Lions fans will get their first official look at rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh when the team battles Pittsburgh in the exhibition opener Saturday.
Consider Suh as excited as his spectators.
"It’s my first opportunity to go against somebody else other than my teammates and prove what I can do for this defense," he said Thursday.
The Lions will start Suh opposite defensive tackle Corey Williams against the Steelers. It's likely he'll rotate in and out of the line-up often so the team can get as many looks as possible for competitive and schematic reasons.
And because he missed the first week of camp, the Nebraska product might get an even longer look than typical of a starter. Although the Lions have been pleased with his progress, they're eager to see more from the No. 2 overall pick.
"I think (Suh’s) arrow has been trending up the whole time," said coach Jim Schwartz, who noted that Suh had regressed temporarily in camp, but was showing improvement. "Every practice he gets a little more comfortable with what we’re doing in scheme and his technique is a little bit better."
Between defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and coordinator Gunther Cunningham, one of the biggest teachings of Suh is regarding his technique. Suh will need to rely upon his quick hands rather than the advertised bulk, considering the size difference in his competition is narrower than it was in college.
“The offensive linemen in the NFL are really good and you just can’t win on physical ability in the NFL," said Schwartz. "You have to combine physical ability with technique and being sound and understanding offense and defense. That’s the improvements that he continues to make and needs to make to take his game up to the NFL level.”
"You have to learn to play in this league with your hands," he said. "If you start playing with your shoulders, they will just gobble you up and hold you."
Although he's had his share of battles with veteran guard Stephen Peterman (clashes he has both won and lost), the rookie seems poised -- and confident -- in his transition to professional football.
"I think with just me being in the weight room and so forth and just God-given talent, that as long as I come off the ball and engage into the offensive lineman and use my hands I’ll be fine," he said.
On Saturday, he'll have his first opportunity to prove it.