Steelers' Youth To Be Served In Canton, Too

Here are the names and numbers to watch in the Steelers' preseason opener tonight against the Minnesota Vikings.

The start of the football season tonight means a trip home for a handful of Pittsburgh Steelers, even one of their icons.

Here's what James Harrison had to say when asked if the trip to the Canton-Akron area means anything to him:

"No."

Well, it is the start of the football PREseason. And half of the starters -- including Harrison -- aren't expected to play.

But it means something to a guy like Doran Grant, a rookie from Akron who was raised in a Steelers family.

"It IS a big deal," said Grant, a fourth-round cornerback. "It's close to home. A lot of family will be there. I'm very excited."

Grant had to acquire more than 10 tickets for the 8 p.m. game against the Minnesota Vikings that will not only honor Jerome Bettis, following his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it will kick off the NFL season.

It's, of course, the first time most Steelers fans get to see the new players in action. So here's the rundown of what to watch, with the players' numbers in parenthesis:

QUARTERBACK: Landry Jones (3) might play the whole game. The best of the rest might be Tyler Murphy (16), who played QB at Boston College but was signed as a wide receiver. He might be running opposing team's read-option two-point plays as a member of the practice squad this season.

RUNNING BACK: DeAngelo Williams (34) was thrown into the grinder like a rookie early in camp, but the team's primary free-agent acquisition has since been rested and may not play. Cameron Stingily (30) is an inside runner who took a pounding this past week as the defense practiced hitting him and Akron's Jawon Chisholm (49). Rookie fullback Roosevelt Nix (45) is a converted defensive tackle with surprisingly soft hands for a 260-pounder.

WIDE RECEIVER: Sammie Coates (14) is having trouble getting open and C.J. Goodwin (18) has trouble getting off the line but they'll get plenty of work once Darrius Heyward-Bey leaves the starting lineup. Undrafted rookie Shakim Phillips (19) has his moments with that big body of his.

TIGHT END: Jesse James (81) is the fifth-round pick from Penn State, but the Steelers have another quality rookie here in Cameron Clear (85), who should at least make the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINE: The interior rookie linemen to watch are B.J. Finney (67), Miles Dieffenbach (65) and Rimington Award-winning center Reese Dismukes (61). The next tier of tackles behind the three veterans are Alejandro Villanueva (78), Kevin Palmer (69) and Mitchell Van Dyk (64).

DEFENSIVE LINE: Sixth-round pick L.T. Walton (78) is probably a roster lock with the injury to Clifton Geathers. Ethan Hemer (79) and Matt Conrath (69) are probably next in line.

LINEBACKERS: The deepest part of the roster. Bud Dupree (48) and Anthony Chickillo (40) will be the second-team OLBs, with Howard Jones (44) and Shayon Green (49) rushing for the third team. Green may even start if Jarvis Jones doesn't play. Green played with the first team in practice this past week because Joey Porter seems to like the second-teamers working together. Inside, Jordan Zumwalt (56) is coming off a great week of practice.

SECONDARY: Brandon Boykin (25) was recently acquired in a trade and is the guy to watch. Grant (24) will play plenty of cornerback in front of his family. So will Kevin Fogg (30). Four safeties are hurt, so that means long looks for Baldwin's Ian Wild (38) and Alden Darby (33), who made it to the final cut in San Diego's camp last year. Also keep an eye on seventh-round pick Gerod Holliman (31), who led the nation with 14 interceptions last season.

SPECIALISTS: Unless Brad Wing (9) has a great preseason, the guess here is the Steelers' punter is currently on another roster. Team sources repeatedly remark how inconsistent Jordan Berry (4) is, but he'll hit some moonshots. Little guys Dri Archer (13) and Kenzel Doe (82) will receive plenty of return work, but the more interesting return man might be Coates, the big rookie.


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