Can you smell football in the air?
The time is almost here: the start of what is supposed to be a glorious season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Okay, it may be the preseason, but we finally have real, live, Steelers football.
A lot of attention will be directed towards rookie quarterback Joshua Dobbs and rightfully so. The fourth round pick is set to make the start for Pittsburgh with Big Ben Roethlisberger taking a chill day, and Landry Jones still resting with an injury.
The cornerback position, as it has been in Pittsburgh for awhile, will have plenty of fans glued to their television sets.
I am looking forward to these headliners, but I have some names for you folks at home to be on the look out for instead. Here are some “low-key” players who aren’t superstars by any means, but can shine in the preseason game against the Giants.
Being the number two free safety on the current depth chart (yes the number two) Hagen will get a lot of burn Friday night. His “promotion” if you will, may be due to a minor injury to Mike Mitchell.
However, this is Hagen’s chance to make plays.
The second-year Steeler has stuck around since being cut and then re-signed to the practice squad in late September 2016. Hagen has a lot of enticing traits when compared to a former journeyman practice squad player, Ross Ventrone.
Jacob sticks out on the field at 6-3, and roughly 205-210 pounds. A small school product, he was a team captain his senior year at Liberty and led the team in both tackles (108) and interceptions (8).
After seeing those numbers most would say Hagen has a “nose for the football”. As of late, Pittsburgh has displayed an appreciation for that instinct in their defensive backs. The Steelers clearly saw enough in the young man to bring him back to their practice squad last year.
Let’s see what the giant can do with all these reps against other Giants.
I can hear your “who?” jokes already.
I get it, this guy is a long shot, but that’s what makes the preseason great. On August 2nd, the Steelers announced they had signed a new tight end to their active roster, after parting ways with undrafted free agent Scott Orndoff.
McGee is more of your prototypical NFL tight end when compared to the more athletic Phazahn Odom. The new offensive target stands 6-5 and weighs about 250 lbs. The former Florida Gator displays very consistent hands, catching nearly everything thrown his way.
This sound obvious, but Pittsburgh really values a sure pair of hands with their tight ends, and McGee is more intriguing than I initially thought. Former teammates and scouts frequently bring up Jake’s attitude and his leadership ability (two more traits the Steelers love). The former Gator was a high school quarterback, which often helps the conversion to wide receiver and/or tight end.
Having played quarterback, McGee should have an eye for finding soft zones in coverage and recognizing packages (assuming he’s not too rusty).
If he can snag a few passes and lay a few hard blocks, look out Steelers tight end room. There could be a position battle soon.
A recent “camp darling” in the past few practices, watch for Watson to score a touchdown or two, possibly even more!
Dubbed “Nightmare” by head coach Mike Tomlin, the 240-pound running back has become the go-to goal line back, with rookie James Conner resting a shoulder injury.
Just the other day, Nightmare scored three consecutive touchdowns for the offense during goal line drills: that would certainly turn my head too!
The Azusa Pacific superstar has had a hard time sticking on an NFL roster, but he might have finally found a home in Pittsburgh. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but the Steelers love their power backs, and Mike Tomlin seems to love THIS power back.
Watson has real talent. Not only is Terrell a bruiser, but his hands aren’t too shabby either. He was often used in the screen game at school. The big back broke just about every record that the ORIGINAL “Nightmare” had set at his school, Christian Okoye.
Even if Watson cannot manage to sustain any long runs or explosive plays, the Steelers have found plenty of value in similar players during Tomlin’s tenure. Backs like Isaac Redman and Gary Russell were known to be a battering ram type of back near the goal line.
I think those battering ram duties will go to Nightmare versus the Giants.