Sure, it's only the first game of the preseason, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some intriguing things to watch for when the Steelers and Giants square off on Saturday.
These are two of the NFL's flagship franchises and both are coming off disappointing 2012 seasons in which they missed the playoffs.
There are many topics to discuss for both teams, but here are the top five.
1. Steelers Replacing Departed Stalwarts
With the departures of James Harrison and Casey Hampton, the Steelers have some big shoes to fill. Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones are battling for the ROLB spot vacated by Harrison.
All indications are that Jones has looked good against the run so far but has had a bigger learning curve when it comes to pass coverage. Steve McLendon is replacing Casey Hampton at nose tackle and is impressing the coaching staff with his speed and quickness.
Either way, the Steelers organization seems unconcerned with replacing these stalwarts as they usually find good replacements which is indicative of the coaching talents of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and head coach Mike Tomlin.
2. Giants' Linebackers
The Giants' linebacking corps is a complete mystery heading into 2013. The starters for now are Keith Rivers, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger but I emphasize the words “for now.” Depending on how the preseason goes, the starters could easily be Dan Connor, Jacquian Williams and Aaron Curry.
There is really no telling what the Giants will get from this group and it will truly be a “game by game” situation with head coach Tom Coughlin going with whoever is playing the best that day.
Rivers and Curry are both former first round draft picks and Williams has the athleticism to stay with tight ends in pass coverage which is a valuable commodity in today’s NFL. If these players can reach their potential, this could be a solid group, but that is a huge “if.”
3. Steelers' Offensive Line
The Steelers finished 21st in offense a year ago and were 26th in rushing which is not what comes to mind when you think of Pittsburgh Steelers football. Much of the trouble stemmed from an inconsistent offensive line that suffered its share of injuries last year.
And 2012 first round pick David DeCastro missed all but three games last year, but when he played, he showed the potential that made him a first round pick.
Plus 2012 second round pick Mike Adams will be playing the important left tackle position. It will be interesting to see how these second-year pros hold up against a deep Giants' defensive line. This will be a good test for this young group.
4. Steelers' Third Wide Receiver
With tight end Heath Miller likely out for the early part of the regular season and receiver Mike Wallace now in Miami, the third wide receiver spot will be one of critical importance for the Steelers.
Vying for this spot are Plaxico Burress, veteran Jerricho Cotchery and rookie Marcus Wheaton. If unable to earn the third receiver spot, Burress will at least be a good red zone option for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
5. Hakeem Nicks' Health
If Hakeem Nicks has another injury-plagued season like last year, the Giants will not win the NFC East in 2013, plain and simple. Nicks suffered a strained groin early in training camp which caused him to miss most of training camp thus far.
Nicks said that it is nothing serious but we’ve all heard that one before. If he cannot make it through this first preseason game unscathed, assuming that he plays of course, it might be a sign of things to come for Big Blue.