In anticipation to the Pittsburgh Steelers third preseason game, which will take place Saturday night against the Detroit Lions, I wanted to look at a few things before I can provide information after the game. In this game we should get an opportunity to see more starters play, but for this article I wanted to put a table together of the 2021 draft picks for both teams heading into the game (data: Pro Football Reference):
|DET||4||112||Amon-Ra St. Brown||O||WR|
|PIT||4||128||Dan Moore Jr.||O||OL|
|PIT||7||254||Pressley Harvin III||S||P|
Other than getting a reminder of how the draft went down for both teams, I also saw some takeaways for the game. The Lions took Penei Sewell at pick number seven, a guy that many evaluators of the draft had as the top tackle prospect. In Detroit’s first preseason game he played right tackle, and I am very intrigued to see how he performs against the Steelers pass rushers. This hopefully means he will be matching up with Melvin Ingram, that should be a fun battle to keep an eye on. I am also hoping the Steelers will switch sides with their edge players as we saw last game, so hopefully we can also see Highsmith and Sewell match up as well.
The next two picks for the Lions were defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill. The Lions are shifting to a 3-4 base defense this year, and these two picks make a ton of sense in that regard. Onwuzurike is a guy I had as the top ranked 3-4 defensive end with intriguing pass rush potential, and McNeill an interior defensive lineman that was good in the run game but just outside my top 100 players. For what it’s worth, McNeill is listed as first-string nose tackle on the team’s unofficial depth chart and Levi third string. It will be great to see the Steelers offensive lineman match up with the Lions defensive scheme, and while it may not be as complex as their fronts in the regular season, should be less vanilla than the Steelers offense saw against the Eagles.
To finish out the third round, the Lions selected Ifeatu Melifonwu, a toolsy cornerback that has outside corner potential. If the Lions play their rotations similar to the previously mentioned depth chart, Melifonwu would line up against the Steelers second team wide receivers. I am hoping that we can see him matchup against James Washington, see how he does against some experience and similar body type. Amon-Ra St. Brown and Derrick Barnes were the next selections in the fourth round, both players I enjoyed in the draft process. St. Brown is a wide receiver I thought they got good value at with his route running ability and physicality, and Barnes a linebacker with good overall athletic numbers for the position along with run game strengths. They are both listed lower on the depth charts, so I’m hoping we at least get to see them play at the end of the game. I especially hope we see St. Brown, he could be a good test for some of the Steelers cornerbacks. The Lions did not select again until the seventh round, taking Jermar Jefferson. He did have a productive college career, but personally was more concerned than optimistic about his transition to the NFL. He is third on the Lions last depth chart, so maybe we can see him late in the game and see how he looks.
This week my main hope for the Steelers is that the starting offensive line and Najee Harris can have a strong game. We have seen good things in this regard so far this preseason, but this will hopefully be the projected starters first game together and want to see that trend continue. Also want to see what Harris’ yards per attempt number looks like after this game. He has been creating lots of yards after contact, but can the starting offensive line create better opportunities more consistently? The main non draft thing I will be looking at is how similar or different the offense looks with Roethlisberger. Particularly interested to see if the amount of play-action looks similar or different with him in the game.
Pat Freiermuth is also high on my list of things to watch, would like to see a stronger start from him and see if he can provide more consistent run blocking than last game. Similarly, I’d like to see if Kendrick Green can have a bounce back performance compared to some struggles last game. Dan Moore has been a pleasant surprise overall to me this preseason and want to track if he is able to keep up his strong play overall. Buddy Johnson has done good things so far, especially in the first preseason game. Since the Steelers added Joe Schobert since last game, I really want to see him have a strong special teams performance.
Isaiahh Loudermilk got my attention with some strong plays last game, so I will be looking to see if he can provide that again with hopefully more consistent plays as well. Quincy Roche has flashed pass rushing skills, but I want to look more at his play in the run game the next two games. Tre Norwood has had weaknesses especially in the tackling department, and it will be interesting to see how he plays. Lastly, excited to continue to monitor the punting battle, and can’t wait to see what happens on Saturday.
Generally speaking, Detroit has had quite a bit of turnover in personnel and scheme since last season, highlighted by trading Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff and I am super excited to see this matchup. What are you looking forward to the most in this game? How will the rookies do compared to last game? How about non-rookies? After the game I will look at snaps and performance and continue to get answers to our questions regarding the 2021 Steelers. Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!