Steelers vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch for during the Battle of Pennsylvania
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles meet on Thursday night in their annual Battle of Pennsylvania preseason game.
Let’s look at the top three things to watch for on Thursday night as the Steelers and Eagles kick off the official NFL Preseason.
Thu, August 12 2021, 11:30 PM
1. Who will back up Big Ben?
Ben Roethlisberger is the obvious starter going into the 18th season of his Hall of Fame career. However, there is quite the battle behind him for the second and third string positions. Mason Rudolph is the returning backup, but the signing of Dwayne Haskins and the recent performance of Joshua Dobbs have this battle heating up.
After Haskins was released by the Washington Football Team and signed by the Steelers, he seemed destined to be the No. 2 man behind Roethlisberger with the likelihood of fighting for the starting job after Big Ben’s retirement. However, Dobbs and Mason still have something to say about that.
In the Hall of Fame Game last Thursday night, Dobbs impressed with a 32-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Rudolph started the game and failed to put up any points in three drives. Haskins, meanwhile, put up 10 points in four drives in second string duty and went 8-13 passing for 54 yards.
2. Is Snell ready for primetime?
Pittsburgh has declared their first round pick, Najee Harris, as the starter and “bell cow” back for this upcoming season. However, there is still a massive battle behind him for roster spots and possible playing time in specific situations. Last year, Benny Snell was the clear backup and stepped into starting roles when James Connor was limited or out, but he did not necessarily impress in that role.
Anthony McFarland seems to have a defined role as a speed and change-of-pace running back. He should clearly make the roster over Jaylen Samuels in this position. However, there is still a battle between Snell and Kalen Ballage for the primary backup role to Harris.
Snell has the unfortunate disadvantage of missing the HOF game due to injury and not impressing last season in a backup role. Ballage had a decent game on Thursday night when he went for 19 yards and a touchdown on five carries.
3. Who will rise to the top of Philly's WR corps?
The wide receiver position has been a nightmare for the Philadelphia Eagles the past few seasons. They attempted to fill that position of need by drafting Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith out of Alabama in the first round. They also have their 2020 first round pick, Jalen Reagor, returning for his second season.
Smith and Reagor will be the clear top two targets with Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham having definite roster spots behind them. However, there are three other receivers that will be vying for a roster spot and there may only be one spot available.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 2019 draft, but has yet to make his mark on the league in actual games. John Hightower and Quez Watkins were late round draft picks in 2020 and will be competing with Arcega-Whiteside for that final spot.
All three players provide a different skill set and it will be interesting to see which guy can step up in the preseason to stand out as a needed role to make the roster.