Steelers' Players With Most to Prove in Preseason Week 1

Joe TanseyAugust 10, 2022

Steelers' Players With Most to Prove in Preseason Week 1

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    Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The talk around Kenny Pickett's potential inside the Pittsburgh Steelers offense began the second he was drafted in April.

    On Saturday, the Steelers finally get a chance to see what the first-round pick can do in a game when they host the Seattle Seahawks in the first week of preseason.

    Pickett has been stuck behind Mitchell Trubisky on the quarterback depth chart for the first two weeks of training camp. The rookie out of Pitt has a chance to prove that he can shine in game action on Saturday.

    As of now, Trubisky appears to be on course to be the starter, but a few good performances in game action may help Pickett gain traction in the quarterback competition before the regular season opens up.

    Pittsburgh has a few other questions to answer offensively that it hopes can be solved through preseason game action.

    The Steelers need to have a reliable backup running back behind Najee Harris and they must fill out their wide receiver depth chart.

    George Pickens received all of the training camp buzz at wide receiver, but another rookie wideout has more to prove in preseason Week 1.

Kenny Pickett

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    AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

    Kenny Pickett has not gained much momentum in his hunt to land the Steelers' starting quarterback job out of training camp.

    Mitchell Trubisky received the majority of first-team snaps over the last two weeks, while Pickett has shared second-team reps with Mason Rudolph.

    Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin outlined the battle when talking to CBS Sports HQ (h/t CBSSports.com).

    "They're making it difficult for us," Tomlin said. "It's tough to manage three capable guys, but they're forcing us to do it because they're making the necessary plays. They're anticipating, the timing has been good, [and] the accuracy has been good."

    With Trubisky at the top of the depth chart, you would think he would get fewer snaps in the Week 1 preseason game in order to protect him for the regular season and to give Pickett more chances to play in game action.

    A run of drives in game play may be what Pickett needs to take the lead in the quarterback battle, instead of working through drills in practice.

    Pickett needs to at least show signs of promise against the Seahawks so that he has something to build on in the final two preseason games and for the rest of training camp.

    A bad performance would allow Pittsburgh's critics to circle around the team more and question whether Pickett was the right pick in the first round of a draft that had a single first-round quarterback.

Jaylen Warren

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    30 makes a gain in a drill during practice at their NFL football training camp facility in Latrobe, Pa., Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

    Pittsburgh should place Najee Harris in bubble wrap and put him in a time machine that lets him out in September.

    The Steelers' starting running back should not see much of the field in preseason, which allows the players fighting to be his backup to shine.

    Jaylen Warren, a rookie out of Oklahoma State, has had some impressive practices over the first few weeks of training camp.

    ESPN's Brooke Pryor noted Warren broke loose for a 25-yard run during Tuesday's practice session and he has had a good camp overall.

    Warren has an opportunity over the next few weeks to perform better than Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland to force his way onto the 53-man roster.

    The Steelers should give all three reserve running backs the chance to prove themselves on Saturday, and in the next two preseason games, because they need the best possible spell back for Harris.

    Harris is still expected to carry most of the load out of the backfield, but the Steelers need to find a reliable backup so that the drop off in quality is not high when Harris leaves the field.

    Warren is coming off a 1,216-yard, 11-touchdown season at Oklahoma State. It's also worth noting he caught 25 passes. His pass-catching ability could earn him more time in certain packages over Snell and McFarland.

    Snell and McFarland combined for 101 rushing yards in 2021. The Steelers need more out of their backups, and if the returning guys can't get the job done, Warren could become Harris' understudy.

Calvin Austin III

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    AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

    Most of the training camp buzz at wide receiver has been about George Pickens and the strides he has made.

    Pickens still has something to prove because he needs to flex his talent in games, but with all of the buzz around him, Calvin Austin III needs a strong performance to avoid getting lost in the depth chart.

    Austin was the other wide receiver the Steelers selected in the 2022 NFL draft and he has the potential to challenge for playing time in the regular season as well.

    After all, we are talking about a player that turned in consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and 19 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Memphis.

    Austin should have a few opportunities to showcase his talent against Seattle, and he may be able to help Pickett look good in the process.

    The two rookies will likely be paired together once the starters leave the field after a few offensive series.

    Austin may have most of the second and third quarters to show off his pass-catching and route-running skills inside the Pittsburgh offense.

    If he plays well, he could join Pickens in the category of rookies receiving a ton of preseason hype.

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