The preseason has come to a close, and the Steelers will be looking forward now to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. But before we willfully shut the door on the most hated time in football (other than the offseason), let’s reflect on some observations from last night’s game.
Back Me Up
This was pretty much a game of backups for the Steelers with an occasional sprinkle of a starter here and there. I think it’s slightly fortuitous that some key guys were rested for precautionary measures because it gave some 2nd stringers opportunities with and against other 1st string players. Batch started the game for the Steelers and led them to an oddly ending touchdown drive. Batch went 6/8 for 59 yards. Pretty decent numbers for barely playing the last two preseason games. Batch was in for two series which ate up most of the 1st quarter. Dixon appeared in the 2nd quarter and played for the rest of the game. Dixon struggled most of the game – throwing 11/22 for 157 yards and 1 TD. He was all over the place early on – whether that was a result of miscommunication between his receivers or just bad throws is yet to be discovered. Some passes he missed by a mile, which may mean wrong route or a miscommunication of one. Either way, he looked below average – even for himself. He didn’t manage the game very well, which resulted in a delay of game and many missed opportunities when there were poor defense schemes or QB scrambles. If this wasn’t enough to tell Tomlin that Batch is the #2 guy, I don’t know what is…
Emmanuel Sanders returned to the field last night, playing in his first preseason game this preseason. That foot of his kept him out of many practices and every game save for last night. For a guy who’s seen little playing time, he did a pretty good job. He had 4 catches for 60 yards (thrown to 5 times). For even one preseason game, I think he’s made a strong case to be on this roster that is chalk full of talented receivers. As I tweeted earlier during the game – when was the last time the Steelers had 5 or 6 good and solid receivers to choose from? I think the Steelers should use Leftwich’s roster spot and keep’em all.
Dwyer Closes Case
Jonathan Dwyer had a great game last night racking up 88 yards and 1 50 yd TD on 13 carries. He looked really good out there with his cuts and speed bursts. The 50 yard run was pretty sweet as Dwyer showed off that he can light the fires. Dwyer has been slowly creeping into the main conversation when people talk about the Steelers’ running back core. Mendenhall is certainly the starter and Isaac Redman is clearly the #2 guy. But, who will be the #3 guy and potentially the 3rd down back? Moore is a safe choice but I’ve argued before that he sucks at blocking and has only ‘ok’ hands. Dwyer has put in hard work this preseason and has gained more playing time than Moore. Is this a sign that Dwyer will be the guy to get the nod? After Byron Batch went down a few weeks ago (and I thought I would have to put up with Moore for another season) I’ve been slowly jumping wagons and chasing after the Dwyer gravy train. I think he’s in the roster as the #3 guy – case closed.
Will the Real Defense Please Stand Up?
The defense gave up 304 yards of passing offense last night with Carolina averaging 14.5 yards per catch. The first half was better with the average being about 7 yards per catch – so at least the secondary was containing the ‘big play’. Although, it should be noted that Newton did not go deep much – something that was probably very calculated by the coaching staff. There were some bright spots within the defense: Curtis Brown played for a long time and was hitting hard out there. He did get beat on a 40 yard pass play, but did not get ‘burned.’ He just turned too late. He later redeemed himself with some good pass defending on a slant pass that could have resulted in 6 points. Cortez Allen also got some significant playing time and broke up a nice pass that resulted in a Will Allen INT. With Taylor and McFadden out (and other starters leaving early) there was an inconsistency that was a far cry from the game against Philly and even Atlanta. For a rookie, Cam Newton was allowed to move the ball pretty well and got a touchdown out of his drive. The defense had a tough time getting pressure even though they accumulated four sacks.
I don’t know when we are going to see the ‘real’ Pittsburgh Defense. We’ll see them on paper come September 4th, but with so many guys out/floating in the rotation this preseason, I don’t know when that same defense will show itself through performance on the field. It better happen quick. I know that we all love to dig into Joe Flacco, but the guy is good enough to burn any mediocre defense.
Maybe all those U’s stand for ‘Unsportsmanlike’… as in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Antonio Brown received another extra curricular flag last night that thankfully did not negate the 50 yd TD run from Dwyer – talk about potentially pissing your teammates off. No I’m not one to judge one’s faith and practice thereof, but for a guy who is so open about his faith, you would think he would try to emulate those teachings on the football field… like in 1 Peter 5:6: ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.’ Guess he needs to find the scripture that says ‘Thou shalt not be a jagoff on the field.’ There’s nothing quicker than acting like one that will get you sitting on that bench than a bunch of ‘what were you thinking?’ kind of penalties. Simply dumb. It doesn’t matter how good he’s been this preseason, if Brown keeps this kind of stupidity going, he’ll be cleaning the ear wax off of Tomlin’s headset instead of lining up with Wallace and Ward. It also doesn’t help that he didn’t have a catch all night….
Well that’s it for the post game wrap-up. Anything I miss? Leave a comment! The roster will get narrowed down to 53 by the end of the week. It’s going to be tough for the coaches this time around. Some guys are easy to figure out, other will be more difficult. The Steelers will need to figure out what to do with IR roster spots – fill them or make them available for other positions? Stay tuned this weekend and early next week as we look at the final roster and give our thoughts.
Bring on Baltimore. Go Steelers!