Thanks to the miracle of Tivo, I finally got around to watching the Pittsburgh Steelers first preseason game. I know I said I was watching it anyway but when they decided to postpone it for over an hour due to rain, I set my recorder and headed out to karoake bar. Anyway, while I usually give a detailed write-up for regular season games, meaningless contests demand slightly less than my unparalleled best. So with that in mind, here are some tings I taut I thaw…
QUARTERBACK – What we didn’t see was Ben Roethlisberger. Whether this is Mike Tomlin‘s idea of making a statement or just his plan for getting the other two guys ready is anybody’s guess. Personally, I think he was just hung over from a hard night icing bros and banging hoes.
Byron Leftwich started and went 6 of 10 for 43 yards. That sounds good on paper but it wasn’t much to to get excited about. Most of those completions came in long yardage situations where the defense was willing to give up short underneath stuff. His throws did look sharp and accurate when he was given a nice clean pocket from which to throw. I just worry because this offensive line may not provide many of those and his long windup and relative immobility make him a huge liability when pressured.
Dennis Dixon was by far the most impressive quarterback on the field Saturday. Granted he played against the second and third string units but he was playing with back ups himself. He directed scoring drives of 79, 75, and 68 yards utilizing an electric mix of passing and running (6 rushes for 31 yards to go with a perfect QB rating). He threw a couple nice deep balls and was accurate on all the short stuff. Plus his legs provided a dimension to the offense that clearly kept the defense off-guard.
OFFENSIVE LINE – Um, not good. Not good at all. Granted, the starters only played three series so this is an extremely small sample size but what I saw was almost disturbing. I dunno if the starters decided to play at half-speed or what but the amount of penetration the freakin’ Lions were getting was not what you wanted to see.
The bookend tackles were the primary culprits. Flozell Adams was doing his best impression of a human traffic cone as guys ran right by him. Max Starks was also getting beat off the edge on almost every pass. The push up the middle wasn’t there at all. Running plays up the gut would result in little or negative gains almost every time. The best offensive line play of the night was when second stringers Ramon Foster and Tony Hills came in to man the left side and provided some excellent blocking for Redzone Redman.
RUNNING GAME – The Steelers want to get back to Steeler Football. I’m all for that. But it would be good to HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL. Rashard Mendenhall had his one nice run ruined because he tried that idiotic spin move he does and had the ball knocked from his mitts. Mewelde Moore and Issac Redman also had fumbles although both got them back.
The most impressive back was Redman who carried it 15 times for 60 yards. He also scored a nice short yardage (one yard line) TD plunge. Rookie Jonathan Dwyer was unimpressive, carrying 6 times for 8 yards.
RECEIVERS – Third rounder Emmanual Sanders was said to be the star of training camp. Fifth round pick Antonio Brown was the star on the field. Brown caught three passes for 82 yards. One of those was a 68 TD which started as a ten yard slant from Dixon that Brown cut upfield and blew by everybody for the score. The blazing speed which got him drafted was definitely as advertised.
Newcomer Arnaz Battle also chipped in with a nice 51 yard catch-and-run. Those were the only real notable performers out of the passing game as the majority of the time was spent working on running the ball.
SECONDARY – Again, we have a very small sample size since the first team D only played about 15 snaps. But it looked a lot like last year. The linebacker got good pressure on the QB and pretty much stifled any running attempts. But as soon as Detroit started throwing, they began moving the ball with relative ease. Ryan Clark did pick off a pass when a Detroit receiver let a poor throw sail through his hands.
Kennan Lewis and Joe Burnett, second year corners expected to step up this year, had up-and-down games. Lewis covered Calvin Johnson in the end zone and nearly picked off an errant pass. Burnett blanketed him on the next try but got burned on a comeback move for the TD on the third attempt. Of course, Johnson is the best WR in the NFL so I cut the youngsters some slack. Against lesser competition, they acquitted themselves fairly well. I was particularly impressed with Lewis’ leaping ability and think he might prove useful this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS – Daniel Sepulveda was handling kickoffs in camp. Skippy Reed went back to doing it during games. So we got the same old lousy kickoffs that land at the 10 yard line. He was a perfect 3-3 on FG attempts.
Coverage wise, they didn’t look terrible but Detroit was getting better-than-average field position off all their kicks. If the Steelers are going to play a lot of low scoring defensive struggles, giving up good field position on a regular basis has to be fixed or it’ll come back to bite them.
In summation, the bad news is I don’t know how much they did to address last year’s shortcomings. The good news is only three more of these travesties left before we get to some real football.