As the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings prepare to lock horns in the annual Hall of Fame game Sunday, there are key matchups to keep an eye on despite many key players on both sides not even suiting up. Take a look at some key matchups in the first preseason game of 2015:
Landry Jones vs. Vikings' defense
Ben Roethlisberger will not be suiting up Sunday, and Mike Tomlin has made it clear Landry Jones will get significant repetitions in the game. Jones' ability to make the offense work and handle defensive pressure will be something to keep an eye on. Despite Jones playing against several Vikings backups, any progress is progress for the third year quarterback out of Oklahoma.
Steelers Safeties vs. Vikings' passing attack
There is no position on the Steelers roster more decimated by injuries than the safety position. Injured are Ross Ventrone, Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell. With the team in dire straits, they released Isaiah Lewis and re-signed Jordan Dangerfield who was released before training camp officially began. Along with Dangerfield, Will Allen, Gerod Holliman and Alden Darby will see significant snaps in this game. How they handle the extended roles against the Vikings offense will be very telling as they strive to crack the team's 53-man roster.
Brandon Boykin begins new transition to Steel City
Brandon Boykin might not play much against the Vikings in the first preseason game, but it will be intriguing to get a glimpse of what Boykin will bring to the table on defense. For instance, will he be playing primarily in the slot, or will he see time on the outside as well? Boykin could be seeing some fast wide receivers on the Vikings roster, and Steelers fans everywhere are looking forward to see their newest acquisition in the black and gold.
Steelers overall defense vs. Vikings offense
The Steelers will be deploying many backup players on Sunday, but it won't eliminate the fact the defense will want to get off on the right foot in 2015. The Steelers' defensive philosophy of stopping the run will be intriguing to watch against a team who is certainly capable of racking up yardage on the ground. On top of stopping the run, the Steelers will look to create more "splash plays," as Mike Tomlin would say, with sacks, forced fumbles, three-and-outs and interceptions. The team has increased athleticism and speed on defense, and how they will deploy such characteristics will be a matchup worth watching.