‘Yesterday was Thursday, today is Friday.’ Wow that Rebecca Black is a lyrical genius. Well it’s true. It’s Friday (not that Rebecca Black is a genius) and that means Washington DC will be full of Black and Yellow jerseys as the Steelers roll in for the preseason opener against the Redskins. I don’t usually put much stock in the preseason games. Full price for a game where the first stringers only play a couple series is pretty annoying. But the games are a necessary evil for coaches to fully evaluate players who will become second and third on the depth charts – something that any true football fan realizes the importance of. Let’s take a look at five players to keep an eye out for in this first preseason game.
1. WR Limas Sweed
4th year receiver Limas Sweed is still fighting for a respectable spot on this Steelers roster. Sweed’s name is usually not synonymous with praise. In fact, Sweed has been one disappointment after another. He has the potential to be another big target for Big Ben, but has never shown any consistency and only brief flashes of brilliance. Many speculate that this is Sweed’s last shot at making the team. With the addition of veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery mid-week, the pressure is on. Making matters worse, Sweed has been hampered by injuries practically since the beginning of camp – the biggest being a shoulder ailment.
Sweed will need to step up in this first game and show that consistency the coaches have been looking for. Look for Sweed to play complete halves over the preseason as long as he can keep his shoulder and ankle healthy. It’s the final year of his contract – no time like now to show if you got the stuff.
2. LB Jason Worilds
Worlids was the Steelers’ 2nd round pick in last year’s draft. He hasn’t had much playing time having to sit behind James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley for one of the OLB positions. When he has been on the field, he’s had some good plays and shown good form with his tackling.
This needs to be a bit of a breakout preseason for Worlids. James Harrison has three things working against himself – his back, his aggressiveness and his mouth. Any or all of those will more than likely land him on the sidelines with a suspension or injury sometime during this season. That means Worlids will need to be ready to step in and fill those big shoes.
3. DE Cameron Heyward
How could the Steelers’ #1 pick in the 2011 draft NOT make it on this list. The son of Craig ‘Iron Head’ Heyward will be looking to impress in the preseason games. He’s had a bit of a rough go in camp so far. Reports from the media and those tweeting from camp report that Heyward is a bit slow right now and is getting blocked out sometimes in drills.
Heyward will get some good reps in this first game. He will need to improve quickly as the preseason progresses. Aaron Smith has been riddled with injuries of late. The expectations are set a bit high for Cameron – #1 pick and a father who has quite the legacy in the NFL. If anyone has followed Heyward in the NFL series ‘Everything to Prove,’ you know that Cameron is up to the challenge.
#4 and #5 after the jump.