The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot to figure out and just two weeks to do so. Here are the players with the most to prove against the Jaguars.
Call me crazy, but I always love the NFL preseason. I get to watch the potential future of the team make their splash for the first time and get a really good feel for which players could succeed in the NFL and who will fall short of expectations.
This is a new era for the Pittsburgh Steelers, so there’s even more incentive to tune in. While some young players were quite impressive in Week 1 of the 2022 preseason, others either missed the contest due to injury or still have plenty to prove. Here are the players who have the most to prove this Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars:
Benny Snell must prove his worth to the Steelers
With Snell nursing an injury during the first preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, backup running backs Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Warren, and even Master Teague exploded for big showings — each averaging between 5.2-8.0 yards per carry on the evening. These performances are great for the team, but probably not so much for a player like Snell.
The fourth-year running back has missed ample practice time on the sidelines while his younger, more explosive teammates continue to impress. Teague probably is no longer competition for Snell, as an ankle injury has left him in crutches and a walking boot, but it’s possible that McFarland and Warren could steal the final two spots on the roster.
Snell needs to show a whole lot more than he has during training camp this week against the Jaguars, and special teams ability alone may not cut it at this point. He has a lot to prove to his coaches this week.
Kevin Dotson must do two things vs Jaguars
I think that Kevin Dotson is a better player than Kendrick Green — I have little reserves about that. However, something that has plagued Dotson early in his NFL career is lower-body injuries. In 2021, Dotson missed the entire second half of the season with a high-ankle sprain. Now during training camp, the former fourth-round pick has picked up with yet another ankle injury.
Dotson missed the first preseason game — which would have been a great opportunity to prove himself. Not only does he need to get back on the field this week, but he also needs to confirm to the coaching staff that he is indeed the best option at left guard. Green will be the starter this week, so Dotson will really have to step up his game.
Kenny Pickett needs a repeat performance
Of the players listed, Kenny Pickett is the only one who both saw the field and had a good performance in Week 1 of the preseason. Now it’s very important for his cause to have a repeat showing against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It appears that Pickett has surpassed Mason Rudolph for the QB2 on the depth chart for the time being, but putting up a dud performance this week could have them reversing roles. The Steelers are almost certain to go with Mitch Trubisky as the starter to begin the 2022 season, and if they don’t think that Pickett is the best option to see the field in a pinch, Rudolph will retain his job as Pittsburgh’s backup.
How well Pickett performs this week could determine how early he could see the field in 2022 — especially if Trubisky starts to struggle.
Justin Layne is on the outside looking in
The Steelers have given this third-round pick a lot of opportunities in his career, but Justin Layne just doesn’t seem like he’s been able to take the next step forward in his development. This is a shame, as his physical traits for the CB position were off the charts when he was selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.
At 6’2” with long arms, we would have hoped that Layne would have become a quality starting boundary cornerback, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, he’s currently on the outside looking in at a roster spot. Layne is still just 24 years old and was a former wide receiver to start his college career, but hope is dwindling on his chances of making it work for the Steelers. He needs a huge showing against the Jaguars.
Devin Bush needs to silence critics
If anyone has the most to prove in this contest it’s Devin Bush. I have been at the frontline when it comes to criticizing Bush for his performance, and it’s well warranted. Despite spending a first and second-round draft choice to move up to get him in 2019, Bush has been a colossal bust so far.
It’s hard to pinpoint if it’s a lack of awareness, lack of effort, or lack of physicality, but it appears to be a combination of everything. Bush might still be listed as a starter, but the team is going to be looking for better options if he has another disgusting performance in the preseason this week. He needs to play like his hair is on fire.
There are plenty of other players that fans will be narrowing in on during this contest, but these five players still have a lot to prove in the Steelers second preseason game against the Jaguars.