10 players to watch in tonight's Steelers-Lions preseason game
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The Steelers will have their "dress rehearsal" for the regular season against the Lions at Heinz Field tonight. It's the third preseason game for the Steelers and Mike Tomlin said all healthy starters (minus T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt) will participate in the game, which includes 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
While it's a meaningless preseason game as far as the standings go, since it's the third preseason game for the Steelers, there will be some scheming involved, unlike the two previous games. So, we'll get our first true glimpse of Matt Canada's offense tonight, albeit it still should be pretty vanilla as the Steelers play the Lions in Week 10 this year at Heinz Field.
Below are 10 Steelers players to watch in tonight's exhibition game against Detroit.
Joe Schobert - The Steelers traded with the Jaguars for Joe Schobert in the first quarter of their game against the Eagles last Thursday. And his services are much-needed, as his specialty is pass coverage and the Steelers' inside linebackers were getting torched by the Eagles' tight ends last week. Tomlin said Schobert will be out there with the first-team defense tonight and it's expected by Week 1 that Schobert will be wearing the green dot and calling out the plays. Schobert should play a couple of series tonight's being that it's the third preseason game, so it will be a good sample size.
Ben Roethlisberger - Mike Tomlin is giving the nod for Roethlisberger to start in tonight's preseason game because he wants to see him "in-stadium" and get reps in the new offense led by Canada. Roethlisberger most likely will play only a series or two, but it will be interesting to see how he looks in Canada's offense and if any major changes stand out (like play-action under center). It's a little surprising that Roethlisberger is even playing in the game tonight, as he's in his 18th season and there were no preseason games last year, and he did just fine against the Giants in Week 1, completing 21-of-32 (65.6%) passes for 229 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 117.8. Nevertheless, Tomlin sees value in Roethlisberger getting in-game reps in Canada's offense. Hopefully, it's just a series, the sooner Roethlisberger gets out the better for sake of the Steelers' hopes in 2021.
Zach Banner - Banner will play in his first game since suffering an ACL tear nearly one year against the Giants on Sept. 14. It will also be the first time in the preseason that all five projected starting offensive linemen will play together. Just this past week, the five-man unit practiced together for the first time all training camp, so watching the cohesion upfront will be something to watch closely for, and especially how Banner holds up at right tackle in his first game back.
Melvin Ingram/Alex Highsmith - Both Ingram and Highsmith reportedly dominated at training camp, and they'll have some good competition tonight as the Lions have some high pedigree offensive tackles in Taylor Decker and first-round pick Penei Sewell. Ingram will be going up against Sewell and Highsmith will be matched up with Decker.
Mason Rudolph/Dwayne Haskins - This will be Part III of the Rudolph/Haskins quarterback in-game evaluation. With Haskins not getting any reps with the first-team in the preseason so far, things would have to go really bad for Rudolph to lose the No. 2 quarterback spot. Haskins looked better in training camp and outperformed Rudolph in the first two preseason games, but it's hard to get a true evaluation because he was playing against the Cowboys and Eagles' backups. In an interview with Miss Matthews before tonight's game, Tomlin said he's sticking to the same quarterback rotation after Roethlisberger leaves the game -- Rudolph and then Haskins. That tells you everything you need to know about the quarterback depth chart behind Roethlisberger. This is essentially a redshirt year for Haskins, and then they'll see if he can be the heir apparent for Roethlisberger in 2022. Of course, that's if Roethlisberger decides to retire after this year.
Benny Snell Jr. - Snell missed the first two preseason games due to an injury, so he'll have to make a statement tonight because his roster spot could be in jeopardy if the Steelers decide to keep three running backs instead of four. Snell most likely will beat out Jaylen Samuels, but Najee Harris, Kalen Ballage, and Anthony McFarland Jr. are clearly the three best running backs on the team. Snell needs to show the Steelers coaching staff tonight that he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster.
Dan Moore Jr. - Fourth-round pick Moore has progressed really well in training camp, and he had stellar performances in the first two preseason games. The Steelers even got him reps at right tackle this past week at practice, suggesting that they could have plans for him being their swing tackle. We'll have to see if Moore displays a third straight solid preseason game in tonight's matchup with the Lions.