The Pittsburgh Steelers start their 2021 preseason Thursday night, and here are some players to keep your eye on during the game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys will square off Thursday night in the annual Hall of Fame game. This game doesn’t just kick off the 2021 season, but also marks the first of four preseason games for both Pittsburgh and Dallas.
In the first preseason game, the veterans are not expected to play much, if at all, so getting excited for these exhibition games can be difficult for some. With that said, I decided to list five offensive players to keep an eye on during the Hall of Fame game.
Kendrick Green — Center — No. 53
Green is expected to start at center, and all eyes will be on the 2021 NFL Draft third round draft pick. Can Green be the starter? Who knows, but he will get the first shot at proving his worth on Thursday night. Keep an eye on not only the snaps, but his mobility and pulling on run plays, and how he handles the pass rush from bigger defensive linemen.
Dan Moore Jr. — Offensive Tackle — No. 65
Most thought Moore Jr. was nothing more than a developmental tackle when he was drafted out of Texas A&M, but he has been making waves during training camp. He is projected to start at left tackle Thursday night, and Moore has shown a mean streak some didn’t see coming. Moore will get a chance to prove himself as a potential swing backup tackle, or a player who is inactive on game days starting Thursday.
Dwayne Haskins — Quarterback — No. 3
Possibly the most polarizing player on the Steelers’ roster, Haskins has made it known he has bigger plans than just being a backup to Ben Roethlisberger. Haskins has had a solid camp to date, but anyone who has watched the NFL for any length of time knows practice and games, albeit meaningless games, are vastly different. Will Haskins look like a former first round draft pick, or the dud who was cut by the Washington Football Team? Only time will tell, but all eyes will be on Haskins when he is in the lineup.
Anthony McFarland Jr. — Running Back — No. 26
McFarland missed some practice time this week, so his availability isn’t known; however, he is someone fans should be excited to see play. He, like all of the 2020 NFL Draft class, didn’t have a preseason last year. He didn’t get the opportunity to get his feet wet and learn the NFL game. Getting to see McFarland in the preseason will go a long way to proving if he will, or won’t, be the change of pace back the Steelers hope he becomes.
Pat Freiermuth — Tight End — No. 88
Like McFarland, Freiermuth left practice Tuesday with a shoulder injury. He didn’t return to practice, and no one knows if he will even suit up for the Steelers Thursday night. Nonetheless, if/when Freiermuth does play fans should be keeping an eye out for No. 88. He has drawn comparisons to Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, but this is when a large contingent of the Steelers fan base will ask the same question in unison, “Yeah, but can he block?” Only one way to find out…
Najee Harris — Running Back — No. 22
Harris left practice for a rep, or two, Tuesday with an apparent shoulder injury, but returned to practice. Mike Tomlin said all rookies will play some in all four preseason games, but I don’t expect to see much of Harris Thursday night. My prediction is he will play a drive to start the game and then be done.
Trai Turner — Offensive Guard — No. 51
It would be rare to see a veteran like Turner play in the first preseason game, but learning a new system, and with a new team, can change those plans. If Turner does start the game, even if briefly, keep an eye on the Steelers’ free agent pickup who is expected to start at right guard.
James Washington — Wide Receiver — No. 13
The Steelers’ wide receiver corps is solidified, but you can’t rest all five players the entire game. This is when someone like James Washington will get a ton of repetitions. Look for Washington to continue to make plays and prove his worth within the offense.
For more detail on the above list, check out the “Let’s Ride” podcast on the topic: