Three Steelers storylines vs. Redskins

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
2:45
PM ET
The Steelers play their second preseason game Monday night at Washington, and they will try to be sharper on all fronts after a sloppy 18-13 loss to the Giants on Aug. 10. Here are three things to look for in the 8 p.m. game that will be televised by ESPN:

1. Jonathan Dwyer’s bid to become team’s featured back: The Steelers’ leading rusher last season has been on the outside looking in at the battle for the No. 1 running back. Dwyer can change that tonight as the former Georgia Tech star is likely to start and get the bulk of the work with the first-team offense. Isaac Redman (neck) and rookie Le’Veon Bell (knee) will play sparingly, if at all, against the Redskins, providing a huge opportunity for Dwyer.

Dwyer
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireJonathan Dwyer should get plenty of chances to run against the Redskins.
He has shown flashes -- Dwyer had back-to-back 100-yard games in 2012 -- but the 5-foot-11, 230-pound running back also has battled the bulge during his three-year career. That has made it difficult for Dwyer to earn the trust of the coaches, and he is third on the Steelers’ depth chart with Baron Batch.

The two could be battling for a roster spot, and while Dwyer (623 rushing yards last season) is more talented than Batch, the latter is a good special-teams player and the better blocker of the two.

Dwyer must show he can be a viable option in the running game. He should get plenty of chances to do that against the Redskins, a team he gashed for 107 yards on 17 carries last October.

2. The Jason Worilds/Jarvis Jones battle at right outside linebacker: Worilds is trying to hold off Jones, the prized rookie, and Worilds produced mixed results in the Steelers’ first preseason game.

Worilds, who has 10 sacks in three seasons, more than held his own against the Giants before drawing penalties for roughing the quarterback and unnecessary roughness in a span of three plays. Coach Mike Tomlin dressed down Worilds after those flags and banished him to the bench. Tonight will be Worilds’ first action since those penalties.

Jones, the Steelers’ No. 1 draft pick last April, is still finding his way in coordinator Dick LeBeau’s complex defense. It showed against the Giants as Jones recovered a fumble but also struggled to shed blocks and get to the quarterback.

Worilds still has the inside track to take over for the departed James Harrison at right outside linebacker, but he has to avoid the kind of penalties that drive Tomlin batty. The Steelers also would love for the former Virginia Tech standout to win the starting job on his own merits -- and not merely because Jones has to be brought along slowly in LeBeau’s defense.

3. An extended look at the passing game: Starters on both sides of the ball are expected to play the first half, and that will provide a better gauge of where the offense is in Todd Haley’s second year as coordinator.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has raved about how the offense has come together as he and Haley have built more trust in one another. The passing game will need more than that, though, to thrive in 2013. The Steelers must replace deep threat Mike Wallace, and the receiving corps took a hit last week when veteran Plaxico Burress was lost for the season to a torn rotator cuff. The Steelers are perilously thin at tight end as starter Heath Miller is still working his way back from a major knee injury.

The Steelers could use significant contributions this season from second-year tight end David Paulson and rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton. They also need Emmanuel Sanders to emerge at split end to keep teams from loading up against No. 1 receiver Antonio Brown. Keep an eye on those three tonight.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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