The first signs of NFL football are upon us as the preseason has returned to whet our appetites for the full season. Two teams with some interesting storylines heading into the season are the Steelers and Seahawks. Each team is moving on from one of their franchise's best quarterbacks and does not have a clear-cut starter for the upcoming season. This makes the preseason especially important for both sides as the QBs must take advantage of the in-game reps.
Kickoff will occur on Saturday at Heinz Field and give the Steelers faithful a first look at the new roster. Here are four bold predictions for what to expect from Pittsburgh.
*Watch NFL games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*
Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason Week 1 Predictions
4. Mason Rudolph Will Look Composed
Mason Rudolph has become the forgotten man of the quarterback room. Through three seasons with the team, Rudolph has played in 17 games and has not done much to increase hopes for his long-term NFL role. Mitch Trubisky is set to take reps with the first team and looks to have the inside track on the starting job. There also is a great deal of buzz surrounding Kenny Pickett following the Steelers' decision to select him with the 20th overall pick in the most recent draft.
While there likely is not much of a long-term starting future for Mason Rudolph, expect him to have some nice flashes in the preseason opener. His experience will prove to be valuable and help him to steer the team in the right direction. Mike Tomlin has not committed to whether Rudolph or Pickett will get the second opportunity on the field, but expect the veteran to be ready whenever the chance is given.
3. Gunner Olszewski tallies 75+ All-Purpose Yards
One of the more eye-catching additions this offseason has been Gunner Olszewski. The former Division-II college football player has bounced around already in his young career and is looking to make Pittsburgh a permanent home. His most impactful role will be as a kick and punt returner where he is competing with rookie Calvin Austin III for the primary job.
Look for Olszewski to cement his role as the primary return man by making a positive impact in the opening preseason game. He also will likely get an opportunity in the passing game at some point in the matchup. The 25-year-old has a cool story and is a fun player to watch. Expect him to continue locking up his spot on the team and get the crowd on its feet in the first preseason matchup by earning some yardage for the team.
Gunner Olszewski with the punt return for a touchdown 👀👀🔥🔥.
This time it’s not called back due to a penalty. pic.twitter.com/YsHtujZxmh
— Pats Buzz (@PatsBuzz) December 6, 2020
2. Steelers' Defense gets 4+ sacks
The Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL last season with 3.2 sacks per game. TJ Watt also led the NFL in individual sacks with 22.5 during the 2021 season which also tied the NFL record for single-season sacks. With the defensive unit's first chance to go against an opposing team, look for them to let loose and make an impact. It is also noteworthy that the Seahawks' offensive line has some major concerns and is still a work in progress.
Expect the Steelers defense to impose themselves in the opening preseason matchup and make a statement for what is to come this season. The team will be relying on the production of the front seven to wreak some havoc this year and is a key part of the team's game plan. Look for TJ Watt and the rest of the defensive line to pick up where they left off and get the team going in the opening preseason game.
1. George Pickens Scores a Touchdown
While Kenny Pickett may have stolen most of the attention of the draft class, there is a great deal of buzz surrounding second-round pick George Pickens. The speedy receiver showed some exciting flashes through his first two seasons at Georgia. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his junior year and allowed him to slip to the second round of the draft.
The 21-year-old has impressed early on in camp and he has the size and speed that you hope for in an NFL wide receiver. He has had one of the best training camps on the team and increased expectations for himself greatly. Pickens has decent red-zone size at 6'3″ and the Steelers will look to get him involved to further evaluate him. Quarterback play is the biggest question mark, but given that he is a rookie and currently ranked third on the depth chart, Pickens should be expected to get some notable opportunity throughout the game. Look for him to deliver with a touchdown and further increase expectations for the season.
The Steelers may not be set to truly contend this season but there are still some intriguing storylines to watch. There are a variety of positional battles occurring on the roster as the regular season inches closer. Look for each guy to do their best to separate themselves in the opening preseason matchup.