Coach Mike Tomlin wasted no time naming a starting quarterback this week, but he isn't going to spill the beans just yet on who will be in uniform on Sunday.
Tomlin said on Monday that Antonio Brown is a candidate to return kicks, if he is dressed for the game. But it's still a battle between him and fellow wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a spot this week. And they aren't the only rookies competing for a chance to be in uniform.
"We've got some really young players on our football team, and in order for us to be a good team these guys got to be better players in the later part of the year than they are now," said Tomlin. "Competition is the truest motivator. I'm going to pit one against the other, whether it is Sanders vs. Brown or (Jason) Worilds vs. (Thaddeus) Gibson or so forth. You keep those guys working and edgy. We're going to need those guys to become and be better players over the long haul if we're going to have the chance to be good. I'm going to hold my cards till the later part of the week and keep those guys guessing a little bit."
Picking the 45 players who will dress on game day is sometimes an easy task, but not at the beginning of the season and Tomlin wants to see how the week plays out before making any final decisions.
"It's always more difficult this time of year than later in the year because many of those decisions are made for you due to injury as you get into the season," said Tomlin. "But I wouldn't say difficult, I look at that decision making process with great optimism about what these guys are capable of providing for us and the opportunity. I think they're the reason why we are fired up and that's why we kept most of them."
It's unusual for the Steelers to be underdogs at home, but that is the case this week as they prepare to host the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field and it's helping to light a fire.
"It motivates each player in this room when they tell you what you can't do," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "It doesn't matter what people say, as long as we believe in each other. We are going to be underdogs all year, especially the first four games with the uncertainly at quarterback and youth on our team. We play better as underdogs."
One thing the players do know is that the Steelers faithful will be behind them, providing a home field advantage that will be tough for the Falcons to combat.
"We can play that role," said linebacker Keyaron Fox of being an underdog. "We know what we are capable of and with our fans behind us we can't let that happen. It will put a chip on my shoulder. I will practice a little harder."
The Steelers made a change to their practice squad, releasing defensive end Doug Worthington. Worthington, who was waived on the final roster cut and signed to the practice squad, was drafted this year in the seventh round out of Ohio State.
Taking his spot on the squad is another defensive end, Al Woods. Woods, who played at LSU, was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round this year but waived on the final cut.