Football season is here! Usually, we like to preview the upcoming games here at Steel City Underground, but I have to be honest with our readers: for the most part, we have no idea what to expect when the Steelers take on the Giants Friday night at MetLife Stadium.
There are a few things we feel good about mentioning as part of a preview, but thought we should split the difference between the traditional overview of the opponent and our other weekly feature, “bold predictions”.
Here are some (mostly) educated guesses as to what will go down in Pittsburgh’s first preseason game.
Who we won’t see
Do you like games? Cool! Guess who wears these numbers: 3, 7, 10, 14, 15, 20, 23, 25, 26, 27 30, 48, 50, 53, 78, 84, 92, 99.
Between injuries or coaching decisions, most of these players will not play. Josh Dobbs has been named the starter, so Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones are sitting out. Martavis Bryant is yet to practice with the team having only been conditionally reinstated on Wednesday and Le’Veon Bell hasn’t joined the team yet.
Sammie Coates, Demarcus Ayers, Cameron Sutton, Mike Mitchell, Artie Burns, Senquez Golson, James Conner, Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier, and Keion Adams are all fighting through injuries sustained and camp and could miss this game.
In addition, Alejandro Villanueva was in the league’s concussion protocol from a hit sustained during Sunday’s Family Fest practice. I doubt there’s any reason for the coaching staff to rush him onto the field for this exhibition game.
Who we will see
Joshua Dobbs is starting, but does he play the entire game?
Current “camp arm” and fourth-string quarterback Bart Houston could make an appearance. I wouldn’t expect much from Houston, as he hasn’t shown us much during practice either.
Fitzgerald Toussaint and Knile Davis will rotate snaps with the first team offense. We don’t know if James Conner will be ready to go yet or not, so a few others on the depth chart will get a shot later in the game.
The rest of Dobbs’ offense will be a hodgepodge of linemen (Kyle Friend, Matt Feiler, Ethan Cooper, and maybe Brian Mihalik) receivers (Cobi Hamilton, Marcus Tucker, and possibly JuJu Smith-Schuster and Justin Hunter) and unknown running backs (Terrell Watson, Trey Williams, and Brandon Brown-Dukes).
Don’t expect too many flashy names on defense either, ranging from the following group: Johnny Maxey, Lavon Hooks, Roy Philon, Francis Kallon, Keith Kelsey, Farrington Huguenin, Brian Allen, Brandon Dixon, Jacob Hagen and a handful of other roster hopefuls.
Will the Steelers win?
Winning, or losing, is meaningless in preseason games.
Rather than pay attention to the final score, I would encourage fans to watch individual series of possessions and rate if the first, second, third, etc. team offense/defense is successful.
Same goes for any statistics. I don’t anticipate Josh Dobbs having the cleanest game, which would be no indication of his talent. He will be playing with a plethora of players who aren’t full timers, while he himself, is new to the team as well.
Don’t forget, Landry Jones threw four interceptions in one-half of a preseason game against the Eagles last year. The same could happen to Dobbs if a receiver runs the incorrect route or tips a pass to the opposition.
There’s a learning curve here, and these “games” are nothing more than glorified scrimmages. Substitutions will wreck any rhythm gained too. Even a subtle change of one offensive lineman could create a false start penalty, a tackle for loss, or a quarterback sack… on either side of the ball.
For New York, Geno Smith should see significant time at quarterback. Geno has had a rough go early in his career with the Jets, but he’s still a seasoned vet who is a former starter. He has light years of experience compared with Dobbs.
Don’t be dismayed if Geno has a decent showing, and tests the newer Pittsburgh defenders. In fact, New York is hoping that’s precisely how Smith performs. To do otherwise would be a bigger disappointment at this point in Smith’s career. If Dobbs doesn’t do well, he’s still “a rookie” by comparison!