5 things Sam Darnold must show during extended time vs. Steelers

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) Sam Darnold
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) Sam Darnold /
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Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Sam Darnold must lean on the running game

Everyone wants to see Sam Darnold air it out and showcase his skills.

However, even with Christian McCaffrey not likely to participate against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the quarterback should still lean on the running game plenty during his time on the field.

This will help Darnold in more ways than one. And let’s face it, the player needs all the assistance he can get upon entering the 2021 season.

Not only will it mean less yardage for first downs, but it also opens up play-action and the opportunity to make big gains and boost rhythm in the process.

It’s likely that Chuba Hubbard will get the start. The fourth-round pick has shown flashes of real dominance over the preseason and another strong outing should all but confirm his status as the primary backup heading into his rookie campaign.

Every contending team has a strong running game. The Carolina Panthers possess the best dual-threat back in the business when McCaffrey is healthy, so the coaching staff is making the correct call by keeping him out of the final preseason game.

As for Darnold, the pressure might be on to display the necessary throws that leave more hope than trepidation. But it’s unlikely Joe Brady will be opening up the playbook too much in a warmup, so expect to see the quarterback rely heavily on Hubbard and others to thrive over the first half.