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The Steelers approach to final preseason game Sunday will be telling

The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Detroit Lions on Sunday in their final preseason action, and the approach should be about preparing for the regular season.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a Week 2 NFL Preseason win over the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Saturday night, but while most would think celebration is in order, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The 16-15 victory in Duval county certainly didn’t feel like an exhilarating victory. Instead, it felt like a deflating defeat.

Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks, especially Mitch Trubisky in the first half, were under duress almost every time they dropped back to pass. On top of pass protection being an issue, the team couldn’t run the ball like they did in Week 1 vs. the Seattle Seahawks. In many aspects, not much went right for the Steelers on the offensive side of the ball.

Defensively, there were at least some areas of the game where they could hang their hat following the win. The defense created a turnover via a Justin Layne interception, held the Jaguars to under 100 yards rushing and showed a genuine bend, don’t break ability in holding the Jaguars’ starters to field goals instead of touchdowns.

Whether you are talking about the offense or defense, the Steelers have plenty of work to do heading into the preseason finale vs. the Detroit Lions this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium. However, the team’s approach to the game will certainly be something to keep an eye on.

How much will the starters play?

What will the division of labor be at the quarterback position?

Will players like Cam Heyward and Najee Harris be back in the lineup to knock some rust off before the regular season?

There are more questions than answers, but for the projected starter of the Steelers offense, he wants to play.

“We’ll see. I don’t know how they [the coaches] feel about the third game or whatever it is.” Trubisky said after the game Saturday night. “But I feel like we’ve just got to continue to keep better rhythm on offense and be better.”

The Steelers have moved the ball at times throughout the first two preseason games, but not with the level of consistency most would have hoped to see. Unlike the past 18 years, the quarterback of the team needs plenty of repetitions to get himself, and the offense, ready to go when the games start to count.

Trubisky understands his role, understands the team is trying to keep him healthy, but also realizes the offense is far from where they need to be at this juncture of the preseason. While practice reps are good, nothing beats in-game situations and reps.

This will be the Steelers’ first go around with a 3-game preseason schedule. Last year the team played in the Hall of Fame Game, giving them the former standard 4-game preseason schedule. Typically, in that 4-game format, the third preseason game was the final tune-up, or dress rehearsal, for the starters. The Steelers saw this with Jacksonville, who played the Raiders in the Hall of Fame Game this year, last Saturday.

How will Mike Tomlin handle the team? Will they have a full week of prep like in the regular season? Will the offense and defense have a full game plan? Last week the offense had the shell of a game plan, but nothing like in the regular season.

“We did a little bit more than last week, but not a full game plan to that extent.” Trubisky said. “So, it will be nice once we get a little more into the regular season, into the routine, it will be more game planning things to take advantage and obviously more scheming and more film watching on that front. But it was a good challenge for us. And no excuses. We’ve got to come out and execute the plays. It doesn’t matter what they run. We recognize what they run out there. And we’ve got to go out there and execute and make the plays happen. So, I feel like we left a few out there.”

‘Left a few out there’ might be one of the biggest understatements of the preseason, but he isn’t wrong. Trubisky was pressure to the point where he was unable to get some of his best playmakers going early in the game. Players like Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and Pat Freiermuth all saw their first preseason action vs. the Jaguars, but made few plays when Trubisky was in the game. It isn’t an easy job, especially when things break down in front of you.

“When you’re trying to get everybody going, trying to get everybody a touch early in the game, early on, and we’ve only got three drives.” Trubisky recalled. “We’d just like to see more completions and obviously more efficient plays.

“But we’ve got tons of play makers. I’m looking forward to getting them all the ball. But I definitely have real great connections with all those guys. And it’s just a testament to all the work we’ve been putting in during practice and afterwards.”

Tomlin’s approach to the game this Sunday will be extremely telling when it comes to the Steelers, especially the offense.

  • Will he name a left guard and let the offensive line start to gel as one collective unit? Or will he instead let the Kendrick Green/Kevin Dotson competition go throughout the entire preseason?
  • Will Kenny Pickett continue to see reps with the second string, or will he return to his Week 1 role of third string quarterback?
  • How will the offensive line perform in their final tune-up before the preseason?

Only time will tell, but the global Steelers fan base is hoping to receive more answers to the questions which have plagued them this offseason.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Lions in Week 3 of the preseason.