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What To Watch For
1. No Injuries
There are important and significant things that can come out of this game from a development standpoint for many players. However, for the long-term success of the team, the most important thing is getting through this game without any injuries.
The Steelers used their first round pick on Ryan Shazier, but a bruised knee has left him as a "game-time decision" according to Mike Tomlin. With Shazier out, don't be surprised to see Sean Spence get the start. Spence may not be ahead of Vince Williams on the depth chart, but given the amount of work he has put in to his 2-year rehab from knee injury, it would be great to see him start. Speaking of Williams, he has been turning heads in camp with his run defense but will have to show something against the pass. On the outside, Jarvis Jones is a game-time decision as well, but the real battle will be for the #4 OLB spot between Chris Carter and undrafted free agent Howard Jones. Keep an eye out for Terrance Garvin as well.
3. The Secondary
We probably won't see much of Mike Mitchell in this game, but the depth battles in the secondary are probably going to determine the last few players on the roster. At corner, the top 3 are set in stone with Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen and William Gay. Behind them, there is a 4-way battle between veterans Antwon Blake and Brice McCain, rookie Shaq Richardson and Isaiah Green who spent last year on the practice squad. The top 4 at safety are set with Polamalu, Mitchell, Will Allen and Thomas. Behind them, Robert Golden and early candidate for camp phenom Jordan Dangerfield are in a tight battle. Golden and Dangerfield will probably see a lot of work in the second half of this game and will be important to watch.
4. Special Teams
The last few players that make it on to the 53-man roster will be expected to contribute on Special Teams. Therefore, the most important plays in this game might be the field goals, punts and kickoffs. Not only the ability of players to make special teams tackles, but also their ability to execute their blocking assignments, will be important to who does and doesn't make the team. On the return side, the Steelers will likely try out a few different kick returners and maybe (finally?) be able to take Antonio Brown off of punt returns.
5. A Win Would Be Nice
Gerry Dulac touched on this in an article this week, but didn't get into the correlation in recent history of the Steelers preseason record. Since 1999, every tear the Steelers have been at least .500 (2-2) in the preseason, they have had at least a .500 record in the regular season. The 4 times the Steelers have been under .500 in the preaseason (1-3 or 0-4) since 1999, they have never had a winning season (8-8 in 2013 and 2006, 6-10 in 2003 and 1999). Given this recent history, it would be great to get the preseason started on the right foot with a victory.
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