By Jeremy Hritz
It’s an important week for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as they prepare for their first preseason contest of the year this coming Saturday at Acrisure Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks at 7:00 pm. The work invested in camp for the players and coaches will now be put to its first test, and there are several players with much to prove to show they can contribute to the team in 2022, and in some cases, show they deserve to be on the 53-man roster. As we launch into the second week of August, here are 3 players who not only are in need of crisp practices the next few days, but also standout performances against the Seahawks this weekend.
Kendrick Green, G
Kendrick Green has much to prove in his first preseason contest. Last season, he was thrust into the position of starting at center as a rookie, and while there were some moments of solid play, the majority of his snaps were below the line. Green struggled with anchoring against powerful defensive linemen, and was often driven into the backfield causing disruption and busted plays. In camp, this trend has continued, and you have to wonder whether or not this trait is correctable. Green will get plenty of snaps on Saturday evening, and it will go a long way if he can hold his own at the line of scrimmage and not allow himself to be overpowered. Despite his athleticism and ability to move, if he cannot hold up against power, you have to question his value to the team.
Justin Layne, CB
Now in his 4th season, it’s time for Justin Layne to show he belongs with the Steelers as an NFL corner. Layne has struggled in coverage, allowing receivers to get behind him, and as a result, relying on grabbiness to prevent a big play, while at the same time generating pass interference flags. This has reared its head at camp this summer, and it is something that Layne will need to clean up to maintain his spot with the team. There was hope when Layne was drafted out of Michigan State with his measurables (length and speed), that he could potentially develop into a starting cornerback, or at worst, a solid #3. That just hasn’t happened, and he needs a productive game to show there is still room for growth to sustain his spot on the 53-man roster.
Mason Rudolph, QB
All eyes will be on the quarterback position this weekend, as the competition for the starting job continues to on the line, or so we’re led to believe. All throughout camp, it has been reported that Mason Rudolph has outplayed both Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, while the last few practices Trubisky has evened up the competition, and Pickett has shown improvement. I am still seeing the flat-footedness from Rudolph in practice and the lack of pocket awareness, and against the Seahawks, he will need to show this is not an issue in his game. I am still of the belief he is on the trading block and prior to the end of camp, I would not be surprised to see him moved for a 6th or 7th rounder. However, if Rudolph can show the coaching staff he has progressed and overcome his deficiencies in pocket presence, it may be enough to keep him around for the season as insurance if Trubisky falters and if the organization does not believe that Pickett is ready. Rudolph will get plenty of snaps on Saturday in what will be the first round in the intensely watched QB battle, and he needs to show he can be the player the Steelers drafted him to be.