The Steelers looked to rebound a bit after falling flat against the Eagles offensively last week during their preseason matchup against the Colts on Sunday. There were a few players who needed to step up their performances, and I pointed them out in a post prior to the game. Let’s take a look at them and a few others who had notable performances.
The biggest question on almost everyone’s collective Steeler Nation brain was whether Mike Adams could effectively block at left tackle. Confidence was not high right from the beginning as Marcus Gilbert started at LT through the 1st quarter. When Adams finally entered the game a series into the 2nd quarter, he was tested early and struggled. Adams stood quickly after the snap and appeared to try and overcompensate for his lack to take the edge away during the Eagles game. The Colts linebackers were able to engage Adams and quickly cut inside with a straight shot to Big Ben or Charlie Batch. Things settled down late in the game for Adams but by then it the third team was already out for the Colts. Things are looking pretty bleak for Adams and his chances at becoming the starting LT on Week 1. The stock is certainly rising for Max Starks, who hasn’t even played a snap since coming off the PUP, and hopefully the big fella can start practicing soon.
Another big question for the Steelers offense was how Will Johnson would fit into the fullback position with the abrupt exit of David Johnson due to injury. If there was ever someone to step up and speak loud and clearly that they deserved to be on this Steelers roster, it was WJ with his performance Sunday. WJ immediately made his case in the first series. Johnson did a great job engaging his assignments – he sealed his blocks and prevented his assignment from getting at Dwyer, Batch, or Rainey. There were even a few plays in which he was able to get low enough on a linebacker to push him back off the line of scrimmage. He only had one carry for no gain, but his blocking was superb. I was thoroughly impressed, as this was his first NFL game experience. Chalk up WJ as a player who was an offensive star.
Antonio Brown only had two catches on Sunday, but he made one of them put six on the scoreboard. On what was really just a routine up and out sideline route, Brown made the most of his catch and took it to the endzone for a 57 yard scoring scamper. I don’t really like Cris Collinsworth, but he was dead on when he said that Brown brought out the ‘punter returner in himself’ during the run back. He dipped and ducked around potential tacklers and splashed into the endzone. The catch and run had me thinking aloud, ‘That’s a good start to earning that paycheck, AB! Mike Wallace who?!’ Brown certainly doesn’t have Wallace’s lighting speed, but his ability to run with the ball post catch makes up for his inability to burn past defenders in a 40. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of those kinds of plays from Ben and AB.
A bit of a surprise from Sunday night’s game against the Colts came late when newly signed RB Jason Ford. Similar in size and stature, Jason Ford evoked Jerome Bettis like running. Hines Ward joined the press box late in the game and began calling Ford ‘mini-Bus’ after seeing him hit a wall of tacklers at the line of scrimmage and spin his way out for another chunk of yards. Ford collected 42 yards on 8 carries and was one yard shy of being the lead rusher for the evening. Ford just signed with the Steelers mid-week and barely practiced with the team. He is certainly a surprise and puts a pleasant wrinkle into the running back race.
Other things to take note of: Jerrod Johnson did pretty well last night at quarterback and had me wondering where was Leftwich? Byron was suited up but did not take a snap after Charlie Batch exited late in the game. He’s kind of like Dennis Dixon, but a bit taller and more poised in the pocket – for now. The replacement refs are abysmal. They called a phantom chop block on Chris Rainey in the 2nd half. Mike Adams was the only lineman near Rainey and was already engaged with another Colts defenseman. There’s no way that Adams was engaged in two players at once. The call was bunk and pretty obvious at that. The refs got another call wrong when when the allowed a touchdown when Andrew Luck slid into the endzone for a supposed score. Replay showed that Luck started his slide a yard prior to the goal line. It was 4th down, and the Steelers would have taken the ball back on downs. The play previously was called back from being a touchdown with the automatic review rule on a scoring play. What is really strange is that Luck’s slide was never reviewed even though it was a scoring play.