The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys will square off Thursday night in the annual Hall of Fame game. This game doesn’t just kick off the 2021 season, but also marks the first of four preseason games for both Pittsburgh and Dallas.
In the first preseason game, the veterans are not expected to play much, if at all, so getting excited for these exhibition games can be difficult for some. With that said, I decided to list five defensive players to keep an eye on during the Hall of Fame game.
In case you missed the 5 offensive players to watch, check out that article below:
James Pierre — Cornerback — No. 42
Pierre has been the talk of the town since his limited snaps in 2020 resulted in solid play. However, some are considering, and rightfully so, him having a much larger role on the team in 2021. Pierre will have to prove himself outside of minicamp and training camp, and he will likely get a long look during the preseason. If Pierre can be the player most think he can be, it would help ease the blow dealt from losing Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton in one offseason.
Antoine Brooks Jr. — Safety/Cornerback — No. 25
Brooks did spend some time injured during training camp, but Mike Tomlin gave the second year safety first shot at taking over Hilton’s role in the nickel defense. Brooks is battling with Arthur Maulet for the job, and these preseason games will be critical. So far, so good for Brooks throughout training camp, but let’s see if he can duplicate that success against another NFL team.
Ulysees Gilbert III — Inside Linebacker — No. 54
Gilbert is quickly becoming the “what if” player for the Steelers. What if he could stay healthy? Well, Gilbert has been able to sustain the best ability throughout his third training camp, and that would be his availability. There is a lot of football to be played, and Gilbert has a long way to go before proving he is not injury prone, but the thought of having two gifted athletes like Gilbert and Devin Bush next to one another is certainly intriguing. I’m anxious to see how UG3 has improved.
Buddy Johnson — Inside Linebacker — No. 51
There are several people who have benefited from the retirement of Vince Williams, and Buddy Johnson is one of them. Johnson was looking at one way of making the team prior to Williams’ retirement, and that was as a special teams demon. Not that he won’t still be asked to do that, but he also will have a chance to be proven depth behind the likes of Bush, Spillane and others. Could he move up that ladder? Thursday night will tell us a lot.
Quincy Roche — Outside Linebacker — No. 48
We all heard a ton about Roche when he was drafted. How he should have been drafted higher. His productivity at both Temple and Miami. How he grew up in Baltimore as a Ravens fan. Either way, there has been little to no talk about the 6th round pick throughout training camp. Camp talk is cheap, and Roche can make a name for himself when it matters most — in games. Look for ‘Q from the U’ to do just that vs. the Cowboys.
Melvin Ingram — Outside Linebacker — No. 8
I doubt the Steelers utilize Ingram much, but they might put him out there just to get acclimated with his new team. If he does play, keep an eye out for what Ingram is doing. He is a veteran, but it would be nice to see him wreck some plays.
Cam Sutton — Cornerback — No. 20
If Pierre starts, it would be great to see Sutton across the field from him. The Steelers sought out Sutton for a reason, and his versatility has already been on display. Let’s see how he does after signing that shiny, new contract.
Pressley Harvin — Punter — No. 6
There wasn’t enough for an entire article about special teams, but Pressley Harvin III and his battle vs. Jordan Berry will be intriguing to watch. Don’t just watch Harvin punting the ball, which is obviously important, but also watch as he holds for placekickers.
For more detail on the above list, check out the “Let’s Ride” podcast on the topic: