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Steelers vs. Titans, Preseason Week 3: 3 keys to watch during the Steelers’ final dress rehearsal

The Pittsburgh Steelers face off against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3 of the NFL Preseason, and here are some things to watch.

Carolina Panthers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The anticipation is building for Pittsburgh Steelers fans to watch the dress rehearsal tonight that should address questions that have not been answered so far in preseason. Ben Roethlisberger should be the only offensive starter with his reps limited — the rest of the offense should see extensive playing time. On defense, Joe Haden is the only starter whose availability is in question. It is doubtful that if neither player plays meaningful snaps that the offensive or defensive schemes transform.

Here are three important keys all Steelers fans should be watching on Sunday night:

Offensive play calling

The Steelers attempted the most passes while having the second-fewest run plays in the NFL in 2018. Of the top 10 teams that had the most rushing plays, only Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills did not reach the playoffs. Kansas City Chiefs was the lone anomaly that finished outside of the top 20 to make the playoffs. Will the Steelers get back to power running football against the Titans? This could foreshadow for the rest of the season. There is no disputing that the NFL has become more and a more pass-happy league but the successful teams have shown that running the ball is important for success. So keep an eye out for the balance of play calling.

Offensive personnel usage

Losing Antonio Brown’s production looms large but losing tight end Jesse James is also problematic. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has stated that starting tight end Vance McDonald will not see an uptick in his snap count. Will fans get a glimpse into how the team replaces James’ 562 snaps? Pittsburgh has used two tight ends on the field in the past in varying formations. Relying on the run game may decrease the reliance on two-tight end sets. Last season, 68% of offensive snaps came via three-wide receiver sets. Could that figure also increase with James Washington getting more acclimated to the offense and offseason additions Diontae Johnson and Donte Moncrief change the schemes? Will the Steelers run even more exotic pass formations as they did in 2018? Pittsburgh was tied with the Los Angeles Chargers with running 90 plays out of the two running backs, two tight ends and one wide receiver formation. Even more exotic is the five wideout set which only two teams used in 2018. Pittsburgh ran 32 plays from the formation with Roethlisberger completing 24 of 30 passes with 6.7 yards per attempt.

Wearing the green dot on defense

On defense one player on the field can wear a helmet with sideline communication with the coaches to relay play calls and alignments. Vince Williams has been the player who has seen the field the most with one of the helmets, but who gets the second one? Tomlin has always favoured giving the helmet to an inside linebacker but will the other recipient of the green dot be free agent acquisition Mark Barron or first-round selection Devin Bush? Seeing which player has the helmet on should give fans a clear insight who will be the dime backer in 2019 as most fans are hoping Williams is not utilized in a role he struggled in last season. Whoever snares the second green dot, will they struggle to make on-field adjustments prior to the snap or will they shine? This aspect is being overlooked by many fans and hopefully will be clarified during the first half.

Hard to believe that the regular season is just two weeks away and fans will get treated to the dress rehearsal against the Titans. Many question marks surround the team from the quarterbacks to the pecking order of the wide receivers but the above aspects need to be focused on too that may impact how the team performs in 2019.