Mike Tomlin addressed the media after Pittsburgh’s practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex today, and talked about the importance of Sunday’s game for the players in position battles.
“Man, a lot of spots will come down to this work. This work is weighted differently and appropriately so. The in-stadium work is significant, and increasingly so the more stadium exposure you get. So, make no mistake, this is a significant game for a lot of people,” Tomlin said via video posted to Steelers.com.
While Pittsburgh hasn’t named a Week 1 starter at quarterback yet, I have to imagine it will be Mitch Trubisky. Kenny Pickett’s performance has pushed Trubisky to where he’ll have more pressure on him to start the season, but I’d be surprised if Pickett was named the Week 1 starter.
The most important position battles to watch will be Kendrick Green vs. Kevin Dotson at left guard and then Devin Bush vs. Robert Spillane for the second inside linebacker position. Green has been pretty bad even at the return to his natural guard spot, but Dotson has battled through injuries this preseason and training camp. Dotson outperformed Green in Week 2, but the line as a whole was pretty much a mess. I think Dotson should get that job, but that’s one that will definitely come down to Sunday’s game against Detroit.
As far as Bush vs. Spillane goes, both players have their limitations. Spillane has been better recently against the run than Bush, but Bush is better in pass coverage. I think the two are going to rotate a bit when the season starts regardless, so I’m not as concerned with who ends up starting next to Myles Jack come Week 1. If I had to guess, I’d say that Bush will win the job, but I wouldn’t be too shocked either way.
Another battle to watch will be for the last RB spot on the roster. I think Benny Snell Jr. is probably safe due to his special teams ability, so you’re looking at either Jaylen Warren or Anthony McFarland Jr. for that last spot. McFarland played well against Seattle in the preseason opener, but Warren did too.
Warren’s handicap to making the team would be his fumbling issues, as he had one during training camp and one against Seattle. At this point, the team more or less knows what they have in McFarland, and although he made strides in camp this year, I think Warren is going to get the last spot if he’s able to put together a solid performance on Sunday.
Despite Pittsburgh beating Jacksonville on Saturday, they didn’t look good. As a team, they need to put together a much more complete performance against the Lions to help inspire some confidence heading into the regular season. For the players, it’s the last chance to prove they deserve to start or deserve a roster spot, as it’s the team’s last preseason game before Week 1 on September 11. There’s a lot on the line, and look for guys to really try and prove they belong.