NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

5 Pittsburgh Steelers to Watch in Preseason Action

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5 Pittsburgh Steelers to Watch in Preseason Action

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL preseason: where starters get a tune up before the actual season starts. More so, are the players who rarely touch the field. For four games, the back ups and hopefuls just trying to make the team give everything they have to impress the coaching staff. To a casual football fan, this may seem unappealing and draw them away from football until week one of the regular season.

To the fanatics and diehard fans across the country, the preseason is a time to get a look at the deeper parts of the depth chart. Players you won’t normally see on Sunday’s can be found here. This is where they either make a name for themselves or fall off the face of the league. Each year, teams across the league are forced to make roster cuts down to 53 men at the end of the preseason, which makes for interesting competition during the four-week period.

With only a few training camp battles for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2013 preseason will be focused more on developing younger players and weeding out the more weak players on the roster. The likes of Antonio Brown and Lawrence Timmons have their starting positions on lock, so no worries will enter their minds as they go through the motions and gear up for week one of the regular season.

That being the case, Pittsburgh faithful are excited to once again watch their favorite players. So while you’re in a bar with fellow fans like yourself or simply watching at home, here are five players you should keep an eye out for in preseason action:

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Landry Jones

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After a disastrous season at the quarterback position, Pittsburgh signed veteran Bruce Gradkowski to give cushion and experience on the depth chart. However, the Steelers needed a young gun they could grow and develop for years to come and Landry Jones was the answer. Jones was chosen in the fourth round, and considering the players being chosen around him, you could call it a steal at that point.

Landry has potential to develop into a franchise quarterback. With two veteran quarterbacks in front of him, Jones will gain valuable knowledge and will be able to get much action heading into the preseason. With a strong arm and ability to have poise in the pocket, Jones should be fun to watch.

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Cameron Heyward

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Heyward is now entering his third season in the NFL. After debuting in 2011 as a rookie, Heyward obtained valuable playing time in his first year totaling 11 total tackles and a forced fumble. His 2012 production did step up a bit, increasing his total tackles to 20 for the season. Standing at 6-foot-5, Cameron can be seen as a presence on the field and can take a double team.

Sitting behind Brett Kiesel and Ziggy Hood, Heyward often works himself into the defensive rotation. Facing questions of if he can consistently progress coming into his third season, this preseason will show exactly how far he's come since 2011.

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Larod Stephens-Howling

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Following the arrest and release of Chris Rainey, the Steelers were in need of a special teams player. Rainey had potential, but never seized his opportunities. All worry of punt and kickoff returns were calmed when Pittsburgh signed Larod Stephens-Howling. He's is a small, speedy and shifty back that specializes in seeing daylight and exploding in the open field.

Released from the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, and since the Steelers are already stacked at the running back position, you won't see Stephens-Howling much unless it’s on special teams. However, he's a great pick up for Pittsburgh and can turn a five-yard gain into a 20-yard gain with ease. With explosive speed and shifty moves, who wouldn’t enjoy watching him take a kick back to the house?

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Shamarko Thomas

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Shamarko Thomas’ size drew away many teams from drafting him this year. Size does not mean everything, however. Drawing many comparisons to Bob Sanders, Thomas flies around the field and is constantly looking for contact. To say Thomas plays with intensity would be an understatement. With a physical presence that one would expect a Steelers' defensive player to have, it’s no wonder the Steelers drafted him.

Like Landry Jones, Thomas will also be learning from experienced, well-talented veterans. Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, who will welcome in Thomas and show him the ways of an NFL safety. Look for the rookie to have a great deal of playing time once the preseason gets underway, and maybe knock some heads around along the way.

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Markus Wheaton

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After Mike Wallace was released and signed with the Miami Dolphins, the Steelers wide receivers corps was left with a huge gap. Wallace brought great speed to the field, however, his production wasn’t satisfactory enough for the staff to offer the money Wallace wanted. As many times before, Pittsburgh looked to the draft to solve their needs.

Markus Wheaton was selected with the 79th pick in the NFL Draft. Scouts everywhere marveled at Wheaton’s ability to stretch the field with incredible speed and ability to make defenders miss once getting the ball. Funny enough, he often finds himself compared to fellow receiver Antonio Brown. Wheaton is a big-play threat that can explode at any time. With a solid veteran cast around him, look for the rookie to improve over the preseason and have a lot of balls thrown his way.