Packers preview: 5 things to watch in exhibition vs. Steelers

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) makes a catch on fourth down in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh Steelers free safety William Gay (22) at Heinz Field Sunday, November 26, 2017 in Pittsburgh, PA.


When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Lambeau Field.

Broadcast: Radio – WTMJ 620-AM. TV – Ch. 4 in Milwaukee and the Packers Television Network across the state.

Injury report

Packers – Wide receiver Trevor Davis (hamstring), Kevin King (shoulder), RB Devante Mays (hamstring), S Jermaine Whitehead (back), RB Aaron Jones (hamstring) and DT Mike Daniels (thigh) are not expected to play; WR Randall Cobb (ankle), CB Jaire Alexander (groin), OT David Bakhtiari (ankle), OT Bryan Bulaga (knee) and FB Joe Kerridge (shoulder) are questionable. Steelers – Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (concussion), G Ramon Foster (knee), TE Vance McDonald (foot) and outside linebacker T.J. Watt (hamstring) are not expected to play. S Sean (groin) is questionable; WR Antonio Brown and DT Cameron Heyward are expected to be held out for non-injury reasons.

5 things to watch

1. STAND-UP GUY: In the first game, it was Marquez Valdes-Scantling who made a splash. Will he build on it or is it another rookie’s turn? This is an on-going saga so there’s a chance Valdes-Scantling will hit a bump and one of the others will step forward. Fourth-round pick J’Mon Moore needs to bounce back from a lousy first game and show he hasn’t gone into a funk. Equanimeous St. Brown just needs more chances.

2. TACKLE TALK: If right tackle Bryan Bulaga doesn’t start, either Kyle Murphy or Byron Bell will get the call. It’s no easy assignment. Pass-rushing outside linebacker Bud Dupree is back from an injury and will be looking to set a good tone to his season. Murphy deserves the start because he has played the best of all the backup tackles, but has played mostly on the left side. Jason Spriggs was starting at right tackle ahead of Bell, but was demoted late last week.

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3. JUMPING FOR JOY: Look for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is expected to start, to look early and often for tight end Jimmy Graham, especially should the offense get into the red zone. The Steelers are probably not going to be doing a lot of scheming to neutralize Graham, so he may get some favorable one-on-ones. He and Rodgers need to continue working on their timing on those fade balls that Graham is so good at going up and getting.

4. CORNERED: If Jaire Alexander plays, he’s going to get some time in the slot position in the nickel scheme. It’s too bad Antonio Brown isn’t playing; that would have been invaluable experience. Alexander missed the first game with a groin injury and needs to be on the field. If he’s not, second-round pick Josh Jackson will continue to see extensive playing time. He has made steady improvement since camp began and needs more experience playing up on big, talented receivers like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

5. BACKUP PLAN: Don’t get too excited if the Packers' defense looks great. The Steelers will be playing backup quarterbacks with rookie Mason Rudolph expected to see a considerable amount of time. However, don’t underestimate No. 2 man Landry Jones. He has a career passer rating of 86.2 and went 4-for-4 for 83 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown to Smith-Schuster, in the Steelers’ opener. He’s likely to start and see action against the Packers’ No. 1 defense.

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