The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon at home, and this contest will be the team’s third and final preseason game of 2022. While there will understandably be a lot of eyes on several Steelers players who will see action on Sunday against the Lions, I wanted to highlight eight players this week I feel the need to watch closely in this final exhibition contest of 2022.
QB Mitch Trubisky – While he hasn’t done anything to lose the starting quarterback job through two preseason games, Trubisky certainly hasn’t separated himself from rookie Kenny Pickett and fellow veteran Mason Rudolph as much. In Trubisky’s defense, he has played all 28 snaps in the Steelers’ first two preseason games, and that amount pales in comparison to the playing time both 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-of-15 passing in the preseason for 123 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. It would be nice to see him at the peak of the 2022 preseason with his post showing 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 Sunday against the Lions. Harris has asked to play some during the preseason, and according to what coach Mike Tomlin said Friday, the former first-round draft pick out of Alabama will get his wish Sunday at Acrisure Stadium. It’s unknown how much Harris will play Sunday against the Lions, and with good reason. He can only touch the football a few times, so it will be interesting to see how he does in the real game. More importantly, Harris should come away from Sunday’s game time healthy and ready for the start of the 2022 regular season.
G Kevin Dotson – On the surface and based on how things were reported in practice last week, Dotson figures to make his first preseason start of 2022 on Sunday against the Lions. The starting left guard spot is still very much up in the air entering the preseason finale, and so a solid performance by Dotson against the Lions would earn him a starting spot in Week 1. As a whole, the play of the Steelers’ offensive line during the preseason has been way below par, so Dotson could easily come out of Sunday’s game as the best of the bunch 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 touchdown with a long of 25 yards. He’s also done a great job of breaking up tackles after the catch. Theoretically, Vaughns enters the preseason finale on the outside of the roster bubble at the wide receiver position, and that could be largely because he’s not an obvious special teams player. However, anything can happen in this final preseason game and so Vaughns must continue to show to put himself in position for an opening, should one materialize. At worst, Vaughns looks like he has an excellent opportunity to be a practice squad player to open the 2022 regular season. He figures to have plenty of playing time against the Lions.
ILB Mark Robinson – Coo-coo-ca-choo, Mr. Robinson, the Steelers defense needs you more than you know, wo, wo, wo. God bless you, please, Mr. Robinson, 53 has a place for those who can play, hey, hey, hey. Hey, hey, hey. In all seriousness, 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 gets some varsity playing time. He’s locked in on the 53-man roster at this point and is now looking to show he can be able to contribute on defense during the regular season sooner rather than later. Personally, I expect Robinson to play a ton against the Lions and thus lead the team in total tackles. He should be one of the most exciting seventh-round draft picks to watch in the NFL this year.
OLB Hamilcar Rashed Jr. – In a somewhat surprising move last week, the Steelers terminated the contract of outside linebacker Genard Avery, who was signed early in the offseason to potentially be third on the depth chart at his position. With Avery gone, that opens the door for Rashed to not only make the 53-man roster, but also be the primary backup behind starters TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. The early word is that Rashed will start on Sunday against the Lions as Highsmith is once again expected to sit out with a rib injury. Rashed, who was signed after training camp began, played well last week in the team’s preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. If he can build on that performance from last Saturday night, maybe he can jump on the depth chart of outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka. It’s a big 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. Because of his injury, Allen is not a problem to make the 53-man roster. Allen, however, is the current linebacker on the punt team and a special teams player on the line of scrimmage. He also has experience when it comes to playing as a backup inside linebacker and especially in some sub-packages. Allen needs a perfect game Sunday against the Lions, and he needs to show he’s fully healthy in the process. If he can accomplish those two things, he might just secure a spot on the 53-man roster once again. Allen is slated to make $2.54 million in 2022, so Sunday’s game is big for 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. Even so, with veteran safety and special teams ace Miles Killebrew out all summer, we could see Riley get extended playing time on special teams and possibly even a handful of snaps on defense. . Riley isn’t afraid of contact and so if he can play a game or two Sunday against the Lions, just maybe he can make the Week 1 53-man roster if Killebrew has to go on the reserve/injured list. At worst, Riley should have a chance to make the Steelers’ initial 16-man practice squad with a solid debut in a Steelers uniform.