By: Zach Metkler, GZ Sports Report Writer
After a shaky showing against the Lions in week 1 and an even shakier performance against in-state rivals Eagles, the Steelers will travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints. What should we expect from this game?
We Will Finally See the Steelers’ Stars
After resting his star players for the first two weeks of the preseason, Mike Tomlin says he will play all healthy players against the Saints on Friday. This means that Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and DeAngelo Williams will all see time on the field. It is currently unclear how much time the first-team offense will see, but expect them to see a series or two before getting pulled midway through the first quarter.
Will this Finally be the Week Sammie Coates Puts it Together?
With Antonio Brown sitting out of the first two games and Markus Wheaton dealing with an injury, 2nd-year receiver Sammie Coates has had the chance to show what he brings to the table. Through the first part of training camp, Coates has been one of the biggest names circulating in reports about his potential to be another receiver in the line of great Steelers steals. However, Coates has been one of the biggest disappointments of the preseason this year, due to his inability to nail down a starting spot. Coates has the skills to develop into a superior receiver but needs to develop some level of consistency. Which Sammie Coates will we see this week against the Saints? The receiver who showed sharp route running, awareness, and speed during training camp? Or will it be the receiver that has looked completely out of place on the field?
Players to Watch
–WR Eli Rogers continues to be the Steelers’ preseason star after another strong performance against the Eagles. With Antonio Brown in the lineup and Markus Wheaton continuing to ease back into playing time, it will be interesting to see how Rogers and Brown mesh on the field. If the offense is able to open up with the two shifty players on the field, this could mean big things for the offense moving forward, especially because of Sammie Coates’ inability to stand out for the right reasons.
–RB Daryl Richardson continues to battle Fitzgerald Toussaint for the backup running back spot behind DeAngelo Williams. So far, Richardson has been putting on a show for fans, showing the ability to hit the hole hard but patiently, catch the pass out of the backfield, and being a willing runner between the tackles. He has done this all while showing tremendous athleticism and awareness, especially when he gets to the second level. It is still early, but Richardson could be on his way to winning this overlooked position battle.
–DT Javon Hargrave is going to be a star for the Steelers. What he has done through the first two preseason games has been fantastic and he is developing nicely, even though it has been a small sample size. Daniel McCullers is currently listed as the starter but it is only a matter of time until Hargrave wins the job outright. He’s too good not to.
–ILB Vince Williams has quietly put together his best training camp and preseason of his career and the Steelers rewarded him this week by giving him a 3-year contract extension. On the field, he has shown more athleticism than he has in year’s past, which is huge because of his stigma as a “2-down linebacker”. The Steelers deal with injuries much too often with their linebackers so the solid play of Williams is definitely reassuring. If he can continue to perform well after his new contract was signed, that will be good news for the Steelers.
–CB Artie Burns missed most of the last two weeks of training camp practices with a thigh injury which has really prevented his development as a player. Burns made a statement that he will likely not play much against the Saints but Tomlin has yet to scratch the 1st-round pick. After getting some full contact in practice this week, look for Burns to finally make his debut as a Steeler.
–QB Landry Jones will be looking to shake off some of the issues he faced last week, largely the four interceptions he threw in the first half. The Steelers are trying to figure out what they have with Jones as he is now practically the uncontested #2 player to Roethlisberger. This thought scares most people, especially with his performance against the Eagles.
The only big injury news for the Steelers continues to be Senquez Golson, who had surgery to repair a lisfranc injury he suffered earlier in camp. However, the Steelers received some encouraging news this week as Golson said he is eyeing a return to the field in 7 weeks. Realistically, this is a bit optimistic. Beyond Golson, Ladarius Green will also not play, as his status is still up in the air for unknown causes but reports seem to indicate that he is genuinely out because of his ankle. Bruce Gradkowski will also not play after tearing his hamstring against the Lions. Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, Artie Burns, and Jerald Hawkins are listed as questionable due to injuries from earlier in the preseason but are reportedly unlikely to play. As previously mentioned, Tomlin plans on playing all healthy players so this will likely be the best look we have seen of the Steelers this preseason.
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