Both the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers have questions to answer throughout the preseason, and both have enough pieces in place that they could be good teams next season. For the Vikings, they need to see progression from young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and for the Steelers, they need to show they can make adjustments on the defensive side of the ball after multiple key losses this offseason.
Those are questions that ultimately will not be answered in one preseason game, especially the opening preseason game. That said, there will be plenty to pay attention to when both teams take the field for the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio on Sunday.
It's unclear how many starters will be playing from either team. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has already stated that many top players won't be on the field for this game, which makes sense. There's little reason for them to play. Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, Heath Miller and James Harrison will be among those on the sidelines when the game gets underway.
But keeping an eye on the Steelers, particularly the defense, should be a priority. They lost defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau this offseason, while Troy Polamalu, Jason Worilds and Ike Taylor all decided it was time to hang up the cleats and retire. Pittsburgh's pass defense was a weakness last season as it was, so now it's a huge concern.
There are spots open on the roster at cornerback and at safety. Keep and eye on guys like B.W. Webb and Kevin Fogg, and on the offensive side of the ball, the running backs behind DeAngelo Williams should be worth watching. Williams is starting the first two games in place of Bell, who will serve a suspension. There's also a PUNTER BATTLE to pay attention to, as Jordan Berry and Brad Wing compete for the starting role and a roster spot.
For the Vikings, head coach Mike Zimmer hasn't been upfront about which starters will play and for how long. He said it depends on his mood, which could mean anything. As noted above, Bridgewater's development is the most important thing for the Vikings going forward. They need him to progress, to take charge and be the leader on offense.
It's unclear how long Bridgewater will play in this game, but one player we won't be seeing is Adrian Peterson. He'll likely be on the sidelines, but this is his first game in a Vikings jersey since the regular season opener last year. After all his off-field trouble, the Vikings are hoping he has plenty left in the tank to be effective and to be the center of their offense this season. But he doesn't really need to play in the preseason at this stage.
It will be interesting to see how long Vikings receiver Mike Wallace plays, if at all. Wallace is a former Steelers player, and a veteran who should see the field about as long as Bridgewater. The Bridgewater-to-Wallace connection is an important one for the Vikings this season.
The game is set for 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on NBC, with a live stream available at NBC Sports Live Extra.