What To Watch When The Pittsburgh Steelers Play The Denver Broncos
The third preseason game is upon us. This is the game where the starters get the most playing time.
However, it can also be a statement game for players on the roster bubble. With roster cuts looming near by, players will want to step up and show their best.
It is also where Mike Tomlin will begin to determine certain players roles.
So just as I did last week, I will give you certain things to look for in the upcoming preseason game against the Denver Broncos.
Sean Mchugh vs. David Johnson
The battle between David Johnson and Sean McHugh is an interesting one.
During our Super Bowl run in 2008, Sean McHugh played a big role down the stretch as an H-Back. He showed great blocking skills and ability to play fullback. However, his 2009 season ended before it started due to injury.
That's where David Johnson came in. Johnson was the 2009 7th round pick out of Arkansas State, and he filled the void left by McHugh last season. As a rookie he performed very well.
Those two will be fighting over one roster spot. This third game could be the statement game for one of these players.
Last week I said to look for Stevenson Sylvester (number 47). He did not disappoint. He did not come through with seven tackles like he did in the first game, but he played very well. He had a beautiful diving sack in the 4th quarter, but the most impressive play was the very next one.
Sylvester came free on the outside and had a clear shot at the QB.
However, he recognized the screen and instead of getting burned, dropped back in to the passing line and tipped the pass. A very veteran move from the rookie linebacker.
2nd round pick Jason Worilds made his NFL debut last week. After being slowed by hamstring, the rookie did not record a tackle in his debut. He is behind fellow rookie Thaddeus Gibson right now so look for Worilds in this next game to see if he can step up.
Flozell vs. Jon Scott
Mike Tomlin last week said he wanted to see more of Jonathan Scott, and he did.
Coming over from Buffalo with the new offensive line coach Sean Kugler, many believe Jonathan Scott has the inside track to start at right tackle. Especially with Flozell Adams mistakes in the first two games.
However, Flozell is still adjusting to the right side of the line. Aaron Smith came out and said that if he had to switch from left end to right end, he too would struggle. When switching sides, you're also switching what shoulder will be at the point of attack for a lineman.
Trai Essex was also asked about whether or not Flozell will start, and he responded with: "There's nothing that tells me otherwise".
So this may be a position to monitor closely in the upcoming weeks.
Everyone knows that Isaac Redman can run the football.
And everyone knows that he will make the team this year.
However, he may provide a certain versatility that the Steelers brass have been looking for.
Its no secret the Bruce Arians doesn't like a fullback, even though the Steelers have ran better with a lead blocker.
Its also no secret that Mike Tomlin likes versatility.
Both can be another excuse to keep Redman on the roster. Last week Isaac Redman played some fullback. He is the best blocking running back on the roster and is big enough to play the position.
With both Redman and Mendenhall in the backfield, defenses won't know who to watch for.
They both can run, and Redman can easily lead the way for Mendenhall.
So look for more packages with Redman and Mendenhall both in the backfield next week.
Field position plays a huge role in the NFL, and the Steelers struggled with it last year on kickoffs.
This year, Daniel Sepulveda has been kicking off in practice, and got his first crack at it last week.
His first kick seemed to got a lot of criticism because it only went to the 10. But did anyone understand the fact that due to an offside penalty he was kicking off from the 20 instead of the 30?
Also, Steeler fans have been haunted by images of Jeff Reed allowing kick returners to simply run past him on their way to the end zone.
Last week, Daniel Sepulveda, a former linebacker, made a tackle on a big return while being held.
Look for Sepulveda to get more shots at kicking off next week.
Justin Hartwig is holding on the the starting job at center by the skin of his teeth.
Rookie Maurkice Pouncey has been an absolute beast since being drafted by the Steelers, and is making a very strong push to start at center.
With the starters getting more playing time in week 3, look for Hartwig and Pouncey to split snaps to let Tomlin get an idea who should be starting.
This may be the most important battle this preseason. The offensive line has been a week point for a couple years now, and the center is the captain.
Since Jeff Hartings retired, the Steelers have not had a great center. Pouncey can change all that, and change this O-Line. Watch this battle closely.
Tony Hills vs. Kraig Urbik vs. Doug Legursky
Tony Hills, Kraig Urbik, and Doug Legursky may all be battling for two roster spots.
All three have had solid displays so far this preseason. So as it comes down to the end, it's time for two of them to step up and prove that the line won't miss a step if one of these guys has to step in.
Tony Hills has probably had the best preseason so far out of all of them, and has the upper hand.
Urbik has shown a lot of improvement this season and wants to play football. He has been taking snaps at both guard positions and center, showing some versatility.
Legursky, a fan favorite seems to have the inside track to a position. While undersized, he is very strong and can play all three interior positions. However, after a miscommunication last week with Dixon resulting in a fumble, Legursky needs a strong showing to make the team.
Stefan Logan vs. Anonio Brown
Stefan "Joystick" Logan may be on his way out.
He set the record last year for most kickoff return yards in Steelers history. However, that is all he provides.
Antonio Brown has had a very strong camp that carried in to the preseason. He got his first chance at returning kicks last week against the Giants, and showed great north and south speed.
Brown can also play WR, something Logan cannot do.
Since Mike Tomlin loves versatility, Brown may be the guy at KR/PR.
Logan will have to show a lot in these next two games to keep his spot on the roster.
The first round of cuts are upon us, and with all the depth on the roster, it will be difficult.
Some players may be kept on this roster strictly so another team doesn't pick them up.
These seven players need to show something this week or they could be gone.
Kyle Jolly, David Pittman, Steve McLendon, Adrian Jones, Brandon Renkart, Dorian Brooks, and Eugene Bright.
Those are some of the things I will be looking for in the upcoming game.
Let me know what you will be looking for and some of the things you have noticed.
It's a fun season ahead of us!