The days immediately following the first preseason game of the year are a time for reflection and sometimes, a time to head back to the drawing board, as the team found out the horrid news regarding kicker Shaun Suisham and his season-ending knee injury.
For the rookie draft picks and undrafted free agents, it’s their first chance at live game action on the professional level. Many of the Steelers’ draft picks from last year had a less-than-stellar rookie campaign, so Sunday’s game versus the Minnesota Vikings was a chance to put their rookie campaigns behind them and begin to live up to the promise that made them a draft pick in the first place.
The Steelers definitely needed to juice up their pass rush this offseason, so naturally they took athletic specimen Bud Dupree in the first round this year. After showing uncanny power and explosion in the draft buildup, he lacked it on Sunday night, continually failing to get off blocks, but it’s unfair to make a prognosis on one game. The biggest thing Dupree took from Sunday’s experience is the vast difference from college to the pro level.
“First, how in shape players are,” Dupree said, according to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “Also how big the assignments are in the league. If you make one mistake, it’s hard to make up for. The speed of the game was established in OTAs, so I got used to that.”
I look for a bounce-back performance from Dupree Friday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars and he’s obviously still very green in this defense so immediate expectations should be tempered.
Playmaker Dri Archer is one of the second-year players who used the preseason game to help erase a very forgetful rookie season, as he failed to deliver the speedy “splash” plays like he did in college with his 4.2 wheels. He had a decent stat line Sunday, grabbing six passes for 33 yards and taking four hand-offs for 24 yards.
“It felt pretty good to have a good start like that and build your confidence and move forward to next week,” said Archer, according to Varley. “Having a game like that builds your confidence. You know what you are capable of doing and what you have to do to get it done.”
With an offense with plenty of mouths to feed, Archer’s unique skill set would be a welcome addition as perhaps the piece that puts it over the top, if it’s not there already. His speed is scary and in space, he could be lethal if given ample opportunities. Let’s hope that continues Friday night and beyond.
Rookie third-round wide receiver Sammie Coates also made his debut Sunday night, and he certainly lived up to his billing, blowing through the secondary on several occasions despite making only one grab for 12 yards on the night. He blew by rookie cornerback Trae Waynes, ultimately drawing a nice PI call due to Waynes grabbing him.
On the other hand, he also seemed to be lackadaisical at times, sort of looking like he wasn’t giving 100 percent effort. “You just have to play fast and be in a good position,” Coates said. “You just have to play fast. You can’t just do it during parts of the game, you have to play fast at all times.”
Other players, like rookie tight end Jesse James, had horrendous nights while others, like second-year linebacker Ryan Shazier, showed much improvement. That is what the preseason is all about is gaining invaluable reps in live, game atmospheres and the team will look to continue this Friday.