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The Steelers laid a dud against the Giants in the preseason opener. The team was plagued by mental mistakes and penalties in all three phases that prevented scoring chances for the offense and created scoring chances for the Giants. The team needs a more complete performance against the Redskins to get on track for the regular season opener.
What To Watch For
1. Special Teams
The Special Teams units under new coach Danny Smith were particularly bad in the preseason opener. An illegal man downfield penalty caused a re-kick on a punt that was then blocked. David Gilreath fielded a punt inside the 5 that led to the offense taking a safety. Gilreath also fumbled a punt that led to a scoring chance for the Giants. All in all, it was not a good day for the special teams unit last weekend. This is where the last roster spots will be won and lost and the players on the roster bubble can't afford another week like last week.
2. The Second Half
The first teamers should play most of the first half, but it's the second half of this game that will provide a better indication of who is close to making the roster. The Steelers have a lot of roster spots up in the air, and the players that get playing time during the second half are going to be those that the organization is giving the opportunity to earn their way on to the team. If a player is healthy and doesn't see the field, they are likely on the short list for getting cut.
3. Expand the Playbook
In the first preseason game the play-calling is usually fairly vanilla. For the most part, the Steelers utilized the outside zone and inside power runs, coupled with relatively simple passes on either out-routes or crossing routes. On defense, there was some scattered blitzing from the inside linebackers and one corner blitz from Ike. In the second preseason game, the playbook usually expands since the starters will play most of the first half. We should see more of the Todd Haley Offense this week and get an even better look at the zone blocking scheme.
4. Back from Injury
The Steelers ran out with an extremely depleted secondary against the Giants. Josh Victorian and Isaiah Green saw significant time at cornerback and rookie Shamarko Thomas played as the nickelback for most of the second half. This week, Curtis Brown returns to the lineup and rookie Terry Hawthorne should see some playing time. This will give the Steelers a much better sense of just what they have or don't have with their 4th, 5th and 6th corners. Green looked solid last week and surpassed Victorian on the depth chart this week (though that doesn't mean much). There is room for competition here and with players like Santana Moss, Donte Stallworth, and Devery Henderson as reserve receivers, the Steelers secondary will be tested.
5. No Injuries
The Steelers escaped the first preseason game with relatively few injuries (the only one of note was Stevenson Sylvester's ankle getting rolled up on during a punt). However, there was a bit of a scare in camp this week when both Le'Veon Bell and Isaac Redman went down during the same practice. Both seem to be okay and the Steelers have been fortunate in that they have not lost a starter to serious injury yet this year.