The Pittsburgh Steelers finish strong in the 2022 preseason. Here’s why their defense stole the show in their exhibition finale against the Lions.
Mike Tomlin certainly has an interesting philosophy when it comes to the NFL preseason. Though exhibition records are meaningless, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach wants to make sure his team is well prepared to enter the regular season. I think it was ‘mission accomplished’ for Tomlin in the preseason finale against the Lions.
In their final preseason performance against the Detroit Lions, the Steelers surprisingly played almost all of their starters for the entire first half. The Lions, meanwhile, deployed most of their backups from the gate. Starting quarterback, Jared Goff, did not suit up for this contest. While Pittsburgh wasn’t exactly going against the cream of the crop, the defense dominated in this one.
On the Lions’ first two drives of the game, Pittsburgh’s defense forced a three-and-out. T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward led the charge with stops near the line of scrimmage and deflected passes. When the clock struck zero on the first half, the Steelers held a 16-0 lead over the Lions.
In Goff’s absence, quarterback Tim Boyle was just 5 of 15 for 64 yards and an interception before being pulled from the game. He finished the contest with 4.3 yards per attempt and a dismal 19.8 passer rating, according to ESPN. David Blough was better for Detroit, but he still managed just 5.0 yards per attempt on 32 passes.
The second half was much of the same. Pittsburgh’s backup defense continued to stall every offensive drive the Lions tried to string together and they mustered up just 3 points until the closing second of the game. It would have finished this way if not for two penalties in the final two minutes of the contest that kept Detroit alive for their first and only touchdown drive of the night.
Eventually, the clock struck zero on Pittsburgh’s 2022 preseason, and they held off the Lions for a final score of 19-9. Tomlin’s team went a perfect 3-0 in exhibition action this year, and he’s hoping his starters did enough to be well-prepared for the season-opener against the Bengals.
Steelers aggressiveness nearly cost them
I know that Tomlin wants to make sure his team is as prepared as possible and don’t come out flat to begin the regular season, but I disagree with playing star players in a meaningless preseason finale.
Obviously, injuries are flukey and you can’t predict if or when they are going to happen, but I don’t like adding unnecessary risk to good players. I was very vocal on Twitter about Pittsburgh needing to pull Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt from the game after the first two series. Tomlin did not.
Shortly after, Watt was hit low on a cut block and exited the game with a knee injury. Diontae Johnson was also banged up early in the contest with a shoulder injury after a 38-yard reception.
Fortuantly, it looks like both Watt and Johnson are going to be ready to go by the season-opener, but I wasn’t a fan of putting their best players at risk in this contest. I guess it will work out in the end for Mike Tomlin.
While we didn’t see the offensive output we wanted, at least the defense looked as dominant as ever early in this contest when the starters were on the field. Let’s hope that’s a sign of things to come early in the 2022 season.