Bryant, Coates, Conner Set To Make Preseason Debuts

2017 Preseason Game #2

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) vs. Atlanta Falcons (0-1)

Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017 – 4 p.m. ET Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pa.

Television: KDKA/NFL Network (Bob Pompeani, Charlie Batch, Missi Matthews)

Radio: Steelers Radio Network/102.5 WDVE-FM (Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin, Craig Wolfley)

All-Time Preseason Series: Steelers lead, 7-0

Last Preseason Meeting: 2011 (Pittsburgh) – Steelers 34, Falcons 16

For the first time since Jan. 17, 2016, wide receiver Martavis Bryant will suit up for a game for the Steelers when Pittsburgh (1-0) hosts Atlanta (0-1) on Sunday (Aug. 20) at Heinz Field in the second game of the 2017 preseason.

Bryant has hauled in 14 touchdowns over his two years as a Steeler, but he was forced to sit out the entire 2016 campaign after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy for a second time in as many years. He was reinstated prior to Pittsburgh’s 20-12 victory over the New York Giants last Friday (Aug. 11) at MetLife Stadium and began practicing again two days later.

Bryant will start for Pittsburgh on Sunday as the team makes its unofficial 2017 debut in front of its home crowd.

“A guy that has worked hard in the offseason,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will not play on Sunday, of Bryant. “A guy that looks ready to go. A guy that still understands the offense and picks it up. A guy that is coming along quickly. I want to be out here, getting better with my teammates and go to battle with them on game day. We work hard in practice, we have fun on Sunday. Now it’s all about putting the work in and getting ready for that. I can’t get complacent. I have to keep working.”

Steelers fans will also be eager to see the debut of rookie running back James Conner on Sunday against the Falcons. The former Pitt star has not has an easy road thus far in his pro career, missing time during the offseason program with a hamstring injury and then during training camp with a shoulder injury.

“He is scheduled to play, and I haven’t thought about utilization of him relative to his circumstance,” said head coach Mike Tomlin of his team’s 2017 third-round draft pick. “More than anything, I’m going to give him as much as he can handle, but I’m going to keep a close eye on that because of not a lot of work so far for him. I’m going to keep a close eye on the conditioning element of it as we see with him. Crawl before we walk.”

Another Steelers wide receiver will make his 2017 preseason debut. Third-year wideout Sammie Coates was finally activated from the team’s Active Physically Unable to Perform List on Aug. 16. He missed almost all of training camp while continuing to recover from offseason knee surgery. Coates, who had an up-and-down 2016 season in which he was forced to battle through a hand injury, will need to prove himself over the next few weeks due to a crowded and talented wide receiver room.

“It feels great,” said Coates of finally being able to suit up. “I was depressed out there on the sidelines watching my teammates work. It feels good to be out there with them. It’s one of those things where you don’t want to be on the sidelines. You always want to be out there with your teammates. It gets to you just sitting there watching.”

Sunday’s contest will provide a great opportunity for the Steelers to find out how far long these three players are and how far they have to go as the 2017 regular season inches closer.

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