Nickel Package: 5 Things to Watch for Tonight

Five things to watch tonight as the Redskins play the Steelers.

1. Mike Pucillo. A good showing could vault him ahead of Todd Wade in the battle at left guard. Pucillo is more suited to guard than Wade, but not as talented. Still, Pucillo considered tough and smart, qualities they love. But can he hack it? Pucillo must be able to pull, which Wade showed he could not do last week.

2. The rest of the line. Jon Jansen started slow last year, coming off thumb surgeries. However, he had a full offseason of health this time around. Yet he started slow last week, so he needs to have a good showing, if for no other reason than it allows the Redskins to give Stephon Heyer more help on the left side. Considering the aggressive 3-4 front the Steelers play, that's a must.

3. Todd Collins. It's about time Mark Brunell is in a challenge to hang onto the No. 2 job. Collins completed all five passes last week, showing much better rhythm than the other QBs. Of course, it was against lesser competition, too. Collins flubbed his chances against better competition last summer, looking like a rookie. He can't afford for that to happen again; otherwise, he'll be back at the bottom.

4. The defense. Washington handled Tennessee's mediocre attack with ease last week. But the Steelers offer better receivers, a stronger running game and more explosiveness. It's an excellent challenge to see where the run defense is and to get a full gauge of the competition at cornerback. Jerametrius Butler needs to show he's still a capable player -- and capable of staying healthy. Also, we're anxious to see LaRon Landry continue to grow.

5. Race for No. 5. Receiver, that is. They signed Todd Pinkston, but it's too early for him to truly help. Mike Espy responded to his week off from a knee injury with a good week of practice. Our gut tells us he still has the edge at No. 5, if only because he can play all three receiver positions and because he can play special teams. But he needs to show he can help in a game.

The other wideouts, such as Jason McAddley, Ryan Hoag and Carl Berman, are in a tight race but most likely it's for a practice squad spot. Corey Bradford can't stay healthy otherwise he'd be in the mix. We'd also like to see how the timing is with the first team passing game. Injuries have prevented the starters from getting a lot of time together. Recommended Stories

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