The Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants get their 2017-18 NFL preseason up and running at the MetLife Stadium today (7pm ET Friday).
High expectations exist for the both this year and now both fans will get a taste of what those expectations might mean. Of course, the veteran starters likely won’t play much, this being the first preseason game and all. That doesn’t mean that eyes won’t be glued to the screens to watch as these two teams show fans the first glimpse into the upcoming season.
Manning and Roethlisberger Out, Backup Quarterbacks In
In a move that should surprise no one, it seems that neither starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger for the Steelers and Eli Manning for the Giants, will be taking the field here. Their top receivers, Odell Beckham (NYG) and Antonio Brown (PIT) are expected to be given the night off as well.
This means that it will be the chance for the backup quarterbacks to shine which is not out of the ordinary by any means in the preseason. However in the case of the Steelers and Giants, two teams who have started the same quarterback every year since 2004, those second string guys could be fighting for a future job in the organization.
Starting for the Steelers will be Joshua Dobbs, a 22-year-old rookie. Dobbs was drafted in the fourth round of this past year’s draft out of Tennessee, where he threw for 27 touchdowns and 2,946 yards in his senior season. This is indeed a fantastic opportunity for Dobbs, who very well could be the one Pittsburgh looks to succeed the 35-year-old Roethlisberger when he eventually retires.
Dobbs will share snaps tonight with the Steelers primary and longtime backup, Landry Jones, who has filled in for Roethlisberger on occasion since 2013 and Bart Houston, another rookie drafted out of Wisconsin. Jones has been a reliable and serviceable back-up in his four plus seasons with the Steelers but due to an abdominal injury he is still recovering from, if he plays at all Friday night, it’s likely to be limited.
Meanwhile, in New York, the Giants continue to audition for the guy who might play Manning’s backup for this season and beyond. Their past track record in this area hasn’t been great. They’ll be looking to either Josh Johnson or Geno Smith to change that.
Perhaps the quintessential backup quarterback, Josh Johnson has spent the last five or so years riding the pine for the Browns, the Bengals, the 49ers, the Colts and the Bills. There if needed, Johnson hasn’t quite been needed. In fact, he hasn’t so much as thrown an NFL pass since the 2011 season. That doesn’t mean however that Johnson is a stretch to win the second-string job because the other option, Geno Smith, hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire in his career either.
Smith was drafted by and up until this year spent his entire career playing for, the ‘other’ New York team, the Jets. Over the past two seasons, the former starter played three games and threw a total of just 60 passes.
Needless to say, the job is pretty open for the Giants and this game, as well as the rest of the preseason, will go a long way to determining which of the two players gets it.
Players to Watch
As I mentioned in my last preseason preview and will likely mention again, defenses are one of the most important things to watch for prior to the regular season. That’s because most teams don’t have the ability to rest the bulk of their defenders. But, like skill players, defenses are just as valuable to a team’s ability to put a winning product on the field.
So, in the preseason, the best thing to watch for is how a team’s defense gels, especially if there are younger players and rookies being put in high pressure and high profile situations. Some of the key players to watch on both teams include:
- (PIT) LB Tyler Matekevich – The second year player out of Temple University, Matekevich has shone in training camp, showcasing his playmaking abilities and intelligence over the past few weeks. Last season, Matekevich totaled 20 tackles and this year is looking to do even more from a playmaking standpoint. His first taste of game action will be a great sign if his training camp dominance can carry over and if it does, you’re looking at someone who could be among the best at his position this year.
- (PIT) CB JaCorey Shepherd – Pittsburgh’s depth chart for defensive backs is pretty bleak right now due to a series of injuries that have struck their top guys. That means that a potential spot to make the team in an impactful role could be available. JaCorey Shepherd, a third year player out of Kansas who is still looking for that breakout, very well could be the beneficiary. He’s been tested in camp but tonight he will be in a big spot with a great opportunity.
- (NYG) BJ Goodson – Another young player, this time out of Clemson, BJ Goodson has been the talk of Giants’ training camp and with good reason. Goodson has been calling plays as the new middle linebacker, a position whose importance cannot be understated. It will be up to him and his defensive line to continue the production of last season when the team allowed just 25 offensive touchdowns, a league low. Goodson played just 13 snaps that year so clearly this is a big spot for him and one he has looked ready for in training camp.
- (NYG) Brandon Marshall – The only offensive player I’m going to put on this list is one who probably won’t even play that much in this game given he is a 12-year veteran of the league. That being said, Brandon Marshall is 33 years old, on a new team, and by the way, is a Pittsburgh native. There are definitely going to be eyes on him this season and Friday will be a good chance for Marshall to show just how much he still has left in the tank.
Our Preview’s Pittsburgh Steelers vs New York Giants Picks & Betting Predictions
- The Giants enter this game as 3.5 point home favorites. It’s hard to handicap a preseason game but given there is a little but more stability as far as New York goes, the betting prediction is to take the Giants -3.5pts @ best odds of -110 with Bovada.
- As for the total pick, look to go under the 37pts on offer with the top rated USA online betting sites because defense should be on display in a big way tonight. The best option is to go under 37 @ -110 with Intertops Sportsbook.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.