W2W4: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) and Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) play Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

  • Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the offensive starters will play at least a half, and look for the Steelers to run the no-huddle attack extensively, matching the fast pace their defense will see from the Eagles. Roethlisberger wants to get work with the no-huddle offense on the road, where he will have to rely on hand signals more because of crowd noise. It will also be interesting to see how much the Steelers run out of their no-huddle offense. They wanted to establish the run with their starters in their first preseason game. Check. They wanted to come out throwing in the no-huddle in their second preseason game. Check. Now it’s time to see the Steelers run the ball extensively out of the no-huddle, as that will be a significant component of their offense this season.

  • An ankle injury to Shamarko Thomas last season provided an opportunity that veteran Will Allen exploited. Allen established himself as the Steelers’ No. 3 safety, relegating Thomas to special-teams duty the rest of the season. Now Allen is nursing a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Steelers’ second preseason game, and the 11th-year veteran might not play against the Eagles. Thomas looks like a different player in his second season, and he drew pretty high praise from coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday. If Thomas wins the job as the Steelers’ No. 3 safety, does that make Allen expendable? It could if the Steelers only keep four safeties and third-year man Robert Golden continues to play well.

  • Roethlisberger challenged wide receiver Martavis Bryant earlier this week to practice with more of a purpose, to practice like Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown. If Roethlisberger isn’t handling the rookie fourth-round pick with kid gloves, that is because the Steelers think Bryant can be an asset in the passing game -- and sooner rather than later. The 6-foot-4, 211-pound Bryant has a unique blend of size and speed, and he is the kind of wideout whom the Steelers have rarely had with Roethlisberger at quarterback. I’d love to see Bryant get some work with the first-team offense. Same with Justin Brown, who has just three catches for 15 yards in two preseason games and has received most of his playing time with the backup quarterbacks.