NFL preseason: Previewing the Steelers, Bills matchup

The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Buffalo Bills in their second NFL preseason matchup of 2023 at Acrisure Stadium on Saturday August 18 at 6:30 p.m. EDT. After a preseason win by the Steelers over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their first exhibition game of the year, fans are excited to see how the black and gold perform against a Bills team numerous experts expect to push for the top spot in the AFC.

In this preview, we’ll look at some roster updates as well as identify players Pittsburgh is likely to ask to play a bigger role in this weekend’s game.

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Updates to Steelers roster

During the week of practice at Saint Vincent’s College, Pittsburgh made a few personnel changes. While waiving running back John Lovett, former undrafted rookie free agent Xazavian Valladay left the Houston Texans camp to join the Steelers. Cornerback Nevelle Clarke, who originally signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2020, who spent time with the Generals of the XFL and USFL’s New Orleans Breakers, also joined the Steelers.

The other players that were signed include cornerback Lavert Hill, linebacker Forrest Rhyne, and safety Jalen Elliot.

Cornerback Duke Dawson was waived/injured while cornerback Isaiah Dunn was waived, as was Chapelle Russell, and Ja’Marcus Bradley.

These changes may have little to no effect on the overall roster, however. Moves like these aren’t uncommon as teams continue to evaluate talent in order to fill-out their practice squads and look for future potential.

Remember, Jaylen Warren came out of nowhere in 2022 camp and is a near-certain second-year lock at running back for the 2023 season. So, anything could happen if someone decides to make positive waves.

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Updates to Bills roster

Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott made a splash when he signed-off on the Bills’ depth chart for their second preseason game, but it was more like skipping a rock in a puddle than a cannonball in the deep end.

The chart: exactly the same as the one McDermott went with ahead of the Bills’ 23-19 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Apparently, the Bills are playing things close to the vest when it comes to revelations about their squad. What makes the move amusing is that the public and media can easily look at the personnel and transactions sheets and make their own assumptions, which may be McDermott’s point; why go to any extra effort?

With Kyle Allen and Matt Barkley reportedly in a QB competition to earn the spot immediately behind Josh Allen, it’s unknown who will get the start against the Steelers. Both are likely to see significant time on the field, however.

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Snap counts that matter

Regardless of the hype over transactional moves and depth chart releases, there’s little that will be more important in Saturday’s game than the number of relevant snaps that are earned by players who are trying to prove they will be an asset on the 53-man roster once camp and the preseason wrap. That makes certain players ones to pay greater attention to in this week’s game.

The Steelers have a handful of players who are still on the bubble when it comes to answering the hard question: are they ready for the regular season?

What’s key, though, in this second preseason game is how players – who are presumptive frontrunners for the safety of that end-of-camp roster – handle the snaps they’re given.

Some of the players to keep a close eye on, in my opinion, are as follows: Broderick Jones, Nick Herbig, Connor Heyward, Anthony McFarland, Darnell Washington, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Keaanu Benton, Elandon Roberts, Tanner Muse, Elijah Riley, and Luq Barcoo.

Why? A majority of these players previously mentioned are on that bubble for needing to stand out in game situations to solidify their position on the roster or need snaps that matter to enable the coaching staff to place their names higher on the depth chart moving forward.

One group to really watch is the receivers. Hakeem Butler, Gunner Olszewski, and Jordan Byrd are truly in a battle to make enough noise that the argument to keep them around versus practice squad (or waivers) becomes harder for Mike Tomlin and company to decide.

The Steelers are likely to keep five receivers on the 53-man roster, which puts the guys mentioned above in a depth-heavy group that will be hard to break into.

The “starters” are likely to see limited snaps once again in this game, opening things up for guys to make their case against a Bills team – despite it being preseason – that look very good from a personnel standpoint.


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