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Who will see playing time at the Hall of Fame game?

The Steelers and Cowboys will kick off the 2021 NFL season on Thursday night.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris participates in drills during minicamp held at Heinz Field. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATED 7:10 p.m. est:

RB Anthony McFarland will play

Players who are most-likely out

Steelers

QB Ben Roethlisberger: HC Mike Tomlin reports
RB Benny Snell: Has not been at practice all week
TE Eric Ebron: has missed practice lately and is a veteran
TE Pat Freirmuth: Left practice early on Tuesday with a shoulder injury
T.J. Watt: Has yet to practice this season

Cowboys

QB Dak Prescott: Being held out due to shoulder strain
WR Amari Cooper: Rehabbing from offseason surgery
TE Blake Jarwin: Rehabbing from injury, didn’t travel with team
WR: T.J. Vasher: Didn’t travel with team
K Greg Zuerlein: Didn’t travel with team

The NFL season kicks off on Thursday night as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys face off in the Hall of Fame game. Both teams got a week’s head start on training camp to prepare for this early matchup, but like any preseason game we will see limited to no run for veterans.

Quarterbacks

The Cowboys will be without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, as he has a shoulder muscle strain that the team is being cautious with. Even if healthy, he may not have played in this game. The Steelers will also sit their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. His long tenure in the league has him prepared for the season more than most and the team would rather keep him out of harm’s way.

There aren’t any official injury reports for preseason games, so we won’t know for sure who is suiting up until the day of, but the Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has named Mason Rudolph the starter. Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs will likely also see time.

With Prescott out Garrett Gilbert will look to gain control of the backup job over Ben DiNucci and Cooper Rush.

Running Backs

The good news for Steelers fans is that they’ll get to see first-round draft pick Najee Harris get some snaps in this game. He likely won’t get much work, but Tomlin said he would like all of the rookies to suit up for each preseason game.

The Steelers just signed running back Tony Brooks–James, who played for a few games in Pittsburgh last season. Benny Snell has been dealing with an undisclosed injury, so Brooks-James may be in line to see good minutes on Thursday. We should also see plenty of Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland and Jaylen Samuels while Harris could end up with just a snap or two.

The Cowboys already know what they have in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, so we likely won’t see Elliott and there’s a chance Pollard won’t play either. Coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t said either way, but there’s no doubt this game is more for young players and those competing to make the team. That means we should see plenty

Wide Receivers

Amari Cooper is returning from offseason surgery and won’t be available for the Cowboys. CeeDee Lamb has reportedly looked outstanding in training camp and I doubt they risk any kind of injury for him or Michael Gallup at this point in the preseason. The same is probably true for the Steelers starting trio of Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool.

Tight Ends

The Cowboys have a camp battle at tight end with Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. That doesn’t mean we will see them on Thursday, but there is a chance with the team looking to choose a starter between the two. Jeremy Sprinkle and Sean McKeon should get the most usage.

Eric Ebron is the Steelers starter while Pat Freiermuth is a rookie sho has looked good in camp. Both have dealt with minor injuries though, with Freiermuth hurting his shoulder on Tuesday. I wouldn’t expect to see either. Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader will likely see the majority of the snaps.