It’s finally August; coming off of an 8-8 season the Steelers look to showcase their improvements in a preseason opener against the New York Giants. Sound familiar?
It’s the same story line for two years in a row. Come Saturday night, we’ll finally get a good look at the team that is shaping up to be the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers. We’ll likely get about two series of starters followed by myriad rotation combinations to see what the back half of the roster is made of.
In the 2013 preseason opener we had our starting offense out for two series. While the starters were on the field LaRod Stephens-Howling was the leading rusher, Emmanuel Sanders was the leading receiver, a punt was blocked, and Sean Suisham made a field goal. It looks like this year will be a bit different.
It’s safe to say that the offense will feature some other skill players in its preseason debut—Sanders and Stephens-Howling are no longer with the team. Le’Veon Bell will be the starting running back and, as of now, Markus Wheaton should fill the spot vacated by Sanders. Those aren’t the only changes to the starters taking the field Saturday night versus those back in 2013:
Lance Moore should take the spot of Jerricho Cotchery. Heath Miller will start at tight end after missing the entire 2013 preseason (and some of the regular season). Mike Adams will be primary back up to the tackle positions after Kelvin Beachum supplanted him at left tackle mid-2013.
That’s five different starters on offense from the 2013 preseason opener to this year’s first exhibition game. There will be plenty of change on defense as well.
Lamarr Woodley, Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, and Larry foote are no longer with the team. Instead plan to see Jarvis Jones, Mike Mitchell, Cam Thomas, Cameron Heyward, and Ryan Shazier in those spots, respectively. Sure, Heyward had a great year last year and ended up the starter, but not until the middle of the regular season. That’s another five new starters from 2013 preseason opener.
In that game last year against the giants, the Steeler offense allowed a lot of penetration. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked or taken to the ground on multiple occasions. The first series ended in a blocked punt. Look out for the Giants’ Demontre Moore, who gave the Steelers some trouble last year. Note: the Steelers did not score an offensive touchdown in the 2013 matchup.
On defense the Steelers had good and bad. After getting the ball in the red zone thanks to the aforementioned blocked punt, the Giants’ first string was unable to score a touchdown on the Steelers’ starting defense. A stout run defense and a great play in coverage by Ike Taylor forced the Giants to settle for a field goal.
On the Giants’ next possession, it did not go as well. The Steelers’ secondary was victimized by an Eli Manning to Victor Cruz post that went the distance—leaving William Gay, Troy Polamalu, and Ryan Clark in its wake. The hope is that the range of Mike Mitchell and some more disciplined assignment football will lead to fewer big plays—an issue that lasted longer than the preseason in 2013.
Even before that play the Steelers were having trouble with the opposing wide receivers. After getting behind the defense down the sideline only to be overthrown by Manning, Reuben Randle made a few Steelers defenders look silly while he turned a short reception into a decent gain—Randle was eventually chased down by Brett Keisel. Randle is another Giant player to watch during this match-up, as he clearly gave the Steelers some issues on a couple of plays.
Outside of the ten new starters, the Steelers have made plenty of changes across the roster and coaching staff. For a more about what to watch for during this year’s preseason opener, check out Brendan Driscoll’s article here. Also, see what Anthony Chiado thinks we should watch for throughout the preseason.
Tags: Pittsburgh Steelers