Checklist for Denver

In today's Fourth & Goal, Mike Prisuta takes an irreverent look at the Steelers' checklist for Sunday night's game in Denver.

Mike Tomlin, God bless him, still loves the preseason.

He said so -- again -- on Wednesday.

Even after standing around in the rain while some over-officious jerk of a replay official tries to make it to the Super Bowl in preseason week one by calling for a booth review of a touchdown no one will ever remember.

Even though the Steelers are playing a Sunday night road exhibition in advance of a Thursday night home exhibition, and are doing so in, of all places, Denver.

As long as Tomlin cares we might as well pay attention, and focus wholeheartedly on the following against the Broncos:

* Look for Flozell Adams to solidify his place as the answer at right tackle, not that there's any chance it'll happen.

Even if the Hotel should find a way to quiet his critics with a solid performance the Steelers won't be able to comfortably exhale regarding Adams until after Jan. 2 (longer if they make the playoffs).

The word from the staff on Monday was that Adams' name remained written down No. 1 on the depth chart at right tackle, that the pressure surrendered to Justin Tuck on Saturday night was attributable to a miscommunication, and that Adams played better against the New York Football Giants than he had against Detroit.

And the word on Adams from players and coaches throughout camp had been that he was convincingly exceeding expectations in terms of how quickly he was transitioning from left to right tackle and how much he was contributing intangibly.

But the word out of Dallas when the Cowboys released Adams in April was that after 12 seasons there was growing uncertainty as to what Adams might have left at the end of a 13th at the age of 35.

This is one of those storylines that isn't going away any time soon.

* Look for Jonathan Dwyer to do either nothing or not very much of consequence.

The kid doesn't yet get it in terms of showing up in shape (for the combine or the opening of training camp) or maintaining the proper focus (he actually signed autographs at St. Vincent College following a practice he hadn't participated in). But there's a football player in there somewhere.

One with power and a burst.

One who might yet prove to be a steal as a sixth-round pick.

But since that apparently won't be happening this season the best the Steelers can hope for is for Dwyer not to show up as a potential sixth-round steal on any preseason video, thus keeping an NFL that passed on Dwyer at least five times is as disinterested in now as back in April.

A year on the practice squad might be what's required to drag that player out of Dwyer kicking and screaming.

Hopefully, the Steelers get the chance to find that out.

* Look for Tony Hills to continue providing clarity to what had threatened to become perhaps the toughest decision of camp.

Hills can do so if he plays in Denver as well as he did against Detroit and the NYFG.

Once Maurkice Pouncey theoretically established that he was the obvious choice at center, the Steelers were potentially left to wrestle with whether to keep Justin Hartwig as a backup or sever ties. This being a non-salary cap season, the $2 million Hartwig is scheduled to make in 2010 isn't considered by the organization to be a factor in such a decision.

But now that Hills has suddenly revealed himself as a potential player in the making, the Steelers may not be able to afford a roster spot for Hartwig at Hills' expense.

Before the preseason began, it was easy to assess the offensive line as still having room for Hartwig as veteran-backup insurance and Hills as the last man no longer standing. But with Hills emphatically emerging they may ultimately have to find a spot for him and go with a Pouncey-Doug Legursky depth chart at center. This may be revealed throughout the rest of the preseason.

No wonder Tomlin cares.

And finally,

* Look for Daniel Sepulveda to fight through another block and make another impressive tackle. That might just decide who kicks off once and for all.


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