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Breaking Down the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2012 NFL Preseason Schedule
While final dates and times for all games have yet to be confirmed, the NFL released its preseason schedule for 2012 yesterday. Let’s take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ four opponents and what we can expect to see in each of the contests.
Preseason Week 1: at Philadelphia Eagles (TBD)
Week 1 of the preseason is generally when rookies, second-stringers and other on-the-bubble members of the roster really get evaluated, and it’s also a time when the playbook is at its most basic, with more complex tweaks resulting from what the coaches see.
This is doubly true for the Steelers, who have a new offensive coordinator (Todd Haley) this year. We won’t be seeing much of the starters, so it will be a good time to evaluate whichever quarterback is behind Ben Roethlisberger, look at the team’s running back depth and see what may come of their rookies on both sides of the ball.
What to watch for: The return of running back Baron Batch; the performance of the back-up quarterback and whether that man is Charlie Batch or someone else; the performance of offensive line depth.
Preseason Week 2: vs. Indianapolis Colts (Aug. 19)
In this contest, we’ll get a bit of extended play out of the offensive and defensive starters, and it should be interesting to see how the Steelers defense reacts to meeting Andrew Luck and the new-look Colts for the very first time. The key will be to successfully bring pressure to a quarterback thought to be pro-ready from day one.
Otherwise, it’s about talent evaluation. The players on the bubble will continue shrinking, and those who don’t perform well in this game could find themselves cut the next day. Also, look for how well Roethlisberger has retained chemistry with his receiving corps, and if they bring on another wideout this year, how well he integrates into the system.
What to watch for: Ability to bring pressure on Andrew Luck; how well the Steelers defense stops the run; the Pittsburgh run game; the run-pass ratio of the Steelers’ offense.
Preseason Week 3: at Buffalo Bills (TBD)
Week 3 is the closest teams get to a real, regular season-style game, so expect both sides’ starters to play for the majority of this game. The Buffalo Bills have made major upgrades on defense, so this will be a major test of the Steelers line and Roethlisberger’s ability to evade pressure.
It will also be a major test of the Pittsburgh ground game, which had trouble getting started last year behind a troubled line. On defense, the Steelers will be looking to stifle the Bills passing game; last year, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had flashes of greatness. This will help illuminate any areas the Steelers secondary could serve to improve.
What to watch for: The Steelers’ offensive line’s ability to protect Roethlisberger and execute run blocking; the Steelers secondary on the Bills receivers; ability to bring pressure on Fitzpatrick; any rookies or new additions who shine; improved tackling.
Preseason Week 4: vs. Carolina Panthers (TBD)
Mobile quarterback Cam Newton comes to town with the Carolina Panthers in Week 4 of preseason, but don’t expect him on the field much. This is the final game that roster maybes can latch onto a bench or even a rotational spot, so player evaluation will be a major component of this game.
This will be the game that determines just what role Baron Batch will play in the team’s running back rotation. It will also determine if they’ve made the right positional assignments on offensive line—a second-stringer might be able to step up and take a starting spot from someone with marginal performance.
What to watch for: How the offensive play calling has evolved; how well the Steelers can run the ball; linebacker depth; who is and isn’t working on special teams.