The Steelers preseason is officially underway as the black and gold head to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will not be in the lineup, but they are not what the preseason is for. The preseason is for inexperienced fringe roster players to get chances, and rookies to get repetitions. That is what you need to be looking for when watching the game.
What to watch for on offense
The offense should be the Josh Dobbs show. On top of Roethlisberger, Landry Jones is out for this game, and the start will go to Dobbs. The Steelers can either use this as a full game to see what they have in their rookie draft pick, or they can get a glimpse of a quarterback almost certain to be cut in Bart Houston.
The Steelers need to play Dobbs this entire game and get a solid foundation of what they have in mind for him and what they can build on. It could be a very similar situation in week two, so it should be a good chance to track his week to week progression early into his career.
At running back James Conner is the player to watch, but he has been in and out of practice with injuries. Without Conner, most of the carries should go to undrafted free agent Terrell Watson, who has been the most intriguing of the back end players.
Jesse James and Xavier Grimble should split a brunt of the snaps, but if undrafted free agent Phazahn Odom gets on the field, watch for the Steelers to try to set up a pass to him over the middle of the field.
The wide receiver to watch will be JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster is one of the youngest players in the NFL, so while he is proficient with a high trajectory, these should be great learning snaps for him. He should see the field plenty.
NFL Reaction: Has the NBA outperformed and surpassed the NFL
Game Preview: Preseason Week 1: Packers vs Eagles game preview
What to watch for on Defense
The nose tackle position should be what to watch for in this game. Five roster spots on the line appear to be locked up. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Leterrius Walton and Tyson Alualu. Johnny Maxey and Daniel McCullers are the two competing for likely one spot. McCullers profiles more as a nose tackle. However, he has run with the third team, and Maxey, along with Alualu and Walton have shifted around as the second unit ahead of him. Is this what the team will be doing in the first preseason game as well?
Tyler Matakevich was listed behind Steven Johnson and L.J. Fort on the team’s initial depth chart. He will still be fighting for a roster spot early on in camp. Of course, between these three, it will also have to be a situation in which special teams ability becomes a factor as well.
At cornerback, the player to watch is Mike Hilton. Hilton has been getting second team slot snaps, behind William Gay. Gay is a veteran and will not need to play much. This should give Hilton a plethora of snaps in the slot and a chance for him to earn recognition and a bigger role in the next three games.