The Pittsburgh Steelers kick off their preseason Friday night on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. ET, with a whole lot in store for fans as healthy starters are expected to see playing time, though how much remains unclear.
The Steelers’ starting roster feels pretty much set. However, there will be several players that will still have a lot to gain from the preseason, whether that be experience for rookies, or proving their worth ass veterans who deserve a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Here are 5 Steelers players to watch in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL preseason.
Steelers players to watch in Week 1 preseason
OL Kendrick Green
Are you tired of hearing that Kendrick Green has been playing fullback in training camp yet? Because I’m sure tired of talking about it. He’s hanging on the roster bubble by a thread, with a lot to prove through the preseason to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster. In order to make the final roster, Green will need to prove his abilities as a strong backup offensive lineman, whether that be at center or swing tackle.
S Kenny Robinson
Hometown product, safety Kenny Robinson, saw an uptick in snaps playing with the first team in the absence of Minkah Fitzpatrick early in training camp. By all means, he garnished some positive reports with solid gameplay.
Robinson was drafted out of the XFL back in 2020 by the Carolina Panthers and signed to the Steelers practice squad earlier this year. If he can play well, it could be FS Tre Norwood that finds himself on the roster bubble instead of Robinson.
With a solid preseason, Robinson has the opportunity to earn the role of backup free safety behind the league’s best in Minkah Fitzpatrick — a huge opportunity for Robinson to learn as he takes the next step in his development as a defensive back.
CB Joey Porter Jr.
Little Peezy has made some splash plays throughout Steelers training camp, but he came up behind teammate Patrick Peterson on the team’s first unofficial depth chart. Though it’s likely formality because #NoRookieStartsInSteelersTown, there’s still a lot we can learn from Porter Jr. in live gameplay.
The main thing I’ll be watching for is defensive penalties given his physical play style. He’s too handsy at times, and there’s concern that could translate to defensive pass interference calls if it’s not played just right. He saw just three penalties in his final season at Penn State, but will he be able to continue limiting those DPI calls against the NFL’s bigger, faster, and stronger receivers?
WR Calvin Austin III
If we’re calling Joey Porter Jr. Little Peezy, we’ve got to come up with something fun for Calvin Austin. Little Speedy? Seems to fit the bill, I think! The former fourth-round pick didn’t play in his rookie season after being placed on IR with a foot injury and has made some highlight reel plays in training camp that will blow the dust right off your phone screen as he zips right past you.
Calvin Austin was soooooooo worth the wait. He is such a speedster man wow. pic.twitter.com/Qe6hoWsGM5— Baku (@Mazursky8895) August 2, 2023
What Austin lacks in size at 5’8 and 170 pounds, he makes up for with his speed and precision as a route runner. The former walk-on prospect out of Memphis ranked 89th percentile and above in the 40-yard dash (4.32), 20-yard shuttle (4.07), vertical jump (39”) and broad jump (11’3”), perfectly showcasing the athleticism and explosion that earned him fourth-round draft capital to begin with.
While Austin will never win with his strength, he’s about as savvy and quick as you could hope, making him a perfect option both as a returner, down-the-field speedster, and gadget guy.
QB Kenny Pickett
You knew Kenny Pickett had to be on this list, right?
Pickett played in each of the three preseason games as a rookie, and in those opportunities, he played some clean football. Pickett completed 80.6% of passes for 261 passing yards, 3 TDs, and no interceptions... which is great! You can’t ask for much more than that from the rook.
This year, however, I’d like to see more. They kept things pretty safe last year, emphasizing the short passing game, with just three total attempts of 20 or more yards on 41 total dropbacks. Throughout training camp, there’s been no shortage of highlights of Pickett airing it out, and seeing that translate against real, live coverage in the secondary and a real, live pass rush will be telling.