Steelers vs Panthers – First Half Notes And Observations

Below are my notes and observations for the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers:

  • Throughout the entire preseason, Ben Roethlisberger has been the sole team captain. Will that change? He didn’t even play and he won the coin toss, but as they almost always do, the Steelers deferred.
  • As I’d assumed, Brett Keisel started the game at right defensive end with Cameron Heyward sitting out. But will he be there when the season starts?
  • Cam Thomas was driven several yards off the ball on the first play of the game by one lineman. Arthur Moats had to make the tackle, with Mike Mitchell flying in at the tail end to lay a shoulder into the runner already in a downward trajectory.
  • Ryan Shazier couldn’t wrap up on the Panthers’ tight end on second down, allowing a few yards after the catch.
  • First target in Ike Taylor’s direction. Kelvin Benjamin got his big frame in front and that was it.
  • I still don’t think the Panthers converted on fourth and one. Steve McLendon got good penetration and the inside linebackers filled the hole nicely.
  • Keisel and Jarvis Jones provided nice pressure on the next play. The former got to the quarterback to force an incompletion.
  • On second down, the Steelers broke out the big nickel, with Stephon Tuitt and Keisel at defensive end and McLendon and Thomas at defensive tackle. No outside linebackers. Gain of one.
  • Jones had a chance at stopping a wide receiver screen for a loss on third and nine, but it would have been a difficult play. Mitchell and Keisel were blocked out well. The result was a deflating first down.
  • Nice pressure from the edges on first down, and Lawrence Timmons nearly picked off the off-target pass that was behind the receiver.
  • Shazier sped in for a tackle to a run off left tackle, but was eluded by Fozzy Whittaker for a seven-yard gain.
  • It wasn’t beautiful, nor was it textbook, but Taylor got the job done against Benjamin in the end zone. He could have possibly been flagged for illegal contact though. It looked like his feet may have gotten tangled at the end, but he got his hand up to interfere with the play.
  • Yes, Michael Palmer threw a decent lead block on Markus Wheaton’s opening end around, but that doesn’t mean he had a great game.
  • On second down, it looked like Dri Archer may have had something for a moment, but the defender held on to the back as he twisted and eventually pulled him down.
  • David Paulson threw a nice block on Will Johnson’s lone carry on the unblocked right defensive end.
  • I think it’s pretty obvious that Martavis Bryant injured his shoulder on his lone reception. Landed right on it after having to extend for the high pass.
  • Palmer was beaten badly on fourth and two, preventing the Steelers from converting.
  • As I mentioned in my article yesterday, Chris Hubbard lined up as an extra lineman on the play.
  • The Steelers left Benjamin wide open on second down, but Antwon Blake was able to make the tackle a yard shy of the first down. Jones made a superb play on third down to stop the carry for a loss and force a punt.
  • Wesley Johnson was beaten badly up the middle on first down for a nine-yard sack. He had a few plays like this against a good defensive line. Landry Jones was a deer in the headlights.
  • Speaking of Jones, he was nearly intercepted on the next play, not seeing the cornerback cut Justin Brown’s route.
  • Starters still in on defense. Blake did a nice job covering Benjamin down the field. Even came close to an athletic interception.
  • Moats couldn’t finish a tackle for loss on second down, but Shazier and Shamarko Thomas closed in. Thomas was a bit quiet last week, but he had another good game here.
  • Derek Moye threw a nice block away from the play as a jammer on the punt return. I have him going to the practice squad even with six receivers on the roster.
  • Receiver screen to Darrius Heyward-Bey. Kelvin Beachum threw a nice block downfield.
  • Good block by Rob Blanchflower on second down, helping Le’Veon Bell get the first down.
  • They run this a lot with David DeCastro, but Will Simmons replaced him. They ran it anyway. Simmons and Will Johnson pull left, open a nice hole for Bell for six yards. Could have gone for more if Beachum didn’t slip off his downfield block.
  • Wesley Johnson beat again, this time in the running game, gets LeGarrette Blount taken down.
  • Johnson…beat again, this time for another sack. Paging Brad Wing. Good punt this time. Coverage was a bit slow to develop, but the returner let the ball bounce. 48-yard net.
  • Panthers found the soft spot in the zone for a couple big gains, however.
  • Jones made another good run stop, but Benjamin got over Blake for a first down on the next play.
  • And by the way, so much for keeping Thomas at safety. He’s been playing in the slot.
  • I have a feeling Archer will have some of the longest two-yard runs of the season.
  • Mike Adams beaten for what could have easily been a sack. Held on the play, but so did Wesley Johnson, and the latter was flagged.
  • As I mentioned in an article yesterday, the Steelers used the big nickel with their second-team personnel as well. Ethan Hemer, Daniel McCullers, Roy Philon, and Josh Mauro.
  • Another good defense by Blake down the field, this time on third down.
  • And good coverage by Terence Garvin on the next third down.
  • Wheaton the last remaining starter on offense at the two-minute warning.
  • Brown finally made a play before halftime. 13 yards is his longest reception of the preseason. But the Steelers seem to really like him, for reasons that I mentioned yesterday, and thus I think he makes the roster.
  • Miscommunication from Jones with Heyward-Bey open resulted in an overthrow and a big missed opportunity.
  • On third down, Brown played for the sidelines despite the Steelers having a timeout left. He could have easily gained another five yards to get to the 40-yard line and entertain the thought of a long field goal. Lack of awareness there.
  • And another good punt from Wing to close the half. 39 yards, fair caught at the six-yard line.
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