The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to resume their preseason after taking a loss against the Lions last week. Tonight, they face the state-rival Eagles, though neither side will be at full capacity, as would be expected for a second preseason contest.
Unsurprisingly, Pittsburgh will continue to sit many of its key players on the offensive side of the ball, namely Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, and Antonio Brown. On the other hand, center Maurkice Pouncey, who missed all of last season, will be expected to play.
Among those recovering from injuries who are more likely than not to participate tonight are quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, linebackers Jarvis Jones, Anthony Chickillo, and Bud Dupree, cornerback Artie Burns, and, of course, Ladarius Green, who is still on the PUP list. Tackles Marcus Gilbert and Jerald Hawkins have both been dealing with shoulder injuries. Travis Feeney, on the other hand, seems likely to participate tonight.
On the Eagles’ side tonight, key actives include rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Hunter Sharp, cornerback Jalen Mills, and defensive lineman Mike Martin.
The Steelers were back to receive the opening kickoff, back out of the end zone as Sammie Coates watched it go. Landry Jones led the day’s ‘first-team’ offense out onto the field. He looked deep for Darrius Heyward-Bey on first down, but the pass hung up enough for the defensive back to make a play and bat it down. On second down, Fitzgerald Toussaint found space for about seven yards off the left end. On third and three, a quick pass to Eli Rogers out of the slot picked up a first down.
From a heavy set, Toussaint took the hand off with Coates sweeping back to bluff an end around, but the defense didn’t bite and the play gained no yards. Toussaint got the ball again, but lost a yard. On third and 11, Jones found Coates for a completed pass, but it was shy of the first down. Jordan Berry punted from the 40, sending it to the 10. A long return ensued, but it was negated by an illegal block in the back, half the distance to the five. Shamarko Thomas was the Steeler wronged on the penalty.
Due to injuries, James Harrison and Arthur Moats started the game at outside linebacker. Stephon Tuitt chased down the first play from scrimmage for just a yard. The second-down run was stuffed as well. On third and long, a bubble screen fell short of the sticks for a three-and out. With Rogers back to return the punt, a 62-yarder sent the receiver scrambling backward and returned it, in a rather roundabout fashion, to about the 32.
On the first play of his second drive, Jones threw an interception looking for Coates, the pass returned for a touchdown. The Eagles take a sudden 7-0 lead, Nolan Caroll with the theft.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) August 18, 2016
Coates returned the ensuing kickoff out past the 20, to the 21. Out of a heavy set, a faked hand off and end around ended up in a pass into the dirt on a failed running back screen. On second down, Jones connected with Heyward-Bey off play action. Toussaint slipped through a tackle and bowled ahead off the right side to start the next series for a four-yard gain. Jones launched a pass over the middle, perhaps to draw a pass interference penalty on Heyward-Bey down the field.
Jones looked deep on the following play for Coates, who caught the pass out of bounds, but was also flagged for offensive pass interference. Now on first and 20, Toussaint was bottled up after a one-yard gain up the middle. Spread four wide, Rogers took a screen pass up the left side for about 10 yards. On third and five, Rogers freed himself up over the middle again to connect on the converting pass across midfield.
Toussaint found room for three yards off left guard. A hole opened to the left for a first-down run a play later. From the 26, the third-year back was stopped after a yard. Jones found him on a check down on what looked to be a possible first-down catch, but was stopped three yards short of it. Jones connected with Jesse James on a flat round to move the chains.
From the 20, Daryl Richardson was dropped in the backfield for a loss by Brandon Graham. Out of a heavy set, Coates was given the ball on an end around with David Johnson out in front of the play, able to pick up about nine. On third and three, Jones threw to Cobi Hamilton in the end zone, the ball popped into the air, and the deflection was picked off by Malcolm Jenkins for the turnover in the end zone.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) August 18, 2016
Following the turnover, Sam Bradford connected with Darren Sproles for a short gain of four yards to end the first quarter. Following up with a first-down connection to Nelson Agholor, Robert Golden made the tackle. A pair of runs up the middle set up a third and short. With three wide, Lawrence Timmons stepped up and deflected the pass intended for the tight end to force a punt.
With Rogers back to return the punt, he let it bounce behind him into the end zone for a touchback. Cody Wallace entered to replace Pouncey, and Xavier Grimble replaced James. Hamilton and Coates at receiver. Richardson was bottled up for a loss on a run to the right side, Grimble with the block on the edge. On second and 18 now, Grimble dropped a pass over the middle with nobody in coverage on him. Jones found Rogers out in space, eluding a defender or two to pick up 13 yards. Berry’s punt traveled 51 yards for the fair catch–which Thomas nearly interfered with.
Javon Hargrave entered at nose tackle on the ensuing possession from the 24. Bradford found Brent Celek off play action, who beat Ross Cockrell for first-down yardage. Sean Davis made the tackle with the running back finding yardage beyond the defensive line for a seven-yard gain. Near midfield, Bradford was chased out of the pocket and out of bounds, gaining one. On third and two, Sproles turned and caught the first-down pass beyond Timmons for three yards.
Moats was unaccounted for off the edge, coming hard to take down Bradford for the sack and a loss of 12. A running back screen was stopped in timely manner by Tuitt and Ryan Shazier. On third and 21, Bradford’s downfield pass did not find a home for an incompletion, setting up another Eagles punt, which was yet another touchback.
Hamilton dropped the ball on a crossing route on first down, a disappointing showing after his encouraging preseason debut a week ago. Richardson did a nice job of finding the edge and showing some speed on the following play to pick up some yardage to set up a third and five. Jones found Richardson for five yards and a first down.
Hamilton came back to the pass near the first-down marker to move the sticks again. From the 41, Richardson fought hard off right guard for four yards. Jones escaped pressure on second down and looked for Coates down the field, who brought in the pass, but the officials ruled that he did not get his feet inbounds. Mike Tomlin challenged the ruling. Upon review, the ruling was overturned, giving Coates the catch and the offense the first-down, for 24 yards.
From the 31, some more tough yards for Richardson set up a second and three. Richardson was stopped about a yard short of the sticks on second down. He got it again on third and one and made the conversion. From the 20 again, Jones went to the end zone looking for Coates, but instead found Aaron Grymes, the cornerback in coverage, who turned into a wide receiver on the play and caught it in the right corner of the end zone for the interception, pending review.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) August 19, 2016
With Thomas now in the game on defense, he read the opening screen pass of the drive to force the receiver out after four yards. On second down, Montell Garner stopped the receiver a yard shy of the first down. In the meantime, rookie Travis Feeney and Jordan Zumwalt checked in at outside linebacker, in addition to Doran Grant at cornerback. An offensive pass interference penalty negated an easy first down. Agholor made a leaping catch for a 22-yard gain and a first down.
He dropped the next pass his way, though it was a bit behind him. On second down, Sproles got the ball in space for a nice gain, but a hold negated the play once again, the left tackle. Now second and 20 from the 30-yard line, Bradford connected with the tight end Ertz for a small gain. On third and 15, Vince Williams came up to make the tackle on Ertz short of the first down, the tackling overall seeming improved from the opening game.
Rogers got his second crack at a punt return and this time got upfield for a decent return, rather than moving side to side too much. The first pass of the two-minute offense was a short-gainer to James, with a timeout used at the 51-second mark. Coates could not bring in a jump ball heading out of bounds, but a defensive offside penalty was called on the play. Jones was intercepted on the second-and-one play, taking a hit from the blind side as he threw. The pass was underthrown and intercepted by Jalen Watkins. The tight end James allowed the pressure off the edge to end the two-minute drive.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) August 19, 2016
Grant did a nice job of preventing the receiver from making the catch on first down. A shown blitz drew a neutral zone infraction on the defense for Feeney. Thomas brought down Ertz after a first down. Garner was beat for a first down on the next play, chasing the receiver out of bounds. From the 29, Grant made the tackle on Randle for a gain of six, though the receiver got out of bounds. On second down with 11 seconds left, Bradford looked for the end zone to Ertz, but the ball was not in the right spot. The Eagles opted for the field goal instead of going for it on third down with seven seconds remaining.
With three seconds remaining, the Steelers had one more chance to return a kick, a squib kick that Coates scooped up and returned past the 25 to end the half.