Tomorrow at 7PM EST the Pittsburgh Steelers will face off against the New York
Midgets Giants, and like the young, fearless David of Bethlehem we will slay them. Okay, that was pretty lame and I am rusty on my Bible studies, but you get the point. Actually, I really am not worried about wins and losses in preseason, because of all the round-robin substituting that goes on. I am more concerned with watching our young players toil in the trenches and in the secondary. Therefore, let me give you a check list of things to watch this Saturday.
This is by far the biggest story of the weekend for the Steelers. Mike Tomlin said that Ben will play, but he refused to give any idea of what the QB rotation would look like. In other words, Dennis Dixon is going to get shafted in playing time. Anyway, Ben is going to take his first snap since the Midgeville fiasco in a very hostile environment of New York and New Jersey locals. Boos will probably rain down like Vince Young fists after seeing inverted Texas Hook'em Horns. Although, Boos will probably be the kindest thing we hear from drunken fans. Will Ben be able to come out and shake off the hecklers and throw the pigskin like we know he can? I really want Big Ben have a great game and throw at least one touch down tomorrow. I think it will begin the long process of bitter fans forgiving and forgetting.
To put it lightly, his first few snaps as a Steeler in our preseason game against the Detroit Lions were disappointing. He got beaten like William Gay standing on the tracks of the Adrian Peterson Express on the outside by a speed rush by defensive end Cliff Avril for a sack. I have heard that it looked like he did not care, that his footwork looked unready, or that he caught eyes with Redman presnap and went blind for 10 seconds. I have heard them all a million times. Anyway, I was listening to Ken Laird on the Stillers 365 podcast today and he mentioned that he had talked to a few Dallas Cowboys reporters. They told him that this was pretty usual for Flozell Adams. Now, that is not supposed to be some qualifier you should suck down with plenty of water, but it gives a glimmer of hope.
Now, Mike Tomlin came out and spoke to the media yesterday and explained that Jonathan Scott and the Hotel would be splitting time at RT. Some people have taken this as doom and gloom for the season, believing that Adams ticket home has been purchased. I am going to take the other side of the fulcrum and believe that Tomlin's message has been signed, sealed, and delivered. That message is, "Flozell, this is my team. If you do not show me you can be a start, I will raise hell in August and cut your rear before you see a cent of that guaranteed money." I imagine we will see some production from Adams in the next two games or he will be gone and someone will be purchasing Byron "the Statue" Leftwich's tombstone.
Every time I see his name I read "World Is" and I am not sure why. The Steelers 2010 2nd round draft pick has been hampered by injuries for the majority of camp. Tomorrow he will play, but I have heard that it will be limited because of the lack in participation at camp. Regardless of those stipulations, I think we are all still very excited to see his explosion of the outside. Can he speed rush? Can he over power tackles? Can he drop into coverage? Can he stuff the run while holding a blocker? Tomorrow we will get the answers to a few of these questions. However, I advise you not to get your hopes up too high because he has been limited in practice.
The young buck is going to get some snaps at Center with the first team on Saturday. I doubt this means Justin Hartwig's days are numbered, because I believe they will still hang on to him if he loses the starting job. At any rate, Pouncey looked very good is his debut, making blocks down field on runs and keeping his man outside of the pocket. I will be watching to see how he does pre-snap, especially during third down where the most disguised blitzing occurs. If he can hold his own this weekend and make some plays he could win the position during the game.
Keenan Lewis, Joe Burnett, and Crezdon Butler
All three of these young DBs looked really good against the Lions. Burnett and Lewis both broke up a pass in the end zone targeted to Calvin Johnson. Butler was just all over the place and seemingly involved in every play. These three are competing against each other, with Butler having the tallest ladder to climb because he is a year behind in experience. I have a good feeling we might see one to two interceptions from this group. Just a hunch.
Doug Worthington, Stevenson Sylvester, and Thaddeus Gibson
Three young rookies all competing for spots on the team, most likely as Special Team gunners in the case of Sylvester and Gibson, with Worthington shooting for a reserve role on the defensive line.. All three of these guys had Ford F350 motors and seemed to be all over the field. I hope they can keep up that energy and make some big plays tomorrow. I will have my eye mostly on Gibson because I think he has the best chance of making the team.
You cannot miss him. He is the one with the halo around his head and the only player that the defenders will be running away from. He should be getting some 1st team looks. Can he keep shedding tacklers and running people over against 1st string defensive players? Also, I cannot wait to see more of his tremendous blitz pick up.
Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders
Two young bloods competing for a spot on the roster. Brown was astounding and made two huge catches. Sanders did not have big numbers, but I saw him get open quite a lot and Dixon did not have his eyes up field. It will not surprise me if we see another big play or two from them because of their speed.
Let me know what I missed Steelers fans. No injuries please! Go Steelers!