The Pittsburgh Steelers are still searching for their first preseason win of 2015, and are trying to reverse the trend of them losing the last 9 of their last 10 preseason games. They will turn their attention to the Green Bay Packers as they head to Heinz Field this Sunday for their chance at tasting victory for the first time this preseason.
The Steelers will be playing their offensive and defensive starters longer in this third preseason game, but as Mike Tomlin stated in his press conference Friday, it is a fluid process. Nonetheless, here are some significant Steelers players to keep an eye on during the game Sunday.
1. Cortez Allen - There have been a lot of positives reported on Allen out of training camp, but it is time he starts to put those doubts in everyone's head to bed by putting a solid performance on the field. Allen will have his hands full against the Packers receiving corps of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and company. A lot of the Steelers 2015 success on defense hinges on Allen returning to form, and this third preseason game would be a great place to start the resurrection of his career.
2. DeAngelo Williams - The Steelers are looking to ensure Williams is more than just a capable backup when Le'Veon Bell is in the lineup, but a player who can carry the load during Bell's two-game suspension to start the 2015 season. Williams showed some burst in the last preseason game against the Jaguars, but his ability to mesh with the offensive line, find holes and be the bell cow the Steelers need him to be throughout the first two weeks will be worth watching as he gets extended repetitions Sunday. On a side note, keep an eye on Williams' usage out of the backfield in the passing game. He isn't known for his receiving skills, but in Todd Haley's offense it is imperative you know how to handle the ball both running and receiving.
3. Stephon Tuitt - The second year defensive lineman is certainly garnering attention from opposing offenses, but for the wrong reasons. Both the Vikings and Jaguars have run consistently over Tuitt's side with success, a trend which needs to improve before it becomes a lingering issue when the games matter. Tuitt has seen more snaps than most of his colleagues along the line, and rightfully so. Tuitt is capable of knifing through the line to put pressure on the quarterback, but his run support is certainly something which needs to be improved upon.
4. Sammie Coates - Coates is in a battle for the 4th WR spot on the team with Darrius Heyward-Bey. Coates has been improving steadily through camp, and seems to be following the Martavis Bryant route of entering the NFL; however, it would be nice to see Coates take a big step forward in the final three preseason games of 2015 to make him a viable candidate in the passing attack, compared to the alternative. Coates is a player who was chastised by Mike Tomlin for his lack of conditioning earlier this week. Look for the rookie to want to make a statement against the Packers and his first time playing in Heinz Field.
5. Shamarko Thomas & Mike Mitchell - I know these are technically two players, but the safety tandem need to be included as this will be the first time they have played in a competitive game and are on the same field together. Shamarko Thomas didn't have the best kick off to his career as a NFL safety last week against Jacksonville, but with he and Mitchell in the back half of the secondary it will be something to witness. How do they communicate? Are they making plays, or just more mistakes? Will Will Allen be in the tandem by season's end? All questions which won't have immediate answers, but will begin to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together this Sunday.
The Steelers host the Packers at 1:00 p.m. EST, and the game is nationally televised on the NFL Network.