Two of the best quarterbacks in the league. Two of the most storied franchises in NFL history. A possible glimpse into this year’s Super Bowl matchup? Could this be the game of the year already?
No. It was just a preseason game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. But it was an important first win of the season for the Black and Gold in 24-19 fashion as they sent the Cheeseheads packing.
Although it was a costly game in terms of injuries for both teams it also was a critical juncture in the career journey of many of the young players struggling for their NFL existence.
So with renewed winds in our preseason sails, here are your Rapid Fire Conclusions:
You Play The Game to…
Win. To win on the scoreboard. To win in the one-on-one battles on the line and those between cornerbacks and receivers. Whoever says the preseason doesn’t matter and the records are meaningless doesn’t understand the nature of competition at the highest levels. The Steelers didn’t NEED a win against the Packers, but it will give a much appreciated adrenaline boost to the energy and confidence of the team. Here’s to hoping they win out.
On the subject of winners, congratulations to Charlie Batch in his new role of color analyst for the Steelers broadcasts. Since he first started his broadcast career, Batch proved to be one of the rare few players who was able to balance a respect for his former teammates with an unwavering commitment to listeners to share unbiased truth. He is a genuine Pittsburgh gem for more than a few reasons.
Free Trade Zone
There are thirty-two teams in the league. Is it a stretch to believe there aren’t more than a few who are low on linebacker or receiver prospects but are rich in quarterbacks or center/guards? The Steelers don’t need to wait for waivers to patch their gaping roster holes.
With the injuries to the Steelers Maurkice Pouncey and Stephon Tuitt (not to mention the Packers Jordy Nelson) there will be cries once again for reducing the number of “meaningless” preseason games. But is the problem that the players have too much full contact during the preseason or too little? With all of the rules forbidding contact in the offseason today’s NFL players are as ill-prepared for tackle football than any of their predecessors.
Two years more? Is that all we get of James Harrison?
Big Day for Backers
The Steelers suddenly appear loaded at linebacker. Both Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree put in strong performances against Green Bay. The other Jones…Howard…had flashbacks to his camp phenom days of last year. Anthony Chickillo showed on occasion and even Shayon Green made his presence felt. Players like Sean Spence and Ryan Shazier are looking more and more NFL ready and both Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams are waiting their turn to impress.
Hint of Hines
Is it possible this year’s camp phenom will be Tyler Murphy? A former quarterback without elite speed, but with the courage to catch the ball in the middle of the field and to make quality yards after the catch. Sound familiar?
And The Winner Is…
Having to choose one Aussie from another bites but there is no fear here on Rapid Fire Conclusions. The clear winner is Jordan Berry. Hang time is as important as distance on kickoffs.
If you hadn’t known any better you would have thought Alejandro Villanueva always was a right tackle following his performance against Green Bay. After hearing all of that talk about how difficult it was for a player to switch sides of the line Alejandro flipped with ease. But this is a player who has switched from tight end to defensive end to offensive line. Talk about position flexibility. If Mike Adams can’t play some guard then why not trade him for someone who can?
Against Green Bay, Shamarko Thomas enjoyed his best performance as an NFL safety confirming the team’s confidence in him. He’ll have plenty of edges to sand during the preseason, and he’ll need to stay healthy, but he may be on his way to big things for the Steelers.
Ian Wild continues to shine in his limited opportunities. His ability to flex in both the safety and linebacker roles gives him a unique edge in competing against the other younger players. If he can splash on special teams he might just be able to shoehorn a spot on the roster.
Shakim the Dream
Although he’s had his share of drops and inconsistent play you have to be impressed with Shakim Phillips. He’s a highlight reel waiting to happen. Phillips is a player who would benefit from a year on the practice squad but a few more big plays in preseason may preclude him from avoiding somebody else’s 53.
Anytime you wear the number 24 you are going to draw attention for Steelers fans who loved Swaggin’ U’s favorite alum Ike Taylor. But Doran Grant is drawing attention for another reason…he can cover. He appears to be hungry like a wolf in his quest to be part of the team’s coverage rotation.
Oughtta Be a Steeler
If there is one young player out there who deserves to be a full time Steeler it’s Jordan Dangerfield. He often seems to be on the short side of the numbers game when it comes to cuts but he always expresses himself with violence and enthusiasm when given the chance. Here’s one vote he beats the odds this year.
DeAngelo Williams may be one of the most important additions to the team this year. How different would the Steelers playoff run have been if they had Williams when Le’Veon Bell couldn’t play against the Ravens? We’ll learn the answer to that question following the first two games of this season.
And what would the Rapid Fire Conclusions be without some Daniel McCullers props? Armed with a healed hamstring, the Big Mac was back at his role of collapsing entire offensive lines. But perhaps most impressive was his pass coverage of a running back during one of the Steelers sacks. Who said the man couldn’t dance?