UPDATE: Anthony McFarland will play.
Anthony McFarland is in uniform tonight and looks ready to go. There was some question about that. Pat Freiermuth, however, looks like he'll sit out.— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 5, 2021
UPDATE: Anthony McFarland could miss the game due to injury.
The NFL preseason kicks off Thursday night as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys go head to head in the Hall-of-Fame game. Preseason, as we all know, is tough to predict playing time and usage, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We’ll go through some of the reports of who is getting time and see if we can piece together some good plays for tonight’s Showdown.
Dwayne Haskins, Steelers
We know that Dak Prescott and Ben Roethlisberger are out. That helps narrow things down a little. We also know that Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are battling for the No. 2 job and that Haskins will get the work going into halftime, which may mean an uptick in passing. He has looked good in training camp according to reports. We also know that Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs will get time, but I’m leaning Haskins here.
Mason Rudolph will start and play into the second quarter. Dwayne Haskins will play late into the third quarter and Josh Dobbs will finish the game out Thursday against the Cowboys— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 3, 2021
Josh Dobbs, Steelers
Dobbs is a wild card, but his ability to run the ball makes him a high-upside preseason quarterback. We know he’s going to get time and a rushing touchdown would make him a must start.
Garrett Gilbert, Cowboys
Gilbert appears solidified as the No. 2 quarterback on the team, but that doesn’t mean he is immune from preseason playing time. The Cowboys know better than any team what an injury to their starter can mean and they need Gilbert getting live reps to prepare.
Rico Dowdle, Cowboys
We can’t expect Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard to play and coach Mike McCarthy has mentioned that Dowdle has “looked good.” That isn’t a ton to go on, but he hasn’t mentioned the other backs, meaning Dowdle could get the start and plenty of work.
Anthony McFarland, Steelers
McFarland was a rookie last season and was buried on the depth chart last season. He saw a handful of reps toward the end of last season and the team likely wants to see a lot from him this preseason for evaluation. Najee Harris will see time in this game, but it’s doubtful that he would see a ton of work when he is expected to play in every preseason game according to Mike Tomlin. Tony Brooks-James, Jaylen Samuels, Kalen Ballage and Trey Edmunds all could see work, so we can’t expect huge playing time from any one back, but McFarland is a back they are invested in and need to see in live action.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Trying to pick a wide receiver or tight end in this game is tough. There haven’t been many reports on the backups and we can’t start any of the starters. Rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth hurt his shoulder the other day, so he could be held out. I’m fading completely.
The Steelers have a defensive mentality that runs through the whole team and getting after the quarterback is just in their DNA. And we know they will play the whole game! We won’t see T.J. Watt or Minka Fitzpatrick, but they also won’t be facing Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
We know the quarterbacks will get time and you can play as many as you want, so they are the safest plays of the group. That goes the same with the Steelers and even the Cowboys defense. I could see throwing Harris in there, as they might want to get him some goal line reps, but I’ll likely lean toward McFarland and Dowdle. But for the Captain’s slot I will lean quarterback, and Haskins is my favorite of the group.