By Tyler McMullen @Direct_Snap on August 7, 2014
The Pittsburgh Steelers open their 2014 season on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. EST as they visit the New York Giants to kickoff their preseason schedule.
Pittsburgh is a hot choice to unseat the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014 as the AFC North champions, but here are five things to watch for in the Steelers' preseason opener on Saturday night.
Spence was a highly touted linebacker out of the University of Miami a few seasons ago, but he just can't seem to stay healthy. Spence has yet to make an impact for Pittsburgh in a regular season game, but the former Hurricane does have the upside Pittsburgh is looking for at the linebacker position. He is incredibly agile, athletic and has a very high football IQ. If he can stay healthy, Spence surely could make an impact in coverage.
Pittsburgh has a ton of talent at receiver for Big Ben this season. After adding former New Orleans Saints slot receiver Lance Moore, the team also went out and drafted Big Ben a red zone target in former Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant. Joining Bryant and Moore is another highly touted receiver in Markus Wheaton, who failed to make an impact last season but has drawn comparisons to former Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace.
Perhaps my favorite pick from the entire 2014 NFL Draft, Archer is an excellent Darren Sproles-like player for this Pittsburgh offense. Archer will add a level of excitement and spice to a Pittsburgh offense that tends to get a bit creative on the run. Look for Archer to make a few plays on Saturday night that make you understand why he was perhaps the most overlooked player in the 2014 draft class.
Bell put together quite a solid rookie campaign, but he is looking to surpass all of his rookie totals during his sophomore season in the league. Bell has reportedly dropped weight -- he played in the 240 area in 2013 and is down to 230 currently -- in an effort to become a much more explosive back. Pittsburgh has other capable backs behind Bell, but the former Michigan State star is looking to become the workhorse in Pittsburgh's backfield.
Shazier is a classic fit in Pittsburgh. The team covets smart, instinctive and athletic linebackers who excel in coverage but can also get after opposing quarterbacks. Shazier can do all of that and then some. The former Ohio State standout will work alongside one of the more athletic inside linebackers in the league in Lawrence Timmons, giving Pittsburgh an insanely athletic duo in the heart of their 3-4 defense. Watch for Shazier in 2014.
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