EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - AUGUST 21: Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with head coach Mike Tomlin after being ejected from the game for fighting against the New York Giants during their preseason game at New Meadowlands Stadium on August 21 2010 in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
I love the preseason yet I loathe the preseason. It's return signals the imminent return of NFL football in September, yet generally speaking, it's a fairly unsatisfying experience. Yes it's fun to sit down to a game, but it's not quite the same vibe when you know there's nothing on the line in terms of wins and losses.
But if there ever were a game that was worth tuning into and paying close attention to, it would be the third preseason game of the (typically) four-game slate. The third preseason tilt is usually the one when the starters see the most playing time - typically the entire first half. Then, when the reserves fighting for a job get their time to shine to start the second half, the games have the potential to remain interesting into the fourth quarter.
So, join me and other Steelers fans from across the country and globe as we watch the six-time champs take on the Denver Broncos in the Mile High City. Lots at stake in terms of roster spots and starting jobs, all of which we'll reassess after tonight's action.
Three things I'll be keeping a close eye on outside of how Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich look managing the offense:
1) Can Tony Hills continue his somewhat surprising string of impressive performances and lock down a roster spot?
2) As always, the young cornerbacks - how will they look? William Gay, Joe Burnett, Keenan Lewis, Crezdon Butler all still have something to prove as they vie for playing time with Bryant McFadden and each other.
3) Hines Ward - I know his play during the exhibition season means very little, but Hines always seems to elevate his game for the Broncos.. Remember his touchdown from last year against the Broncos when he deftly hopped right over a Broncos DB into the endzone?
In case you forgot, here's that play and some of the other highlights from Pittsburgh's thumping of Denver last year in primetime.
(Video, which we posted last year on BTSC, compliments of my lovely lady friend and her skills as a Final Cut Pro editrix).