Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Things to Look For in Preseason Finale
5 Things to Look For in Preseason Finale
After a 0-3 start to the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers hope to get a taste of victory going into the games that count in 2013. So far in the exhibition season the Steelers have shown promise in some areas, but at the same time they've revealed that there are places that need major improvement.
A number of Pittsburgh’s drafted rookies have proven to be worth investing in this preseason. Linebacker Jarvis Jones, wide receiver Markus Wheaton, and safety Shamarko Thomas all displayed flashes of brilliance which should translate into the regular season. In addition to that bright spot, the Steelers’ first-team offense and defense looked to be clicking on all cylinders as the preseason progressed.
Unfortunately, there are some rough spots that need to be smoothed out. Even though there were changes to the offensive line, they still struggled to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at times, and that has proven that they still need some time to gel.
Then, there are the untimely injuries that Pittsburgh just can’t seem to avoid. The biggest hit was in the offensive backfield. Both Isaac Redman and rookie Le’Veon Bell saw limited playing time in the preseason and won’t be playing in the finale. Redman suffered a stinger and only played in the first exhibition game while Bell battled soreness in his knee and was completely knocked out with a Lisfranc injury in the second preseason matchup.
With Thursday’s game being the final dress rehearsal, focusing on the first string will virtually be out of the question, considering that they will barely see any playing time. All of the attention will be on players that are fighting to be on the 53-man roster. These are players who will be looked upon to fill voids left by team leaders and on phases of the game that have struggled all preseason.
Here are five things to focus on in the Steelers' preseason finale.
5. Landry Jones
Even though it’s safe to say that rookie Landry Jones will make the 53-man roster, the fact that the fourth-round draft pick will play the majority of the game is worth looking at. Everyone knows that Roethlisberger has a history of not playing an entire season because of injury, and as much as I hate to say it, the likelihood of that happening to Big Ben again is possible. Last season, Pittsburgh went through all three quarterbacks. It will be nice to see what Jones can do just in case the Steelers will have to do the same thing this year.
4. Drew Butler, Brian Moorman, and the rest of the special teams
The punting game is probably the most unattractive part of football, but the battle between second-year punter Drew Butler and 13-year veteran Brian Moorman will be determined by their performance in this final exhibition game.
As for the rest of the special teams unit, they have seemed to self-destruct in each of the first three preseason games. They have given up a blocked punt, a touchdown on a kickoff return, muffed a punt, surrendered a blocked field goal, and had a number of penalties. All of these are things that need to be improved upon this Thursday.
3. Derek Moye
Wide receiver Derek Moye has been one of the big surprises for the Steelers so far. The Pennsylvania native could probably solidify a spot on the team’s roster with a solid performance on Thursday. Moye making the team could mess up the chances of wide receiver Justin Brown, who was selected in the sixth round of this year’s draft, being on the 53-man roster.
2. David Johnson and David Paulson
With Pro Bowler Heath Miller out, all eyes are already on backup tight end David Paulson. However, more attention might be put on David Johnson, who made a return to the field last week after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the preseason of 2012. Both Paulson and Johnson need to prove to Pittsburgh’s coaching staff that they will be able to carry the load while Miller is sidelined.
1. Felix Jones
The performance of Felix Jones in this game could shake up the entire offensive backfield of the Steelers. More than likely, Pittsburgh will carry four running backs on their 53-man roster, and Bell and LaRod Stephens-Howling should have two of those spots sewn up. Jonathan Dwyer should also be safe, considering that he’s had a solid preseason and that he’s the only healthy back who’s capable of starting Week 1. With Redman not playing in Thursday’s finale, Jones will have numerous opportunities to earn his spot on this team. Regardless of what happens, one of these cuts in the backfield will be a surprising one.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+