UNITY TWP., Pa. — The Steelers will play all the starters they have that are healthy against the Buccaneers in their first preseason game, Mike Tomlin said during his press conference on Wednesday.
“All that are healthy are scheduled to play at this juncture, how much they’ll play is to be determined,” Tomlin said.
That includes quarterback Kenny Pickett, running back Najee Harris, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, and edge rusher T.J. Watt. There is no one who is excluded from playing, though Tomlin does not know yet how much they will play. He acknowledged that Pickett will play more because he is young and needs those reps. Pickett acknowledged on Tuesday that he’s ready to go.
“I’m on go,” Pickett said. “I’ll be in there for however long they want me to be. When they pull me, they’ll pull me out. I’m excited to play.”
Tomlin leans towards the side of playing everyone because they need the necessary exposure in stadium settings for the regular seasons. Of course, in a Tomlinism, he summed it up with a boxing metaphor for playing in the preseason as to why the team will play everyone out there.
“I lean toward playing but I respect that there are many different approaches,” Tomlin said. “But in general, if we’re going to box, we better spar.”
The Steelers should be missing only a few players. Guys such as Keanu Neal and Tre Norwood seem unlikely to play while there are others such as Damontae Kazee, Nick Herbig, and others that are on the fence and likely could be game-time decisions. Tomlin does not know how much the starters will play or how the division of labor will be divided up just yet prior to the game. So, it will be a feel-it-out process leading up to the game to determine that.