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Steelers vs. Giants: Five things to watch in tonight's preseason opener

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It's only the preseason but there are still compelling aspects to the Steelers' preseason opener tonight vs. the Giants.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive line rotation

Steve McLendon (concussion) isn't likely to play, which is actually something of a benefit for the young linemen. It likely will put Cam Thomas at the starting nose tackle spot, which puts rookie Stephon Tuitt at left defensive end. More than that, though, is how the Steelers will handle their subpackages. Where Tuitt will go in relation to Cam Heyward in nickel - assuming it is Tuitt filling out the line in a 2-4-5 alignment. Heyward moved inside often in subs last season, and with the generally ineffective pass rushing from Ziggy Hood on the other side of the center, the middle of the offensive line could hold its own while running backs and tight ends could chip on the edge rushers.

Getting a defensive end who can play with better leverage can help pressure the guards as well as the tackles, and the Steelers can become more spontaneous with their pass rush. Watch which gaps the ends attack in base and sub packages, and what the inside linebackers are doing along with that.

Chris Hubbard in for Ramon Foster

Hubbard, a second yard undrafted free agent who spent last season on Pittsburgh's practice squad, will likely get the start for Ramon Foster (ankle), likely in a move to see what the position-inflexible Hubbard can do.

He's in a very tough spot, considering he can't play center or tackle - two positions Foster played along with his eventual long term guard position. It's worth seeing what Hubbard can do, but with a starting line that's set, the reserves are vying for back-up positions, and if the Steelers can be deep with eight linemen, that's what they'll keep.

Watch how quickly Hubbard stays in there, and watch how he's able to pick up stunts and crosses the Giants may run. The exchange from one linemen to another is critical for an offensive line, and this wasn't something the Steelers excelled with last season.

Amount of 11 personnel

The preseason won't show teams breaking into deep packages on offense, but the Steelers' three wide receiver sets will be critical this season, particularly in the team's no-huddle looks (which we aren't likely to see much of, if any, in the preseason).

Watch how quickly split end Markus Wheaton gets off the line, and see how frequently he's subbed out (likely with Justin Brown and Martavis Bryant, as Darrius Heyward-Bey has been out with a concussion the last week).

Mike Adams

If you don't see anything, that's good. If you do, you'll know what it looks like, and then you will have seen too much.

Adams is beginning to toe the line of a serious concern to make this team. The best thing he has going for him now is a subpar camp from rookie tackle Wesley Johnson. But all that means for the Steelers is they're thinner at tackle than they'd like to be.

Adams probably makes this team as a swing tackle, but if he continues to struggle in camp and lays an egg on the field, the Steelers may wait to see what players become available in early cuts and make a move.

Red Zone work

While it certainly won't reveal a whole lot in terms of season strategy, getting a look at what kinds of packages Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley would want to use inside the red zone will be interesting. For all his limitations outside the 20, Martavis Bryant has been a force around the end zone. That's where he appears the most confident and it seems like that's where he'll make an impact.

But the dual-headed presence of Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount is a compelling factor as well. Using two tight ends in there to show run and pass seems like the most appealing option, but watch for the formation on the first red zone series the Steelers get.