Tonight’s preseason game against the Colts will be an opportunity for many to showcase what they’ve learned over these last few weeks at St. Vincent College. While the backups always get top priority in these games when it comes to rotation of players and getting the starters out early, Mike Tomlin always wants to get the starters some extra work this week as well.
Normally in preseason game #2 you see the starters place most of the first quarter, if not all. Depending on how things shake out that can change but after only a series or 2 in week 1, this time around you want to see some continuity among the primary players, putting a few good drives together and finish them off with touchdowns rather than field goals or worse yet, turnovers.
Tomlin said on Sunday that he plans to get backup QB Jerrod Johnson some work again but only after he starts off with Ben Roethlisberger, who will then give way to Charlie Batch.
If the snaps are there for him. Obviously we want to work our first wave of terror, if you will, with Ben, and then we’re going to move on to Charlie Batch. Whatever snaps might remain after that, we’re going to provide them for Jerrod at the end.
You gotta love those Tomlinisms don’t ya? This one ranks right up there with the “we’re going to unleash hell” statement. That one didn’t work out quite so well at the time but hey, it still sounds cool right?
On Friday, Tomlin elaborated a bit more on how he plans to use his QB’s this week: “That’s a plan that we’ve approached going into this thing and we’re going to get Johnson a lot of work, particularly in the first two games,” said Tomlin. “He’s a guy that hasn’t had a bunch of in-game experience, particularly prior to this year. Even though he’s been in an NFL training camp, I think he’s only taken about four preseason snaps. We want to see what he is capable of, we want him get acclimated to an environment and give him a fair opportunity to see what he’s capable of.”
If Big Ben and the starting group can put together a few solid drives, Tomlin will likely be happy and start pulling them by the end of the 1st, or early second quarter. If they struggle, then don’t be surprised to see the starting offense stay out for an extra series or two. These games are very important to the coaches and when the projected starters have issues, it doesn’t sit well with them. The offensive line will be a mish mash of sorts again, at least at Tacke, where Ramon Foster will start at RT and Marcus Gilget at LT. Tomlin did not rule out rookie Mike Adams or veteran Max Starks from playing tonight though (both of whom will be fighting it out for the starting job on the left side. Adams can use all the experience he can get but we’ll have to see how much Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin play him.
With Byron Leftwich not playing, we shouldn’t assume that it’s a knock against him this week. You can only get so many snaps in and they already know what both Batch and Leftwich can do, so the more snaps Johnson can get the better. Plus, honestly if you play either Batch of Leftwich too much you risk injury to them especially behind backup offensive lineman. The last thing we want is another preseason injury to either player. That’s not to say that Johnson is expendable, but rather he’s the one who needs to make a name for himself so you take whatever snaps you can get in this league.
Johnson will obviously be playing with the backups by the time he gets in, and mostly 3rd string players at that mixed in with some 2nd teamers. The key for his game is for whatever combination of lineman are in at the time, to give him enough room to work with. If they don’t, it will be a long night for the youngster. If there’s sufficient blocking then you’d love to see him put together a series of solid drives that eat the clock and spread the ball around. His very roster spot might very well depend on the latter events coming together for him.
So this “first wave of terror” will get some time tonight but it’s still going to be more about what Jerrod Johnson can do with most of the second half most likely.