LATROBE, Pa. – For Sunday's preseason game at Heinz Field, Steelers fans can look forward to seeing James Conner for the first time and Joshua Dobbs as the starting quarterback for the second time.
During his news conference today, Coach Mike Tomlin said neither Ben Roethlisberger nor Antonio Brown will play against the Atlanta Falcons, and even though he didn't rule Landry Jones out as well, he did commit to Dobbs as the starter.
"We'll very much take the same approach as last time in terms of play, including the participation of those who are injured," said Tomlin. "We'll deem no one out. We'll leave the light on for those guys in an effort for some of them to show. Anybody who is healthy will get an opportunity to play. Ben won't play. Antonio won't play. Very similar to last time, but all other healthy guys will."
Earlier this week, Jones returned to practice after missing a good bit of time with what was called an abdominal injury, but he hasn't been what would be described as a full participant.
"I'm not ready to deem him out," said Tomlin, "but it's unlikely that he'll be a participant in this game based on what I've seen to this point from him. He has been a partial participant in practice this week, not enough to include him in the in-crowd at this juncture."
Which means that Dobbs, the fourth-round pick from Tennessee, will start a second straight preseason game for the Steelers.
"Josh Dobbs will start at quarterback again for us," said Tomlin. "It has really been a tremendous opportunity for him to get some big-time repetitions and exposure because of the injury to Landry. Landry has been perking up and I'm sure he'll be back in the fold as a full participant here soon, but Josh does get the start against Atlanta. We'll look forward to him showing growth since his last outing."
With Roethlisberger declared out and Tomlin indicating that Jones won't play, undrafted rookie Bart Houston again would be the man to follow Dobbs at quarterback.
"Oftentimes a guy in his position gets very little time outside of drill work," said Tomlin about the life of the typical No. 4 quarterback. "Bart has gotten a significant amount of work, not only in practice but in the game and has really done a nice job in terms of taking advantage of it. I've been impressed in terms of some of the things he's been able to do."
It wasn't long after he was drafted on the third round that Conner's No. 30 Steelers jersey became the top-seller in the NFL, and so it's safe to assume fans will be excited about seeing him on the field for the first time in the preseason.
"He is scheduled to play, and I haven't thought about utilization of him relative to his circumstance," said Tomlin about Conner, who missed significant time during the offseason program with a hamstring injury and then significant time in training camp with a shoulder injury.
"More than anything, I'm going to give him as much as he can handle, but I'm going to keep a close eye on that because of not a lot of work so far for him. I'm going to keep a close eye on the conditioning element of it as we see with him. Crawl before we walk."
INJURY NOTES: Tomlin characterized Maurkice Pouncey as questionable, and when asked whether William Gay would play on Sunday, he said, "I don't know."