The Pittsburgh Steelers will open up their preseason schedule this Friday night when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Heinz Field in Week 1 action. The preseason is tough for football fans to wrap their heads around. It is football, but only in a round about kind of way.
For the Steelers, who finished 2018 a disappointing 9-6-1 and outside of the playoff race, there are a lot of questions surrounding this 2019 team. The players who have come, and gone, are well-documented, but how will this team gel? How will the product look when they step in between those white lines?
The first step of the process is the first preseason game when former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians brings his Tamp Bay Buccaneers to town. There are some questions which need to be answered, and you can feel free to do so in the comment section below!
Let’s get to the burning questions...
1. Which starters will see playing time?
Mike Tomlin ruled out Ben Roethlisberger, but that was it. Who else will play, and how long will they play? Sean Davis said he won’t be playing due to the injury to his finger, but it will be interesting to see how long players like James Conner and the offensive line are in the game Friday.
2. How will the rookies handle their first NFL action?
The Steelers’ 9 player 2019 NFL Draft class will have plenty of time to make believers out of the coaches and fans, but will they live up to their draft designation? Or will they leave plenty to be desired?
3. The rules changes put in place, how will they impact the game?
There are some big rule changes in the NFL in 2019, none larger than the pass interference rule change. Will this severely impact the game? Or be just another blip on the radar?
4. Exactly how much stock can you put into one preseason game? Especially since there is no longer a cut down from 90 to 75 players?
When I think about any level of excitement for a Week 1 preseason game, I always ask myself how much stock do coaches put into one preseason game. Fans are accustomed to putting a lot of stock into every game, because when you only have 16 games it becomes habit to take every game as do-or-die. Week 1 is just one of four preseason games, but for those on the roster bubble every rep will count.
5. Will a change in style/coaching be evident this early on?
On my Steelers Burning Question podcast last night (you can hear it below this article) I asked what a perfect performance would look like for the Steelers in Week 1? Will a new style/coaching be evident? Will the offense be spread out? Will a fullback be utilized more? Will the defense tackle better and create more turnovers? It might just be one game, and there is no game planning during these games, but you have to wonder if Mike Tomlin is ready to make an impression on his bosses, and the fan base, even in Week 1 of the preseason.