The Steelers played their third preseason game of 2021 and emerged victorious against the Detroit Lions. Here’s what we learned from the game.
I don’t know about you, but for me, the third game of the preseason is the harbinger of the regular season. First, the third preseason game for us means that there is only one game left to play before we have to endure two weeks sans football before the start of the regular season.
Second, the third preseason game (or the second preseason game for teams that will have played only three preseason games) typically features the ‘starters’ or at least the players who are projected to start the regular season. While it does not always come to pass, how well or how poorly a team plays in the third preseason game has an effect, in my opinion, on how the team will perform in the regular season.
Granted, adjustments are always made on both sides of the ball prior to the regular season and teams do not always show their ‘hand’ in terms of formations and tendencies, but you can pretty much figure out how the team will play during the regular season from the performance in the third preseason game, as is the case for the Steelers, who, as you know, will have played four preseason games.
So the fact that we gave up 20 points in the fourth quarter is alarming to me. We were up 23-0 and in complete control of the game, then, all of a sudden, the Lions come ‘roaring’ back to make the game much closer than it had to be. Our backups did not acquit themselves well – that’s for sure – but we still came away with the win.
Steelers starters stole the show
What did we learn from this particular win? I think the most important thing we learned is that our franchise and future Hall of Fame QB, Ben Roethlisberger, is not ‘washed up’ as some in the media have suggested. ‘Big Ben’ was efficient, completing 8 of 10 pass attempts for 137 yards and 2 TDs, both to Pat Freiermuth – our second-round pick the 2021 NFL Draft out of Penn State.
Freiermuth was able to haul in 2 TD passes in the ‘red zone’. Frankly, that is what the Steelers have been lacking from the TE position for quite some time. It’s refreshing to see that in this game, at least, the Steelers were able to move the ball into the ‘red zone’ in order to see what some of our rookies were able to do.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers ‘D’ was able to shut down the Lions for three quarters. But once the backups were in, particularly in the fourth quarter, the ‘wheels fell off’. Look, I understand that it’s preseason, but you cannot give up 20 points in the fourth quarter of any game, preseason, or regular season.
Fortunately, the Steelers held on to win our third straight game. Frankly, the last game of the preseason matters only for those players who are battling for a roster spot; however, based on the performance of the defense in the fourth quarter, the Steelers have to ask whether or not our backups are worth keeping.
I am not suggesting we cut all of our backups on defense, but I think we need to take a look at improving our depth at every position, quite frankly. That may sound like I am overreacting, but professional football players cannot give up 20 points in any quarter, thus I suspect changes will be forthcoming, but as I said, we won and that’s all that matters.
Let’s get through the final preseason game so we can get this thing that is the 2021 NFL season started. We’re just hoping for no injuries next week against the Carolina Panthers.