For the Steelers, it’s about finding some beauty in an ugly preseason


Aug 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) runs the ball after a turnover against the Kansas City Chief in the second half at Heinz Field. The play was overturned and the Chiefs retained possession. The Chiefs won the game in overtime, 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

There is an old expression “try to find the good in everyone.” Trying to find the good in what has been an ugly 2013 preseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers is tough. After dropping a decision to Kansas City in OT, the Steelers fell to 0-3. While some may discount preseason, Mike Tomlin decided to make this training camp one of his more physical ones, at least as much as the new CBA would let him. Thus far, the results haven’t shown up.

Yes, it was nice to see the first team offense finally score a TD, but that was mainly due to some fancy footwork by QB Ben Roethlisberger. On a play which we can label ‘vintage Ben’ he scrambled and twisted out of trouble and found a wide open Johnathon Dwyer. As I said, it was Ben being Ben and unless the atrocious offensive line play improves, the offense will be relying on Ben improvising to keep plays alive. Fans and especially the Steelers coaching staff would rather not see Roethlisberger putting himself at risk of injury, but until Heath Miller returns, Emmauel Sanders can prove he can stay healthy, and someone steps up to take the place of the departed Mike Wallace (hello, Markus Wheaton),Ben is the only reliable play maker.

Speaking of the offensive line, which has been quite frankly atrocious, I realize they are learning a new blocking scheme under coach Jack Bicknell, Jr,but the bonehead penalties and disorganized play is cause for alarm. Neither the first nor second unit has shown any signs of cohesion and the front office should be paying close attention to the final roster cuts for a veteran or two who can come in and try to add some stability. No, it’s not an ideal solution, but this unit needs all the help it can find.

Markus Wheaton, has been one of the few bright spots for the Steelers. He is starting to show he can be the deep threat the team needs, especially against the Chiefs Saturday night. Naturally he has to show that when he’s facing the opponents regulars, but I like what I’m seeing from him. With Emmanuel Sanders all but gone after this season, barring injury or poor play, Wheaton should be starting opposite Antonio Brown in 2014.

Was that really Ziggy Hood I saw in on a sack Saturday night? While my thoughts on Hood have been well documented, I don’t see the team having much of a choice except to start him. Haven’t seen much inspiring play from any of the nose tackles, however Al Woods has played well enough to be part of the rotation on the defensive line. Cam Heyward still is a non factor and quite frankly should be shown the door.

Glad to see the team finally part ways with LB Stevenson Sylvester. Why they even re-signed him this off season puzzled me.

Other than Wheaton, the biggest bright spot has been first round pick Jarvis Jones. While I hoped the team would’ve used it’s first round pick on a guy like Cordarrelle Patterson, I have no argument with Jones given the way he’s played. As long as his chest injury is alright, he starts from day one. He’s just too much of a play maker to sit. With that in mind, maybe Jason Worilds should be amongst the final cuts, although I doubt that will happen given the lack of depth. Again, maybe the Steelers brass should look at other teams final cuts (Seattle for instance) to find some pass rush help. Worilds just has done nothing with his opportunity and to me has given the team no reason to keep him.

Still really like LB Vince Williams. I see him starting alongside Lawrence Timmons someday.

A little surprised the team is going with Isaac Redman over Dwyer. Yes, I felt Dwyer would be the odd man out in the backfield, but he’s run hard and aside from a fumble against the Redskins, hasn’t done anything too damaging. While I like Redman better overall, Dwyer has played well enough to start against the Titans.

Other than the offensive line, the special teams have been downright ugly. This has been an Achilles heal for the team for years, but this pre season it has been especially bad. It’s never too early to make a coaching change, coaches and coordinators are fired all the time, and maybe it’s time to say goodbye to special teams coach Danny Smith. And before you label this a knee-jerk reaction or tell me to relax everything will work out once the season starts, think of how many Steeler games turned against us because of bad special teams play. Yes, the offense has pulled the special teams’ fat out of the fire a few times, but this unit has looked as bad as the O-line.

Penalties, bad offensive line play, bad special teams play, a struggling first team offense, William Gay at CB, things have not been pretty this preseason. However, the play of Jones, Wheaton, Dwyer, and even Al Woods have provided a few bright spots. No, it’s not much, but it’s all about finding the beauty and good in everything, isn’t it?

One Non Steeler thought:
Living here in NJ, I must suffer through all things New York Jets. Has there ever been a more ridiculous head coach than Rex Ryan? His press conference after Saturday night’s OT win over the Giants was embarrassing. What was the burning desire to win a meaningless preseason game? Personally I think Mark Sanchez has no business being under center in the NFL, but putting him behind a second team offensive line was as close to intentionally destroying a career as I’ve seen. I’ve always looked upon the Ryan-Sanchez pairing as some sort of Greek or Shakespearean tragedy, but Saturday night added a new twist. Both of these guys should be gone by this time next year and rightfully so. But Ryan is an embarrassment and should be canned sooner than later. I feel bad for Sanchez because he’s hurt, but at least we won’t have to look at that hairband for a few weeks. I say start Matt Simms and end the QB questions!