Thursday, August 09, 2012

Steelers Preseason Game 1 Watchlist

For the most part, the preseason is a bunch of meaningless games that try to determine, once and for all, whose third team defensive end is better than whose fourth team offensive tackle.  But, there are some things to watch for in every game and not just when the starters are on the field (though that's mostly what to watch for).

Here's what I'll be watching:
  1. Because I keep meaning to write something about Mike Wallace and keep not doing so, here's what I think: Until he reports to camp, nothing's going to happen with his contract.  I keep hoping that this situation will work out like it did with Hines Ward back in the day.  Both sides hem and haw and dig their feet into the ground until one side-- always the player, never the team -- relents, reports, and begins negotiating.  Until that happens, the coffee table in my living room knows about as much about what's going on as anyone else.  I really hope it happens, because Wallace is the only guy the Steelers have on offense that scares defenses.  Sanders, Brown, Heath, Redman, they're all great guys and good players, but they don't scare anyone.  For this offense to be really productive, I think they need a guy who scares people.
  2. There has been a lot of talk thus far about Mike Adams and David DeCastro struggling in practice.  They're both going to be starting tonight, so I want to check them out and see if they struggle in games when it really matters.  Well, it doesn't really matter matter tonight, but it matters more than practice.
  3. Chris Rainey.  He had some issues fielding kicks cleanly in practice, but everyone's also talking about how fast and explosive he is.  I want to see how fast he looks when other people are chasing him and really trying to catch him.  I'm excited about Rainey this season.  I think he adds a scary element to the offense.  If he's the guy that scares defenses, we still need Wallace, though.  Rainey will only be able to scare them for 10-12 plays a game.  Wallace scares them for the entire game.  Having both makes them... well, it makes them scarier.
  4. With James Harrison and Jason Worilds both on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, Chris Carter starts tonight at Harrison's position.  I'd like to see how he does against Philly's first team and how he stands up to the challenge.  Hopefully, he'll play angry and show the NFL Hall of Fame voters that he belongs in Canton.
  5. It sounds like Cortez Allen has the inside track to the second cornerback job opposite Ike Taylor.  I'll have a close eye on Allen, but I'm also curious to see how Keenan Lewis and Curtis Brown look.  Lewis had the inside track on that job before camp started and Brown was a dark horse candidate to grab it.  The popular theory is that, whoever loses the competition, the Steelers win.  They'll have a solid #2 guy and depth at the #3 and #4 depth chart positions.  My theory -- until I see them in-game -- is that when you have three guys fighting for a job, you have no guys that are worthy of the job.  If you need further evidence of this, look at the three guys fighting for the starting quarterback job in Seattle.
  6. I think the Steelers took a pretty big step forward on special teams last season.  I want to confirm that wasn't a fluke.
As things stand right now, the optimism I was feeling after the draft is waning.  I assume that Wallace will be back in the line-up when the season starts, but I don't know that he will and I also don't have many valid reasons upon which to base that assumption.

The offensive line is new and it's younger, but I have no idea if that translates to them actually being better.  I have to see for myself, but the reports I've been hearing from camp haven't inspired me with confidence.

The defense is another year older and I actually think the overall talent level on defense has improved, but I also think that they need to stay 100% healthy this season to match last season's success.  And, with all the guys they have on the wrong side of 30 and the fact that no defense in the history of ever has gone a full season without anyone getting hurt, I don't see them staying 100% healthy, so I'd really welcome a chance to see the third defensive end, because he might be starting by the end of the year.

I'm excited for kickoff, I'm looking forward to the upcoming season, but I'm also anxious as hell.

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