The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon at home and that game will be the team’s third and final preseason game of 2022. While it’s understandable that there will be a lot of eyes on several Steelers players who will see action on Sunday against the Lions, I wanted to highlight eight players from this week who I feel should be watched very closely in this final exhibition contest of 2022.
QB Mitch Trubisky – While he hasn’t done anything to lose the starting quarterback job in two preseason games, Trubisky certainly hasn’t parted ways with rookie Kenny Pickett and fellow veteran Mason Rudolph in the same way. In Trubisky’s defense, he has played all 28 offensive snaps in the Steelers’ first two preseason games and that number pales in comparison to the playing time Pickett (42) and Rudolph (55) have received. Trubisky has a chance to make a big statement Sunday against the Lions, as he will start the preseason finale and likely play at least three series. To date, Trubisky is 9-for-15 in the preseason for 123 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. It would be great to see him cap off the 2022 preseason showing where he’s been in a Steelers uniform to date.
RB Najee Harris – After missing the first two preseason games with a foot injury, Harris is set to make his 2022 debut on Sunday against the Lions. Harris has been itching to play during the preseason, and head coach Mike Tomlin said Friday, the former first-round pick out of Alabama will get his wish on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium. It is unknown how much Harris will play on Sunday against the Lions and with good reason. He may only touch the ball a few times, so it will be interesting to see how he does it in real game action. More importantly, Harris needs to come out of his playing time on Sunday healthy and ready for the start of the 2022 regular season.
G Kevin Dotson – On the surface and based on how things went last week in practice, Dotson believes he will make his first preseason start of 2022 on Sunday against the Lions. The starting left guard spot is still up in the air before the end of preseason, and so a strong performance from Dotson against the Lions could earn him a starting spot in Week 1. Overall, the line game The Steelers’ offense during the preseason has been way down the line, so Dotson could easily come out of Sunday’s game as the best in the group if he plays well.
WR Tyler Vaughns – With one preseason game remaining, Vaughns has certainly done his best to put himself in contention to make the 53-man roster. Through two preseason games, Vaughns has recorded six receptions for 88 yards and a 25-yard touchdown. He has also done a great job breaking up tackles after the catch. Theoretically, Vaughns enters late in the preseason outside of the roster bubble at wide receiver, and that could be mainly because he’s not a notable special-teams player. Still, anything can happen in this final preseason game, and so Vaughns needs to keep showing up to get himself in position for a start, should it materialize. At worst, it looks like Vaughns has a great shot at being a scrimmage player to open the 2022 regular season. He reckons he’ll get plenty of playing time against the Lions.
ILB Mark Robinson – Coo-coo-ca-choo, Mr. Robinson, the Steelers defense needs you more than you think, oh oh oh. God bless you please Mr. Robinson, 53 has a place for those who know how to play, hey, hey, hey. Hey Hey hey. Seriously, Robinson, one of the Steelers’ seventh-round draft picks this year, has played extremely well in the team’s first two preseason games. On Sunday against the Lions, Robinson hopes to get some college playing time. He’s all but clinched a spot on the 53-man roster at this point and now he’s looking to show that he could contribute defensively during the regular season sooner rather than later. Personally, I expect Robinson to play a lot against the Lions and thus lead the team in total tackles. He has to be one of the most exciting seventh-round picks to watch in the NFL this year.
OLB Amílcar Rashed Jr. – In a somewhat surprising move last week, the Steelers opted out of outside linebacker Genard Avery, who was signed earlier in the offseason to potentially be third in depth at his position. With Avery ruled out, that opens the door for Rashed to not only make the 53-man roster, but also be the main backup behind starters TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. The initial news is that Rashed will start Sunday against the Lions, as Highsmith is expected to sit out once again with a rib injury. Rashed, who was hired after training camp began, played well last week in the team’s preseason road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. If he can build on that performance last Saturday night, he may be able to pass outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka on the depth chart. It’s a great game for him.
ILB Marcus Allen – It’s hard to say for sure if Allen will actually play Sunday against the Lions, as he’s been battling a hamstring injury since training camp began. Due to his injury, Allen is not safe to make the 53-man roster. Allen, however, is the starter on the punt team and a special teams player above the line. He also has experience playing as a backup inside linebacker and especially in some subpacks. Allen needs a flawless game on Sunday against the Lions, and he needs to show that he’s completely healthy in the process. If he can pull off those two things, he could secure a spot on the 53-man roster once again. Allen is scheduled to earn $2.54 million in 2022, so Sunday’s game is important to him financially as well.
S Elijah Riley – The Steelers’ newest player enters Sunday’s game against the Lions as a long shot to make the 53-man roster and for obvious reasons. Still, with veteran safety and special teams ace Miles Killebrew banged up all summer, we may see Riley get extensive playing time on special teams and maybe even a handful of snaps on defense. Riley isn’t afraid of contact and so if he can make a play or two on Sunday against the Lions, maybe he can make the Week 1 53-man roster if Killebrew needs to go to the Reserve/ injured. At worst, Riley should get a chance to make the Steelers’ starting 16-man practice squad with a solid debut in a Steelers uniform.