You guys probably know more about this game than I do. I mean I have been pretty into the Pirates and their race for the NL Central crown but it turns out that the Steelers open up their preseason schedule tonight so I guess this should be a place where I tell you what to look for and what to keep your eyes on. If you are looking for that then I think you are in the wrong place, there are a billion amazing Steelers blogs that cover this game more closely like The Steelers n'at, (the revived) One for the Other Thumb, and the Blitzburgh Blog.
Anyways, this should be your standard first preseason game. Mike Tomlin said that each of the starting units should play about one series which means that they will play MAYBE double-digit plays but that would be pushing it. We all know what Ben Roethlisberger, LaMarr Woodley, and Ryan Clark can do but other guys who were drafted and who will be pushing for spots on the team will get a ton of time tonight. The first and fourth preseason game is all about them, rightfully so.
Le'Veon Bell is going to be a guy who is going to be interesting to watch tonight as the media has already thrown him into the starting lineup despite the fact that he has literally no experience as practice doesn't really give you a lot. A guy like Jarvis Jones is going to be fun to watch because your first round pick should be fun to watch in the preseason because of all the hype and all the potential that they bring as being a top pick.
There are plenty of other story lines for the Steelers. The offensive line is always going to be one of those since the offensive line has been a shit-show of sorts for my entire lifetime. The tight end position is sort of in shambles after every tight end getting injured so who knows what the Steelers will do in their sub-packages but to be honest I doubt we see much of that in the first preseason game.
The preseason is brutal for me because the games don't mean anything and at most you are going to see the first team offense and defense in basic packages for a half, at most. The Steelers have some really interesting fringe guys to make the team and the injury situation makes it even more imperative for guys to step up and make some plays because as of right now this is an average team that may struggle to contend for the playoffs in a pretty good division.
I guess the other thing you need to watch is what is going on at wide receiver. Mike Wallace is no longer on the team and despite what you might have thought of him he was a huge part of this Steelers offense for the past few season. Antonio Brown is here and while he is going to be the focal point the team is going to have to rely more on guys like Jerricho Cotchery. Markus Wheaton is a guy the Steelers picked in the third round and has some speed but as a rookie there is really no guarantee that he is going to be a true difference maker on the field this year. Getting the ball down the field vertically is going to be more difficult this year and it will be interesting to see if anyone steps up to make the loss of Wallace easier to swallow.
All things told the most important thing in games like this is to stay healthy and not have anyone get hurt. Injuries are why the teams want to cut out some of these preseason games and the double edged sword is that you want to see what some of the fringe guys do and see what you have in position battles but at the same time this is a physical game and all it takes it one play for one of your top players, or a player that might have a significant impact, to go down and miss time (see: David DeCastro last season).
What is good for me is that the Steelers game kicks off about an hour before the Pirates begin play. That will give me a chance to watch the first teams play and then get a look at some of the other guys before I eventually turn my attention to the pretty good baseball team that the city has. I would be very interested to see what the TV ratings do in Pittsburgh when the Pirates come on TV. Obviously people can watch both games since they are on two different networks but with the Pirates currently holding the second-best record in the National League I wonder if some will be inclined to turn off the first preseason game of the season to watch the Buccos take battle.
Here is hoping to a healthy first preseason game.