A ‘different’ preseason finale

“You know, we’re staying true to our mindset in terms of the preseason,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “Those who are injured, we going to leave the light on for them up until the 11th hour. We’ll be optimistic and inclusive about their participation. We’re preparing all three quarterbacks to play – it’ll be Mitch, Kenney, and then Mason. I don’t know how much exposure each will get. It’s really determined by the number of snaps and if we have a level of success in terms of possession downs and time of possession, things like that. But obviously, we ‘re going to continue to get a look at those guys as they state a case for themselves and others.”

The Steelers currently are carrying 80 players on their roster, and by 4 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 30, they must have cut that down to 53 players. And so while there will continue to be a focus on picking the starting quarterback, and getting Harris some carries, the Steelers figure to be tested in other ways, and with jobs or roles hanging in the balance.

In terms of possibly finalizing some evaluations on individuals in advance of those decisions, Tomlin said the Steelers did more in the way of game-planning for this opponent than they had in either of the previous preseason games.

Friday’s final practice in pads before meeting the Lions focused on situational football and possession downs – third downs, red zone, goal-line – that often serve to be the difference between winning and losing.

“We need to give those our attention. We need to have great detail and display greater understanding, and hopefully, it shows in our play,” said Tomlin. “That’s our intention here on Sunday, as we start leaning in on some of this stuff where we’ve got a hardcore game plan and a definitive division of labor, and so we’re excited about that.”

Following Friday’s practice, Tomlin was asked whether he was pleased with how the offensive line had responded this week to that below-the-line performance last Saturday night in Jacksonville, and he insisted he had a wait-and-see perspective on that.

“We’re measured on performance, and so seemingly this has been a good week, but we’ll turn on the tape from Sunday and judge it that way because that’s how we’re always judged,” said Tomlin. “I don’t care about the work I’ve seen (in practice); I care about the performance on Sunday. That’s all that matters. We can talk ourselves into feeling good based on what transpires out here (in practice) or feeling bad. The reality is when the lights come on, we’ve got to do the job. And so, I judge weeks, not only in regards to the offensive line, but all of us based on how we perform in stadiums.”

In addition to looking for a bounce-back game from the offensive line, there also will be interest in the run defense that finished last in the NFL in 2021, a phase that the Lions exploited last season during a regular season game that ended in a 16-16 tie.

“Get your camera ready,” said Tomlin. “We’re game planning to play football this week. And that’s one of the components that’s got our attention.”

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