There won't be a championship on the line during this Steelers-Cowboys showdown, but there will still be plenty at stake when the old Super Bowl rivals clash in Thursday night's Hall of Fame Game. Several key position battles will play out in front of a nationally televised audience, as the Steelers look to fortify their roster ahead of their Week 1 showdown with the Bills.
Here's a look at five players Steelers fans should keep an eye on Thursday. Before we get to it, it's important to note that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, cornerback Joe Haden and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward have already been ruled out of Thursday night's game. Mike Tomlin also announced that Mason Rudolph will start.
While he won't start, Tomlin said that the plan is for Haskins to come in after Rudolph and ahead of Josh Dobbs. The former first-round pick has been transparent about challenging Rudolph to be the Steelers' No. 2 quarterback. A strong performance on Thursday night would certainly help his cause. Taking care of the football will be pivotal for Haskins, who threw more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (12) during his time in Washington.
RB Najee Harris
Steelers fans will get to see a lot of their first-round pick this preseason. Tomlin said on Tuesday that the plan is for Harris to appear in each of the Steelers' four preseason games. Like Haskins, Harris has enjoyed a strong start to camp. Specifically, Harris has shown the ability to get to the second and third level of the defense. Harris, who recently said that he is 240 pounds, has been especially tough to bring down in the open field. He has also displayed a gift of grab, a skill set that surely will be utilized by first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Don't adjust your TV set when you see No. 53 lining up under center for Pittsburgh. Green, Pittsburgh's third-round pick out of Illinois, will wear Maurkice Pouncey's old number while playing Pouncey's old position. A USA Today second-team All American last fall, Green is part of a revamped Steelers offensive line that lost Pouncey, tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler and guard David DeCastro this offseason. The unit is looking to make up for its lack of experience with physicality, particularly when it comes to run blocking.
OLB Melvin Ingram
A late offseason addition to the Steelers, the three-time Pro Bowler recently said that he feels "amazing" after injuries limited him to just seven games last season. Ingram, who will wear No. 8 after wearing No. 54 during his years with the Chargers, is currently behind second-year linebacker Alex Highsmith on the depth chart. Regardless of who the Week 1 starter is, both players will look to complement T.J. Watt, the NFL's leader in sacks in 2020.
CB James Pierre
An undrafted rookie last season, Pierre has made a strong case to replace Mike Hilton as Pittsburgh's new nickel cornerback. During consecutive training camp practices, the 6-foot-2 Pierre returned interceptions 107 and 97 yards for scores, according to Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider. Pierre will strengthen his case to be Hilton's replacement if he can make similar plays on Thursday night. Other cornerbacks that will look to make their case to be on the Steelers' first 53-man roster include Antoine Brooks Jr., Arthur Maulet, and undrafted rookies Mark Gilbert and Shakur Brown.