Typically, the third preseason game is referred to as a dress rehearsal, primarily because that's the game when coaches choose to play their starters, and play their starters for the longest period of time. And for the Steelers, it's also a dress rehearsal in the manner in which the coaches prepare the players for the game, because Coach Mike Tomlin chooses to switch to an in-season schedule once the team leaves Saint Vincent College and returns to Pittsburgh and the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
"We're excited about a simulation week from a prep standpoint, and hopefully it's displayed in our play, in the speed with which we play, and in the quality and detail of our execution across all three phases of the game," said Tomlin. "That's our intention.
"Also we're excited because there's going to be a possibility that everyone is going to play. I'm talking about our first units, our veteran players who are healthy, we're not removing anyone from participation in this game. Ben will play. We don't have specific detail in terms of division of labor at this point in terms of quarterback participation beyond that, such as who's going to play (after Roethlisberger), and how long they're going to play. Our energy right now is just that first group with Ben, and getting those guys in the game and getting some exposure there, and hopefully experiencing some success and then moving on from there."
Before each of the first two preseason games, Tomlin laid out a specific plan for the play of Josh Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, and Devlin Hodges. Dobbs started the preseason opener, Rudolph relieved, and then Hodges finished up. For the second game, Rudolph started, Dobbs relieved, and then Hodges finished up.
With the competition to be Ben Roethlisberger's backup ongoing, Tomlin said he had not decided which quarterback would be the second to enter the game vs. the Titans, and he also said not to attach any significance to the decision he ultimately makes with respect to who follows Roethlisberger.
Another issue is health.
"Just like we've done through the first two preseason games, there are a number of guys who are battling day-to-day injuries and have missed practice time, but we weigh this element of their evaluation heavily, so we'll leave the light on for those guys," said Tomlin. "We won't eliminate anybody right now, and maybe even a couple of guys will have workouts at the stadium during the pregame in an effort to give them every opportunity to participate."
As for placekickers Chris Boswell and Matthew Wright, and punters Jordan Berry and Ian Berryman, Tomlin said there will be a change as to how they'll be used in Nashville.
"We're going halves this week," said Tomlin. "We've been going every other kick, and so this time we want to give them an opportunity to gain some rhythm and see how they're able to deliver when they're making back-to-back kicks, so in kicking and in punting we'll divide the work up by halves."
The other element of this preseason game that will pose a different challenge to the Steelers is the venue. They will be the visiting team on Sunday night.
"It'll be the first time playing in a hostile environment, playing somebody outside the confines of Heinz Field," said Tomlin, "so I'll be excited about watching us execute under those circumstances and the things that go with it – silent counts and things of that nature. Also, the ability of the Tennessee offense to use cadence as a weapon, and us having to be disciplined on the defensive side of the ball."
The Steelers prepare for the preseason Week 3 matchup against the Tennessee Titans