The Steelers haven’t looked all that consistent this preseason. There have been bright spots and there have been moments to worry. Which team will step up to the plate once the games count?
Will we see the first team offense that had both quick strike scoring capabilities and methodical multi-play drives in a win against the Buffalo Bills? Or the offense that couldn’t get on the same page against the Philadelphia Eagles?
Will we see the swarming, takeaway defense that was highlighted by a stellar performance by Ryan Shazier against the Bills? Or the defense that had more penalties than answers for the Eagles offense?
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It’s especially tough considering how long the first team played against the Eagles. The Steelers couldn’t score until Philadelphia had already started substituting on defense. To make matters worse, the Eagles offense didn’t stop scoring once it was their “twos” versus mostly Steelers “ones.”
Of course, both pessimism and optimism should be tempered when it comes to the preseason. Some of the differences could be chalked up to home and away games. It is also often said that defense has the advantage in the preseason. If that’s true, defenses playing at home have an even greater advantage.
However, does that advantage still exist in the third preseason game. Should it? What is disheartening is that this was the game that the team was supposed to use as a “tune-up.” The Eagles had other ideas.
It was nice to see a sliding Troy Polamalu interception and a longish touchdown to Heath Miller. We were even teased with a Darius Heyward Bey touchdown once the second team was out there. The positives stopped there.
Suisham continues to struggle with kicks. Maybe it’s the new snapper; maybe it’s the new holder. However, the hold and the snap both looked good. Suisham has been uncharacteristically inaccurate this preseason.
Le’Veon Bell needs to start catching the ball. Ben gave him a tough throw and Bell ended up getting the yardage back on a personal foul penalty, but first he dropped the ball. Shortly after that, he had two chances to catch a ball and missed both.
Bell has looked quick and fluid running the ball at times, and it seems like he’s often inches away from cranking it up to full speed and breaking one, but we need more out of the number one back—especially in light of his arrest this week.
Being a number two wide receiver means you’ll make the tough catch, Markus Wheaton needs to make the contested catches. He had an opportunity to build off of a good game against the Bills, but didn’t do too much against the Eagles. He had a miscommunication with Ben on a failed third down attempt on the opening drive, and had a chance to make a nice play on another throw, but the ball hit the ground after it hit his hands.
The starting defense was often chasing plays instead of attacking them. Shazier didn’t have too much involvement to start and was beaten by the Eagles’ tight ends on multiple occasions. The Steelers started off providing some pressure from the front seven, but Nick Foles kept completing passes.
Mike Mitchell had a few nice hits, but also missed an open field tackle on Brent Celek. The biggest thing that plagued the Steelers was the penalties. Illegal contact, defensive holding, and offsides were all called on the Steelers’ starters. Cortez Allen, Jason Worilds, Ike Taylor, and Jarvis Jones were all victims of the yellow hankies—not what you want to see in week three of the preseason. Several of the penalties even came in the redzone.
Martavis Bryant continues to get behind the defense, but as many a commentator has noted, he fails to make the tough catches. Bryant’s first touchdown in the NFL didn’t hide the fact that there were some other plays that he had the opportunity to make, but didn’t.
The Steelers clearly aren’t ready to play consistently in games that matter. After all, that is why you have the preseason. Come the regular season maybe Ben and Antonio Brown will just go back to finding ways to connect and the running game will find a groove and the defense will shore up.
Or maybe the Steelers will be 8-8 again. We can’t really base too much on the preseason, we all know that, but the Steelers sure are playing with our emotions.