The Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles will square off Thursday night in the official Week 1 of the NFL Preseason. This game marks the second of four preseason games for the Steelers, and expectations will be adjusted accordingly.
In the first preseason game, the veterans did not play much, if at all, but this second game should change that in some way. With that said, I decided to list five defensive players to keep an eye on during the game in Philadelphia.
In case you missed the 5 offensive players to watch, check out that article below:
Melvin Ingram — Outside Linebacker — No. 8
The Pittsburgh Steelers brought in Melvin Ingram right before the start of training camp, and fans have only seen him in a practice setting. Does he still have it? How versatile can he be? What will he bring to the team defense? It will be on display, albeit briefly, vs. the Eagles and should be something to watch, especially without T.J. Watt playing.
Robert Spillane — Inside Linebacker — No. 41
To be completely honest, I was disappointed in Spillane’s play last week vs. the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game. Was this because he was playing with backups, or because we might have seen the very best of Spillane in 2020? The only way to decipher the difference is on the field.
Devin Bush — Inside Linebacker — No. 55
I wouldn’t be shocked if the Steelers decide to hold Bush out for another game, but I am thinking they want to get him back on the field and start to regain some of that confidence in his knee. If he plays, look to see if his burst, sideline to sideline speed and agility are what we grew accustomed to seeing in 2019 and 2020.
Tre Norwood — Defensive Back — No. 21
In the early portions of the Hall of Fame game, Norwood looked more like Deion Sanders, when it comes to tackling, than he did Donnie Shell. Nonetheless, as the game wore on, Norwood seemed to warm up to the task. With a game under his belt, the expectation is Norwood will come out of the gates better than he did a week ago. If Norwood pans out, what a find for the Steelers in the 7th round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Justin Layne — Cornerback — No. 31
Some might scoff at Layne being on the list, but I want to see if Layne can put up a fight to be a player on this 2021 defense. With an outside cornerback position available, you would think the Steelers’ former 3rd round draft pick would be able to step in and put up a fight. To at least put his name in the hat for more playing time. If he fails to do so, losing to players who went undrafted, it would be viewed as a huge swing and miss for the organization.
Pressley Harvin III — Punter — No. 6
Consistency is key with the punter, but I want to see if Jordan Berry even plays. I am assuming he will, but I am really going to be watching to see who does the holding. Also, if Chris Boswell is kicking, who is holding for him? This could be extremely telling as to the battle at punter, considering holding is an important part of the job.
James Pierre — Cornerback — No. 42
Pierre has a solid game vs. Dallas, starting opposite Cam Sutton, and I want to see if he can elevate his game with more experience. Pierre could have a significant role on this team in 2021, and the more experience he can get the better.
Shakur Brown — Cornerback — No. 29
Brown was obvious on special teams in the Hall of Fame game, and that very well could be his meal ticket to making the Steelers 53-man roster. While I expect him to shine on special teams again, I will also be watching to see how he does when it is his turn in the defensive backfield. You can never have too many quality cornerbacks on your roster.
For more detail on the above list, and expectations for the Steelers Thursday, check out the “Let’s Ride” podcast on the topic: