Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stars to Sit but Plenty to Watch Tonight

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stars to Sit but Plenty to Watch Tonight

Article excerpt

Thanks to Mike Tomlin's truth-in-advertising revelation, we are assured that tonight's preseason opener for the Steelers against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field will lack serious star power.

No Ben Roethlisberger, no Antonio Brown, no Le'Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams or Maurkice Pouncey and probably a lot of other no shows. Among the young players not expected to step on the field are rookie first-round draft pick Artie Burns, who has not practiced since early in camp, and perhaps No. 2 pick Sean Davis, who has a left knee issue. Tight end Ladarius Green, their prime free agent signing, has yet to practice because of headaches. Markus Wheaton has not practiced lately, nor Bud Dupree.

Some exhibition.

It does not mean the game lacks interest for those intrigued by the more blue-collar aspects of the Steelers' building process. In fact, what would be gained by watching Roethlisberger, Brown, Bell and other regulars go through the motions for a few series? Everyone knows what to expect from them.

Here, then, are other areas of competition and development to look for tonight while waiting another month to see the stars come out when the games begin for real:

* Wide receivers Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers starred on the practice fields at Saint Vincent College, Coates on the outside and Rogers in the slot. They have one NFL regular-season catch between them but could play key roles in 2016.

* Jesse James and his gang of tight ends begin the fractured process to replace Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth. Roethlisberger said this week the group has been up and down. Maybe playing simulated real football against the Lions will bring out their true colors, whatever they may be

* Big Dan McCullers and rookie Javon Hargrave, their No. 3 draft pick, take their competition to replace Steve McLendon at nose tackle to the next level. They have contrary styles that should be evident. McCullers is a massive man who cannot be moved and bull-rushes the center. Hargrave is smaller and quicker and more in the McLendon style who can also play end.

* The No. 3 halfback competition - or No. 2 if Bell's four-game suspension for violating NFL drug rules sticks - is tight among a group of backs who include last season's playoffs starter Fritz Toussaint along with Daryl Richardson, Cameron Stingily and rookies Brandon Brown-Dukes and Christian Powell. …

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