The Pittsburgh Steelers are nearing the two-week countdown until they take on the New England Patriots in Week 1 of the regular season. Until then, the Steeler have two more preseason games that need to be played.
The Steelers began their preseason schedule versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pittsburgh was able to squeak out a narrow victory over the Buccaneers by the score of 30-28.
None of the starters saw the field against Tampa Bay but a decent bit of them saw the field in Week 2 of the preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers improved their record to 2-0 in the preseason after defeating the Chiefs 17-7.
Now, the Steelers are entering their third preseason game where they will take on the Tennessee Titans. The Titans come into this game with a 1-1 record in the preseason after a 22-17 loss against the Patriots last week.
For the Steelers, Mike Tomlin is treating this week as a simulation of a standard week leading up to a game on Sunday. The Steelers and Titans will play their third preseason games on Sunday Night Football on NBC.
With that being said, here are three questions that the Steelers face as they get ready for their third preseason game.
3. How long will we see the starters?
Again, due to the game falling on Sunday night, Tomlin hasn’t treated the week ahead of the game like a typical preseason game. We should see Ben Roethlisberger for the first time this preseason but how long will the starters remain on the field?
The third week of the preseason is usually used as a ‘dress rehearsal’ week for teams to allow their starters to get into a rhythm ahead of the regular season. Therefore, there is a possibility that we see Roethlisberger and the starters play into the second quarter.
As for James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, both of them have received some reps this preseason but it’s been minuscule. The Steelers could likely use this week of the preseason to get acclimated to their offense without Antonio Brown.
Nevertheless, Pittsburgh still expects to have a high-powered offense in 2019. On Sunday night, we could see a sneak-peek of what their offense could look like with their new-look trio of skill players.
2. Who is the third receiver in the offense?
Currently, the Steelers seem to be set at their first two receiver spots on the depth chart. Smith-Schuster and Donte Moncrief are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively but who will join them as the third receiver in the offense?
Throughout the preseason, second-year wideout James Washington has gotten plenty of snaps with the other quarterbacks on the roster. In two exhibition games, Washington has caught eight passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Last year, in his rookie campaign, Washington struggled to get acclimated in the offense. At the end of 2018, the rookie receiver out of Oklahoma State had just 16 catches for 217 yards and a score.
By the looks of the situation, Washington seems to have the third receiver spot secured but Ryan Switzer, Eli Rogers, and rookie Diontae Johnson are also competing for a role in the offense. Washington and company have just two weeks left to prove themselves worthy.
1. Who will be the backup quarterback?
Entering training camp, the Steelers knew that they were going to be in for a competition for the backup quarterback spot between Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph. Both quarterbacks have hashed it out in preseason but there still doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut winner yet.
Through both preseason games, Dobbs has completed 11 of his 19 passing attempts for 180 yards and an interception. For Dobbs, he is able to create plays with his legs, rushing for 49 yards on three carries in the preseason.
As for Rudolph, the second-year quarterback has completed 15 of his 23 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. This week, we may see a preview of how the depth chart unfolds when the regular season begins.
Of course, Roethlisberger will start the game under center but who follows Roethlisberger will be important. The Steelers need to figure out who will be the No. 2 quarterback and Sunday night should give us some answers to who has the edge as of now.