While the NFL preseason's primary objective is to evaluate talent before teams announce their 53-man rosters, some matchups stand out over others due to their regular-season expectations. On Sunday afternoon, two top teams go head-to-head when the Green Bay Packers visit the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
No team has better Super Bowl odds than the Packers, who have won four straight division titles, led by arguably the best quarterback in football, Aaron Rodgers. The Steelers are coming off a first-place finish in the AFC North, and they are favored to win the division again. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is coming off perhaps his best NFL season, as he
Green Bay defeated the New England Patriots, 22-11, in their preseason opener, as Rodgers threw 19 passes for 117 yards. Pittsburgh has played two exhibition games, and lost them both. Roethlisberger has only thrown a total of three passes in the preseason.
Green Bay is dealing with injuries to two of their starters, which forced them to miss practice on Wednesday. Linebacker Clay Matthews has an injured elbow, while left tackle David Bakhtiari is battling a knee injury.
Matthews has struggled to stay healthy since the start of training camp. He’s now been forced to sit out of six of 13 training camp practices. Matthews was held out of last week’s game against the Patriots with a knee injury, and his status for Sunday is unknown.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy shared more information about Bakhtiari’s injury. There seems to be a good chance that he won’t be on the field against the Steelers.
"(It will) keep him out all week. If it's up to me, unless the information is different, he'll be stressed to play in Pittsburgh," McCarthy said.
Pittsburgh quickly put an end to any battle for the third-string quarterback position by releasing Tajh Boyd. The former standout at Clemson didn’t get a chance to attempt a pass in either of the team’s preseason games, as Landry Jones took almost every snap for the Steelers. With backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski being activated from the PUP list, it allowed the team to cut Boyd.
Boyd could find his way into another team’s training camp, much like Jarrod West did in Pittsburgh. After being released by the New York Jets, the Steelers decided to sign the undrafted rookie. The former Syracuse wide receiver was with the Jets for only three days, coming off a college football season in which he caught 49 passes for 700 yards.
West will try to make the final roster and join a receiving corps that is led by Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton. Wheaton has been moved to the slot during training camp, as the team tries to improve an offense that was one of the NFL’s best last season.