The Pittsburgh Steelers are experiencing their first ever 3-game preseason, and that means no one truly knows how Mike Tomlin and staff will handle the preseason finale this Sunday when the Detroit Lions visit Acrisure Stadium.
Will it be used as the final “dress rehearsal”, the way the typical third preseason game was handled in the 4-game format?
How long will the starters play?
What will the approach to the game be from a schematics standpoint?
Friday Tomlin met with the media and he outlined a lot of what the team will be bringing to the game Sunday, and it makes the performance even more compelling. As Tomlin said, the team has used this week as preparation for a typical regular season week of work.
“We need to have great detail and display greater understanding and hopefully, it shows in our play, that’s our intention here on Sunday.” Tomlin said. “As we start leaning in on some of the stuff where we’ve got a hardcore game plan in a definitive division of labor, and so we’re excited about that. We’re staying true to our mindset in terms of a preseason of those that are injured, we’re going to leave the light on for them up until the 11th hour. We’ll be optimistic and inclusive about their participation.”
So, have the Steelers been game-planning for the Lions? How much will the starters be playing? Tomlin said the three quarterbacks will play Sunday in the following order:
How much they will play will depend on the production of the unit when they are in the game. Otherwise, Tomlin said he is going to remain light on his feet as it pertains to playing time for all the starters, including the offensive line.
“I got some plans, but I’m light on my feet. There are certain things that we want to see and we’re not moving until we do.”
One area of the defense which Tomlin was specifically asked about was the run defense. Did the game-planning include a defensive plan?
“Get your cameras ready.” Tomlin said. “We’re game planning for football this weekend. So obviously that’s one of the components that’s got our attention.”
It isn’t as if there wasn’t pressure to perform already, but when you consider the team putting together a game plan for the game Sunday, it further emphasizes the result. If Tomlin is talking about getting your cameras ready, what if the product doesn’t match the expectations of their coach?
The hope is the Steelers come out and the offensive line looks like it’s starting to gel into a cohesive unit, the defensive front has shades of dominance and the team as a whole looks ready for the regular season.
Outside of game-planning, the majority of starters will be in the lineup, if they are healthy. For the first time this preseason the Steelers will have both Najee Harris and Cam Heyward in the lineup, both will likely boost their respective units. The only players who are unlikely to play would be Alex Highsmith (ribs), Montravius Adams (ankle) and Calvin Austin III (foot). Otherwise, Tomlin suggested even those players could return to the lineup if they are deemed healthy enough to participate.
This is a big game for the 2022 Steelers in a lot of ways. Will it spell doom if they don’t live up to the standards set forth? Not necessarily, but a good performance would go a long way to quelling some concern heading into the regular season.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Lions this Sunday at 4:30pm ET.