Game one of the preseason is in the books. While this list of winners and losers needs to be prefaced by the fact this is all based on a live observation, and no tape, there are players that stick out in each area. Keep the perspective that this is one game, and these players will all have at least three more games to respond, but my initial thoughts.
Alejandro Villanueva: He has been one of the most polarizing players in training camp and finally, we have something of substance to evaluate him off of. It was much of what we saw in training camp. Showed a good burst out of his kickslide, showed a good base and didn’t seem to double over – arguably his biggest issue in camp – while using his length to keep separation versus edge rushers. A positive camp that has carried over into a positive game.
Shakim Phillips: He did draw two flags, one for pass interference and another for making contact with a gunner out of bounds, but had the catch of the game with a one-handed snag on a nine route from Landry Jones. He may have been buried on the depth chart, and still has a long ways to go to make the practice squad, but has always been a talented receiver that never played in a receiver friendly offense. He took advantage of the opportunity of the Steelers not having their top four receivers.
Stephon Tuitt: Tuitt was one of the few first teamers to see extended snaps and did have the luxury of beating up on the Minnesota Vikings’ backups, but still a good night for him. Always in the backfield and had at least one big hit.
Ryan Shazier: He may have missed a tackle on the Vikings’ first drive but other than that, had a great game. Thing I loved the most was his physicality. Took on a FB on 4th and 1 to blow it up, allowing Lawrence Timmons to scrape over the top for the tackle and turnover on downs. He led the team with five tackles.
Jordan Zumwalt: Still see his path to the 53 as nearly impossible but Zumwalt was everywhere tonight. Definitely showed he’s a thumper who can work off of blocks and find the runner. He has to make himself as tough a cut as possible for the coaching staff, and Zumwalt started that journey tonight.
Terence Garvin: Garvin, a veteran with a ton of players in their first career game, predictably did well. Knows how to work off of blocks and a strong open field tackler. He took over the Vince Williams duties for big hits, and on one pop, lost his helmet. Garvin is the reason why I think Zumwalt will struggle to get onto this roster.
B.W. Webb: A versatile corner who can play inside/out, every team needs a player like Webb. Versatile, an above average athlete, who is technically sound. Competes for the ball in the air and always plays the pocket, leading to a Kevin Fogg interception. Carnell Lake is a stickler for technique and that play is bound to make him beam.
Alden Darby: There were no highlight reel plays from Darby but an overall solid night. Credited with two tackles while serving as the backup upback, getting his nose around the ball on coverage units. Started as first team safety and took advantage of his chance.
Landry Jones: Clearly, the night wasn’t all his fault. Receivers killed him with drops, and he’s playing with a bunch of rookies. It’s hard to shine. And there were some bright spots. Better pocket presence and you saw a guy who was vocal in the huddle.
But the box score will want to make you gag: 16/32 135 yards and an interception. He was called for two delay of games, and would’ve had a third had center Reese Dismukes not snapped the ball before the clock hit zero. Jones again missed some “gimmie” throws and it’s plain to see he’s just not a guy who is comfortable in any capacity when he isn’t afforded a sound base.
Consider this: In nine preseason games, he’s led the offense on a touchdown drive – of any kind – just twice. That’s not good enough.
Tajh Boyd: As bad as Jones was, at least he played. Boyd can’t say the same. Tyler Murphy got a special group of packaged plays while Boyd held a clipboard. The former Clemson QB is in serious trouble.
Cameron Stingily: His Northern Illinois tape and what he’s shown in practice carried over to Sunday’s game. Simply lacks the burst to run away from anybody and comically lost his footing trying to cut back on a first quarter run. Left with a “significant” knee injury according to Mike Tomlin. After one game, his Steelers’ career is dangerously close to being over.
B.J. Finney: I had high hopes for him but there’s no denying he struggled tonight. On the ground too much, struggled to recognize stunts, and lacked a burst to get to his spot when asked to trap block. He was upset and it’s hard to blame him. He may have played center and guard but that’s about the only positive from this game.
Jesse James: Two drops, a walk-in touchdown and another that hit his chest and resulted in an interception. Throw in a hold and you have an ugly day. It is only one game, and the preseason is all about response, but it makes sense to bring in a veteran tight end to add some competition to that group, giving the team options. James has to earn his spot, not be handed it.
Bud Dupree: Again, just one game. But Dupree made a minimal impact as a pass rusher, his inside spin failing numerous times, and worse yet, struggled to hold the edge in the run game. Must do a better job to keep outside arm free and spill runs inside to his help. Better days likely lie ahead but he definitely looked like a rookie tonight.