Enjoy your weekend Steelers fans. The Steelers certainly helped with their preseason week 3 victory. After a couple rough months the Steelers showed a lot to like.
The Steelers have had a difficult time for the past couple months. Martavis Bryant has been suspended for the season. Le’Veon Bell was suspended for 3 games. There’s been contract headaches and strange rumors about Ladarius Green’s health. But Steelers fans finally got something to be happy about this preseason.
By this preseason, I mean Friday. The other two games were a little ugly, as are most Steelers preseason games. The 21-14 win against the Saints brought the Steelers up to 3-13 in preseason games since 2013. They could get to .500 by 2019 at this rate.
But seriously, there was a lot to like about this game. Several boxes got checked that the Steelers wanted to see. The starters got time for the first time this preseason and looked as good as expected. When the starters left, the backups played much better than they had previously.
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So how well did the Steelers do? Let’s count the ways.
The Brown-Ben Connection
The Steelers have many dynamite elements to their offense. The core however is Ben Roethlisberger throwing passes to Antonio Brown. That connection seemed more than healthy on Friday. Brown had 87 total yards including a 57 yard touchdown from Ben. Ben looked light, quick, and ready to go.
The Running Backs
There were a couple rough patches. Williams dropped a pass. Bell fumbled. But Williams isn’t really here to catch passes. And Bell is pretty fumble proof. If you watch the play he had an awkward cut that might have scared him a bit with his knee. But otherwise the two looked ready to go. Bell was strong in passing and running.
Hargrave and the D line
Tuitt and Heyward looked strong as usual. Heyward gave fans a scare with an injury but all signs point to that being fairly insignificant. Pittsburgh drafted Hargrave partly for his leg strength and ability to hold the line but the big draw is his quickness off the line and ability to get in the backfield. He got his first sack and showed he could be the guy to push the Steelers new approach to the pass rush, doing it more from the line, to the next level.
Matakevich and the linebackers
Nobody got a sack. We still wait for signs of life from Jones and Dupree. However the inside linebackers continue to stand out with Timmons and Williams each forcing a fumble. Shazier is getting tackles, and not injuries. The depth stood out though. Both Matakavich and Steve Johnson got an interception.
Wheaton and Coates
Both players had solid games. With Bryant out the Steelers need someone besides Brown who can consistently make plays. Maybe Coates and Wheaton will never be Bryant, but both showed there’s reason enough to keep them on the field and feel like teams can’t entirely focus on Brown. Or if they do they’ll at least pay for it. Eli Rogers is looking good too.
Jesse James and the Tight Ends
James, like Coates, continues to make a few young guy mistakes. But he pulled in a touchdown during a play where he was the second option. He pulled in 3 others including a nice screen pass where he moved pretty well in open space. James is still young but with his size he could be great red zone threat and with Green in whatever mysterious condition he’s in, James will have to. Xavier Grimble had a nice 22 yard catch as well.
Jones is extremely inconsistent. He’ll probably never be a sufficient backup QB. But inconsistent is better than inept if those are your only choices. Jones threw a touchdown and went 19/22 tossing the ball. Best of all he threw no interceptions.
There is still room for improvement among everyone, except maybe Brown and Ben. After months of bad news however the Steelers have to be happy with what they saw Friday, from both the starters and the backups. We’re almost there football fans.
All stats via NFL.com