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Live from Heinz Field
August 13, 2009 - Buck Frank
Less than 15 minutes until the 2009 season -- OK, the preseason -- begins.
If you're going to any games this season, give yourself ample time. Construction -- no surprise -- was everywhere on the trip over from Altoona. I've seen it worse. It took about 2 1/2 hours, but I left about five hours before kickoff.
Some things to keep an eye on tonight:
--Second-year players Rashard Mendenhall, Limas Sweed and Tony Hills. If these three guys have developed into reliable players, the Steelers could be a better team than last season. Dennis Dixon, another second-year player, will see extended action in the preseason and could help add a new element to the Steelers' offense.
--Other second-year players, linebacker Bruce Davis and safety Ryan Mundy, are fighting for roster spots. Davis right now is listed behind Patrick Bailey on the depth chart as James Harrison's backup. Mundy is listed as Ryan Clark's backup at free safety but is in a battle with Roy Lewis for that spot.
--Of local interest, Penn State players Sean McHugh, Scott Paxson and A.Q. Shipley should all play. McHugh signed a new deal in the offseason and is versatile enough to play fullback or tight end. He should be able to keep his spot on this team. Paxson may have to show the coaching staff that he is a better option than 31-year-old Chris Hoke at nose tackle. Starter Casey Hampton is in the final year of his contract, so this is Paxson's time to show he can be a steady contributor. Shipley has the toughest chance. The signing of Alex Stepanovich may have signaled the Steelers aren't ready to save a roster spot for the rookie center.
--Keep an eye also on rookie returners Mike Wallace and Joe Burnett. They have reportedly been dynamite in camp.