The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-0 in the preseason, not as if that matters, but they will play their fourth, and final, preseason game Friday night when they head to Charlotte, NC to play the Carolina Panthers.
In the past, when four game preseasons were the norm, this would be the game where teams empty their benches. Where veterans and starters stood on the sidelines with headsets and spitting sunflower seeds.
But in 2021 things are different. No longer is the four game preseason the norm, but instead three games is the new standard. The Steelers and Dallas Cowboys are the only NFL teams with four preseason games thanks to their meeting in the annual Hall of Fame game.
After their most recent victory, a 26-20 win over the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field, the Steelers played a large majority of their starters. Not only that, but the starters played an extended amount of time. Most were shocked to see the likes of Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster playing in the second half.
When the Steelers wrapped up practice Monday, Mike Tomlin was asked about his plans to play starters vs. Carolina. After all, even though the NFL eliminated the fourth week of the preseason, they didn’t eliminate the calendar week. In other words, the players will have almost two full weeks off before they start the regular season.
If Tomlin rests starters, will there be rust? Is this a concern? Tomlin answered the question as only he can.
“We’re just focused on Carolina.” Tomlin said. “We’re not worried about what’s on the other side of Carolina. We’ve got a lot of stuff to accomplish this week. We try to maintain that narrow focus, and so that’s what the energy of the group is.”
Naturally, the follow up question was asked about veteran participation in the upcoming exhibition game. Tomlin wasn’t budging.
“We had a great day today. We’ll see what tomorrow holds.”
No one should be shocked or surprised Tomlin didn’t answer the question. He is a coach who likes to keep his cards close to the vest. However, I’m not so sure what the reasoning is behind him being so secretive. In the past he would openly admit who was, and wasn’t, playing in any particular preseason game, but that hasn’t happened so far this preseason.
Expect many to be given the night off, while backups like Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs get the vast majority of the repetitions in Carolina. If Ben Roethlisbeger plays, I doubt it would be for long.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of the preseason and the 2021 regular season.