After a training camp filled with some notable injuries and not a ton of excitement, and a pair of preseason games leaving much to be desired, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, much was expected of the Pittsburgh Steelers last night in their ‘dress rehearsal’ preseason game against the Saints.
And the first-team offense, especially, delivered, speaking primarily of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was precise on nearly every throw on his two drives and ended each with a deftly-thrown touchdown pass, each of a different yet equally important and representative nature.
To put some numbers to it, Roethlisberger went 12 for 17, one incompletion being a dropped pass, throwing for 148 yards for 8.7 yards per attempt and, of course, two touchdown passes, one to tight end Jesse James to end the opening drive of the game, and then another to none other than Antonio Brown, his favorite target.
The opening drive began from the 26, and following an incomplete pass to start things off, Roethlisberger deftly carved through the Saints’ secondary—a significant credit must be given to the starting offensive line, which was excellent on nearly every snap on the opening two drives—with the only third-down play coming on third and goal.
On that play, Roethlisberger came under pressure, for possibly the only time during the game, but he stepped to his left, avoided a defender, and found James making himself available in the end zone after initially being pushed backwards.
The Steelers’ second drive was not nearly as long as the 15-play, 76-yard opener that took up over five and a half minutes. In fact, the ensuing possession lasted just four plays and a bit over a minute, but it was equally effective, as it culminated in a 57-yard deep strike to Brown for the second score in as many tries.
Roethlisberger faced three third-down situations in his two drives, and two ended in touchdowns. One came on third and goal-to-go, the other a third-and-three approaching midfield, but on his own side of the field. One-for-one in the red zone and three-for-three on third down on two drives, I will gladly take.
Finally with almost all starting personnel on board, the first-team offense looked, for the most part, sharp and crisp, with Roethlisberger and Brown in particularly being showcased, but a number of players contributed ably to the efforts, including Eli Rogers, who caught two passes for 17 yards on four targets from the starting quarterback in their first game action together.
If this is a sign of things to come from the Steelers’ first-team offense, then they may well reach their desired target of 30 points per game scored. And this is still without incorporating Ladarius Green into the equation, who at this point seems to be a bonus this season whenever he is able to return from the Physically Unable to Perform List and get on the field.