Alualu – I’m bundling this group of four players into one listing and for obvious reasons. None of the four are currently dealing with injuries and all of them have been held out of action the last two preseason games. With Schobert and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram both being new to the defense this year, it would be wise for the Steelers to get as many starters out on the field with those two players as often as possible in this third preseason game. Ingram made his Steelers debut in the team’s second preseason game and with Schobert expected to make his Saturday night, hopefully we’ll see Heyward, Haden, Fitzpatrick and Alualu join him in the first quarter and possibly for even two series or more.