The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night on the road, and that contest will be the team’s second preseason game of 2022. While there will understandably be a lot of eyes on several Steelers players that will see action Saturday night against the Jaguars , I wanted to highlight nine players I feel need to be watched very closely in this second of three-exhibition contest of 2022.
QB Kenny Pickett – After an impressive showing in the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks last weekend, Pickett will get some better-quality playing time Saturday night against the Jaguars as he’s expected to follow starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky into the contest. Pickett maximized a short passing game in his NFL preseason debut last Saturday night and in this game against the Jaguars he should be playing with several offensive starters and likely into the second half. Pickett needs to show he can push the football down the field a little more against the Jaguars and put some points on the board like he did against the Seahawks. Pickett very well could exit Saturday night as the Steelers’ backup quarterback and that could potentially result in the team seriously considering trading away Mason Rudolph.
RB Jaylen Warren – Like Pickett, Warren, a rookie undrafted free agent, had a nice showing last Saturday night against the Seahawks as both a runner and pass catcher. He also showed he could pick up a blitzing linebacker and contribute on special teams. Warren did have a blemish on his NFL preseason debut, however, as he fumbled once. That fumble led to him having to babysit a football all week in training camp. Should Warren have another strong showing against the Jaguars on Saturday night and protect the football in the process, he might just lock up a spot on the 53-man roster.
G Kevin Dotson – After missing the preseason opener against the Seahawks with an ankle injury, Dotson is expected to make his 2022 debut Saturday night against the Jaguars. However, Dotson is not expected to start but should follow Kendrick Green into the game at left guard. Dotson still has a strong shot at winning the starting left guard so it’s imperative that he has a nice game Saturday night against the Jaguars. If Dotson struggles Saturday night, it might be time to worry about the Steelers left guard position for 2022.
T Dan Moore Jr. – After just a so-so preseason opening performance last Saturday night against the Seahawks, Moore figures to get a genuinely nice test against the Jaguars as he’s likely to square off several times against rookie edge rusher Travon Walker, the first overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, in Jacksonville. Walker looked like the real deal in the Jaguars’ first two preseason games so that matchup should be fun to watch Saturday night. Get the popcorn ready for this SEC player on SEC player matchup.
OLB Genard Avery – Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith is not expected to play Saturday night against the Jaguars due to a rib injury so that should set the stage for Avery to make his debut with the team. Avery missed the preseason opener against the Seahawks due to a groin injury but returned to practice this past week. Currently, Avery is expected to be the Steelers backup outside linebacker behind Highsmith and fellow starter TJ Watt so it will be exciting to see the Memphis product get his first action Saturday night. Avery really needs to show something as a pass rusher as he’s already fairly stout against the run, according to his NFL tape to date.
DT Tyson Alualu – I’m hoping that Alualu gets the green light Saturday night against the Jaguars so he can knock whatever rust he might still have at this point off himself. Alualu, who missed most of the 2021 season with an ankle injury that required surgery, started this year’s training camp off on the Active/PUP list with a minor knee issue. While the Steelers’ oldest player on their roster was removed from the Active/PUP list on August 8, he was still held out of the team’s first preseason game last Saturday night against the Seahawks. Should Alualu indeed wind up playing against the Jaguars, his usage will likely be limited. Even so, it would be nice to see him back in the middle of the Steelers’ defensive front just the same as they sorely missed him in 2021.
ILB Devin Bush – In the Steelers’ preseason opener against the Seahawks, Bush was pretty much non-existent as he failed to even register as much as one assisted tackle in that contest in his 15 total defensive snaps played. Bush needs to snap out of whatever funk he’s been in since returning from his 2020 knee injury. To date, Bush has struggled to make splash plays on defense and that includes tackles for losses that aren’t sacks. If he wants to remain the Steelers unquestioned starter for 2022, Bush really needs a strong game Saturday night in Jacksonville against the Jaguars. Should fellow inside linebacker Robert Spillane outplay Bush Saturday night, we might start finding out in the preseason finale if the team’s former first round draft pick out of Michigan can play some on special teams.
S Tre Norwood– Last Saturday night in the preseason opener against the Seahawks Norwood was one of the few Steelers defensive players that played extremely well and that was great to see from the second-year safety. Against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Norwood is likely to get a lot of playing time once again, so the stage is set for him to have strong back-to-back games. Norwood is likely to see increased playing time in his second season with some of that coming as slot defender. A splash play or two Saturday night against the Jaguars, along with a few more pass breakups, is what should be expected based on the way he played last Saturday night at home.
P Pressley Harvin III – A bit surprisingly, Harvin did not play in the Steelers’ preseason opener last Saturday night against the Seahawks. Since then, however, the Steelers parted ways with the other punter they had on their roster, so Harvin is now set to make his 2022 debut against the Jaguars. Harvin reportedly had a great training camp and he needed to after a very disappointing rookie season that included him losing his father around Christmas time. A strong showing against the Jaguars will ease fears when it comes to the Steelers’ punting phase of the game. Here’s to him booming a few in Jacksonville Saturday night.