Heinz Field hosts the first game of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ preseason on Friday night in Pittsburgh. The new look Steelers without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will look to surprise in the AFC this season. Of course, Bell held out last season so it’s not brand new, but now we know it’s official that Bell will not be playing with the Steelers.
Brown signed with the Oakland Raiders, so Ben Roethlisberger will be down a major weapon in 2019. If there’s any positive to from the move is the fact that the Big Ben-Antonio drama is gone. There won’t be any Le’Veon rumors in the media to worry about, either. I think we heard more about those two things than anything on the field for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh did not go to the playoffs last season, as they finished with a 9-6-1 record in the AFC North. The Ravens edged out the Steelers at 10-6-0 to win the division. It’s hard to see the Steelers missing out if Bell was playing last season, but having said that, James Conner showed several positive signs in his second season in the NFL. He rushed for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 497 receiving yards and a score in the passing game.
JuJu Smith-Schuster moves into the No. 1 role for the Steelers with Antonio’s departure. He’s fully capable of handling that job, but for the first time in his career, there is no decoy to take pressure off him. Smith-Schuster is going to be the go-to guy, while James Washington flanks him to combine for a fairly potent duo.
Washington, in his second season, is expected to have a breakout campaign. He certainly has to be considered as a fantasy sleeper. Roethlisberger has already been ruled out for this one. Joshua Dobbs is expected to take the first snaps for Pittsburgh.
On the other side, there is pressure on Jameis Winston to move the ball in the preseason and play the part as a starting quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is waiting to steal his spot if Winston struggles early the season. Head below for our free Buccaneers vs. Steelers pick for Week 1 of the preseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason Week 1 Betting Odds:
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Buccaneers vs. Steelers Pick:
Ben Roethlisberger has missed some practices recently, but Mike Tomlin has stressed that it isn’t injury related. At 37 years old, it could just be as simple as giving Ben a break and not pushing him too far in training camp. We are well aware of what he brings to the table.
He doesn’t have to go through the gauntlet and play in the first game of the preseason. A couple of brief appearances should be enough to get him ready for the regular season. This presents a tremendous opportunity for Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph.
Dobbs and Rudolph and have been getting plenty of work with the first team in camp. Tomlin and the coaching staff have been getting a better look at those two with Roethlisberger out of practice. Dobbs and Rudolph are currently competing for the backup spot on the roster.
Dobbs was No. 2 on the depth chart last season, but the Steelers spent a third-round pick on Rudolph last season. He’s going to have a chance to prove that he can be the eventual replacement for Roethlisberger as the starter in Pittsburgh. Reports have suggested that Rudolph looks a lot more confident and better than he was as a rookie.
Rudolph said it himself that he feels much better than last year. This is a big preseason for him, as he should be playing with something to prove. Dobbs is playing for something as well. That should bode well for the offense against the Buccaneers on Friday night. Expect Devlin Hodges, who put up monster numbers at Samford, to see the field at some point in this game as well. Dobbs and Rudolph are going to get the bulk of the snaps, though.
For the Bucs, there is pressure on Jameis Winston to perform. Bruce Arians must get through to him and try to help his quarterback from avoiding boneheaded decisions. If it happens too much, expect Blaine Gabbert to put be playing plenty in 2019. Winston is going to be scrutinized even in the preseason, so he has to be sharp. It’s a new offense and I’m sure Arians wants to give his starter some extra looks to get accustomed in the preseason.
Apparently, Gabbert has picked things up quickly and is looking sharp already. Behind Gabbert, 29-year-old Ryan Griffin, who has had experience playing in the preseason since 2013, should look adequate against third and fourth-string units. The Tampa offense averaged 24 points per game last preseason, while the Steelers put up 30 points per game in a very successful preseason for the backups. Dobbs and Rudolph threw for a combined 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. I like a 23-20 or 26-20 game here, so the OVER looks like a solid option.