Most NFL football fans find preseason football to be meaningless. Throw in an extra meaningless game and most fans would rather pull their hair out than sit through something as painful to watch as a Pittsburgh Steelers team missing Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. However, I will give you 5 things to watch for which will make watching the Hall of Fame game against the Minnesota Vikings exciting from start to finish.
1. Rookies, rookies and more rookies
When watching preseason games, the players you should be most concerned with are the future of the team, and by future I mean the rookies. They will see significant playing time, and this is their first chance to show off their skills on the NFL stage. Rookies Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, L.T. Walton, Doran Grant, Jesse James, Gerod Holliman and Sammie Coates should all be on your radar while you watch the Steelers in game uniforms for the first time.
2. Defensive philosophy
Todd Haley is not a new coordinator with the Steelers, but Keith Butler is. Although Butler isn't foolish enough to tip his hand as to his regular season plans, he will certainly show some of what he wants to do in certain situations. Will he blitz his young players, or play a very vanilla style of defense? Will he experiment with more sub packages, or stick with a basic 3-4 defense? Some of these answers will be answered in the 2015 preseason, and makes the games worth watching.
3. Dri Archer
Le'Veon Bell is out of the lineup, and veteran DeAngelo Williams very likely could be rested as well. This would leave Dri Archer to be the main ball carrier in the Steelers' backfield. How will Haley try to get Archer into space? Will they line him up as a receiver in the slot to create mismatches with his speed? Archer has a lot to prove after a very lackluster rookie campaign, and with increased repetitions he will get the chance to prove what he can do.
4. Extra Points
Fans shouldn't forget about the new extra point rules after a touchdown is scored. The question surrounding whether Mike Tomlin will go for a two-point conversion, or simply kick the 33-yard point after will be an interesting aspect of these practice games to keep an eye on.
5. Outside Linebackers
There is a heated battle between several players for the final spots at the outside linebacker position. Howard Jones was the training camp darling in 2014 due to his uncanny ability for getting his hands on the football, resulting in big plays. Will he be able to duplicate such success in 2015? Will Anthony Chickillo continue to impress, as he has in camp thus far? These outside linebackers will be playing for their jobs, and that is something worth watching.
The Steelers play the Vikings on NBC at 8:00 p.m. EST.