For the Falcons' preseason matchup tonight with the Steelers, there are several important questions that still need to be answered before the regular season begins. As my colleague Jason has already said, this game will be the most important one of the preseason, primarily because the starters are slated to play at least a full half.
The Steelers, who also look to play their starters for the first half, should be a good test for the Falcons, one that will hopefully have them warmed up for week one's game against Chicago.
With all teams required to trim their rosters to 80 players by August 30, this game will be important for anyone fighting to win a roster spot. However, here a few guys in particular to watch out for against the Steelers:
In case you somehow haven't heard, Edwards is expected to make his much-anticipated debut during tonight's game. How much he actually plays is the million dollar question, though according to an interview with Mike Smith Edwards has "no different play count than anyone else." Tonight is the night for Edwards to show everyone he is healthy and ready for the season.
Another player who could make his Atlanta debut (return?) tonight is Kelly, who reportedly has been working mostly as the team's No. 2 TE in practice. While not known for his pass-catching prowess, Kelly's blocking skills are exactly why the Falcons went out and signed him. Hopefully he can get in the game and acquaint himself with the nuances of Mularkey's offense.
With Dunta Robinson out with injury and Chris Owens' tweaked hamstring making him a game-time decision, Franks is expected to get the start alongside Brent Grimes against Pittsburgh. He's had an excellent preseason, and turned in a promising performance last week against Jacksonville. If Franks can have another good night, I think the nickelback job is all his.
Last week against Jacksonville, Matt Ryan had pressure in his face almost as soon as he snapped the ball. The offensive line just looked kind of lethargic against a pretty average Jaguars D-line. Obviously, it's a preseason game and I'm not too worried, but it would be nice to see a little better play out of the group. The Steelers should be a great test.
He should get a fair amount of playing time in tonight's game, even if Reynolds does play the entire first half. But tonight will probably be Johnson's last chance to unseat Reynolds in the right guard competition. With Reynolds putting together a good game against Jacksonville, that could be tough. Johnson was slowed down by a concussion this preseason, but a good performance tonight could put him right back in the race.
The UDFA out of Notre Dame has turned alot of heads in practice, and appears on his way to winning a roster spot as the team's No. 5 cornerback. He's got good hands, instincts, and has generally looked really sharp during training camp. He's also solidly built, measuring in at 6'0, 195 lbs. While Walls may not instill alot of confidence in Falcons fans, just remember that Brent Grimes was undrafted as well. Comrade Dimitroff has a knack for these things, you know.