Players to Watch in Pittsburgh Steelers Third Preseason Game

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The third preseason game is typically known as a dress rehearsal game for most NFL teams. That holds true for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the fourth game, teams are looking to make those last decision roster moves. In those final preseason games the bottom end players usually get the majority of playing time so they have a final chance to prove themselves. Therefore, the third preseason game is when the Steelers will be giving their starters significant reps to see how they look in game action.

Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Le’Veon Bell may not suit up due to past injuries. However, Ben Roethlisberger and all of the other healthy starters, will probably play at least a quarter. Below are five players whose roles and usage should be monitored in the third preseason game.

Players to Watch in Pittsburgh Steelers Third Preseason Game

Eli Rogers

With Ben Roethlisberger set to step on the field for the first time, all eyes should be on who he is passing the ball to. Markus Wheaton has been injured in training camp so Sammie Coates and Rogers have been able to get plenty of snaps to prove themselves. Rogers has shown great footwork and reliable hands and he has essentially won the job in the slot. If he can show the same abilities with Roethlisberger throwing him the ball, Rogers is going to become a sleeper in fantasy football this year.

Sammie Coates

Coates was a player to watch in the second preseason game as well, and he was mostly a dud. He showed a lack of urgency and the finger can be pointed at both him and Landry Jones on two of Jones’ interceptions. It is frustrating because it is easy to see Coates’ talent, and the coaching staff is giving him chances, but he has proven to be unreliable. With Roethlisberger playing, the hope is that Wheaton will be back, and if Rogers is in the slot, the coaching staff would have to force Coates in if they want him to take snaps with Roethlisberger. If Wheaton does sit, it is still unknown if he can beat out Darrius Heyward-Bey as an option that the starting quarterback trusts. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Steelers third preseason game. 

L.J. Fort

L.J. Fort has been efficient and effective on both special teams and defense so far in the preseason. Fort was an undrafted free agent from Northern Iowa in 2012. He has been signed six times in four seasons, including being signed by the Seattle Seahawks as a potential fullback. That said, Fort has only been on three 53-man rosters. He made the Steelers practice squad last season and was called up to the 53-man roster but was inactive and did not dress for any games.

This season Fort is competing with Tyler Matakevich, a seventh-round pick. He is also a favorite of some beat reporters. Fort has outplayed Matakevich snap-wise on both special teams and in the linebacker position. His play has been solid, to say the least. It will be interesting to see how they rotate Fort in with the linebackers. Who will earn the roster spot with only two preseason games to go. 

Javon Hargrave

Javon Hargrave has rotated in as a defensive tackle in the nickel, as well as a nose tackle in the 3-4. He has been impressive in both situations. Hargrave has also rushed the passer with a great first step. He uses his leverage to take up lanes against the run. The Steelers even dropped him into coverage and he effectively had a solid drop while playing zone defending Ryan Mathews. Hargrave has the makings to be the biggest rookie impact this season. While the team has opened both preseason games in a 2-4-5 nickel, he could potentially take the field with the starters in their base 3-4 defense.

Jesse James

The longer the Ladarius Green news drags on the more important Jesse James’ role with the team becomes. With Heath Miller retired, and his replacement potentially on the shelf; the depth and experience at the tight end becomes minuscule. James is a fourth round pick and hardly saw the field as a rookie. In his first two preseason games, James has shown why he has not seen the field much; mainly due to blocking concerns. It should not come as a surprise if the Steelers get James as many reps as they can with Roethlisberger. They will want to see if he can step his game up. James must protect Roethlisberger from pass rushers as well as prove to be a potential receiving threat. 

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