The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to get the taste out of their mouths after the 14-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the annual Hall of Fame Game last Sunday, and the Jacksonville Jaguars could be just what the doctor ordered for a team looking to get their mojo working as they lead up to the regular season.
The majority of the starters, 20 of 22 to be exact, should be suited up and ready to play, even if it is just a little bit, and the fan base will get their first taste of what this team might resemble when they travel to play the New England Patriots in Week one of the 2015 regular season.
Here is what to watch for tonight as the Steelers head to Florida for a matchup against the Jaguars:
Big Ben and the boys are back
Last week Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, Heath Miller and almost every other key offensive player was held out of the game vs. the Vikings. Mike Tomlin stated Roethlisberger will play sparingly (10-12 snaps) against the Jaguars, but it will be the first time Roethlisberger and the starting offense will see the field. Not much will be shown, in terms of unique sub packages, etc., but fans will get a taste of just how potent this unit can be in 2015. Get your popcorn ready.
Deebo is back...will it make a difference?
James Harrison will return to the lineup, and although he will be playing behind Jarvis Jones, one has to wonder how the soon-to-be 37-year-old will look on the field. Harrison is in phenomenal physical condition, already in better shape than he was in 2014 after coming out of retirement, and looks to make a difference on the right side. Watching Harrison set the edge and get after the quarterback is a thing of beauty. It will be interesting to see if Keith Butler lets Harrison play, and how often he sees the field.
Safety help has arrived
Against the Minnesota Vikings the Steelers relied on some unknown commodities at the safety position. Those options won't be as necessary against the Jaguars as Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas are expected to return to the lineup. Their return will give fans their first view of the secondary without Troy Polamalu for the first time in over a decade. How Butler deploys Thomas alongside Mitchell will be something to keep an eye on, even if only for a quarter of play.
Time for the rookies to dig deep
Watching the Steelers play the Vikings, there were several rookies who left a lot to be desired. Whether it was the drops of tight end Jesse James or the ineffective play of Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo. Chalk such performances up to first game jitters, but it is time for the rookies to show improvement. No one is expecting a light to simply go off in their heads and them to play all-pro football, but improvement is important. As the tape they have to study on themselves grows, the more equipped they should be to make plays. Improvement is the key, and Friday night is the next step.
New kicker in some new duds
Garrett Hartley makes his debut with the Steelers Friday night, and the pressure to perform will certainly be on his shoulders. The Steelers didn't bring in another kicker, so Hartley will handle all of the place kicking duties for the team against the Jaguars. There is more to place kicking than just field goals and the new 33-yard PATs. Kickoffs and the ability to limit returns is another aspect of Hartley's game which Suisham did not call a strength. Hartley has a much bigger leg than Suisham with a carer long field goal of 55-yards. Hartley's official try-out starts Friday, and if he wants the job for the 2015 season he will have to perform.
For complete details of the Steelers vs. Jaguars game including how to watch online, click HERE.