AFC North: Evander Ziggy Hood
August, 13, 2009
By James Walker | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
It will be the first time both teams take the field since quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's game-winning drive to earn Pittsburgh's sixth NFL title.
Here are some things to look for:
|Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner meet Thursday night in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIII.|
- The starters won't play much for Pittsburgh, but it will be interesting to see if the offensive line sets the tone early. The Steelers struggled up front all last season yet opted to keep the unit together for continuity. The team believes playing together another year will strengthen this weakness, and Thursday against the Cardinals will be the initial test of that theory.
- Roethlisberger has been up-and-down during the early portion of training camp. In particular his deep throws haven't been crisp. Roethlisberger recently complained that his arm doesn't feel as strong due to his inactivity in the offseason. This doesn't seem to be a major concern for the Steelers, as throwing every day in training camp should eventually help Roethlisberger regain his form. Still, his performance early in the preseason will be something to monitor.
- How will new starters Lawrence Timmons and William Gay fit in at linebacker and cornerback, respectively? Pittsburgh is very confident that these two young players will easily replace dependable veterans in Larry Foote and Bryant McFadden. McFadden happens to return to Heinz Field as a member of the Cardinals.
- Preseason always provides a good opportunity to get an extended look at rookie players. For Pittsburgh, first-round pick Evander "Ziggy" Hood and third-round receiver Mike Wallace have been the most impressive rookies so far in training camp. Look for them to get a lot of playing time. Also, rookie offensive linemen Kraig Urbik and A.Q. Shipley will get a chance to see if they can eventually contribute on the offensive line.
- Pittsburgh punter Daniel Sepulveda will see his first game action Thursday in nearly two years. Sepulveda tore his ACL in his knee and sat out the entire 2008 season. The Steelers struggled with punting all last year, but the special teams expect to get a big boost in that area with Sepulveda's return.