As the Steelers’ first preseason game approaches each summer, I tell myself I’m not going to do it, but I do it anyway.
What is that, you ask?
I get excited.
Why do I get excited? Because I love football, of course, and nearly seven months without it is enough to make any die-hard fan yearn for its return — regardless of the form.
Landry Jones will start, as will a host of other second-stringers. Even the second-stringers will quickly give way to the third and fourth-stringers, some of whom will be (say it with me) bagging groceries in a few weeks. I’ll likely doze off once or twice after halftime, but not before offering my “evaluations” on several of the youngsters hoping to make good impressions, as well as discussing those veterans who likely were “on the bubble” before training camp even started.
Take veteran receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, for example. Yes, he’s a great special-teams player but, at this point, do the Steelers still need a guy like that on their roster, or is this the summer that a young, undrafted receiver finally comes along and sends DHB packing? (I’m looking at you, former Pitt standout, Quadree Henderson.)
What about some other rookies such as fellow fifth-rounders, safety Marcus Allen and running back/tight end/everything Jaylen Samuels? Sure, fifth-round picks seem nice and full of possibilities in April and May, but August is really when you find some things out. You haven’t heard all that much about Allen and Samuels making huge impressions so far in camp, but some actual stadium football may be enough to awaken the potential in one or both.
How about that seventh-rounder, Joshua Frazier, the kid that new defensive-line coach Karl Dunbar mentored at Alabama? Can Frazier beat the odds and earn a roster spot as part of Pittsburgh’s deep and talented defensive line?
How about those draft picks that are certain to make the team, such as first-rounder Terrell Edmunds? Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but word out of camp seems to be that he’s impressing in a way similar to that which T.J. Watt did a year ago.
If that’s the case, will Edmunds shine in his professional football debut like Watt did a year ago, when he recorded two sacks against the Giants in the preseason opener?
And I can’t discuss the new draft class without mentioning quarterback Mason Rudolph. How much will he play, and will those third-stringers and future grocery baggers take the starch out of his heir-apparent status? Also, what’s Joshua Dobbs, last year’s young quarterback darling, thinking as he prepares for this Thursday night?
I’m certainly hoping the actual rocket scientist makes the most of whatever reps he receives against the Eagles.
Preseason football might not be all that and a bag of potato chips, but after months of hearing about the Steelers’ shiny new toys, at least we’ll have a better idea of what they can do after this Thursday’s action.
Steelers’ preseason football: You’d better not sleep on it.