Like we do after every game, a recap of the winners and losers from the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. I’ll also make a short Youtube video with some other thoughts on the game or for those of you that prefer an audio version so you can learn while you surf the Interwebz.
Keep in mind that we’ll be combing through the game and opinions are formed and changed throughout the week.
Doran Grant: Arguably one of two players fans will cite around Monday’s water cooler. After a relatively quiet camp, and reports that he is moving to safety, Grant responded with seven tackles and a pick six tonight. The interception was fluky and created because of pressure, but it was his solid tackling that had me eyeing him like the pretty girl at the end of the bar.
That’s almost step number one in this Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense so it was a positive step for a guy who needed some good mojo.
Daryl Richardson: Richardson was clearly running as the #2 running back tonight, seeing action for basically two quarters before the other guys climbed in. Though lanes weren’t always available, he showed the same acceleration through the hole that I’ve seen at camp. And when the offensive line did create space, like on a gap run in the first half, he took advantage. He ran hard, smart, and fast.
Richardson finished tonight with 11 carries. Cameron Stingily and Brandon Brown-Dukes had two. Combined.
Javon Hargrave: He may not have come away with a sack but there was plenty of pressure, including one forced throw in the red zone that was nearly picked off. His first step was immediately noticeable, consistently quick, and created a push in the backfield that forced runs laterally. He held the point of attack against the run well too, showing the ability to two-gap and anchor.
Ricardo Mathews: I don’t know if many will walk away talking about his game but he played his tail off. He whooped rookie left guard Joe Dahl on the Grant interception. He and Hargrave have immediately given me comfort in the backup defensive line and a total 180 from the state of that group last season.
Jordan Berry: What you observed tonight is what we’ve seen in limited camp action. His leg was booming with a pair of 61 yard punts and a 57 yarder. Placement was quality, one was along the sideline that didn’t allow a return, while his hangtime was more than serviceable.
With Will Monday’s struggles, again, similar to what we’ve seen in camp, Berry has taken a Katie Ledecky like lead for the starting punter gig.
L.J. Fort: Fort, with the help of some solid defensive line play, was all around the backfield, tied for the team lead with five tackles. Like he did in camp, he ran with the the second team inside linebackers, above Tyler Matakevich and Steven Johnson. He continued his role as an active player on special teams.
Cobi Hamilton: Not exactly the guy whose jersey you’re buying next but for one of the more recent players to the team, he did well. Arguably the most impressive of the back-end receivers, finishing with two grabs for 22 yards with one catch called back. Showed strong hands on contested footballs and with how putrid the Steelers’ passing attack was, wound up with the second most receiving yards.
Sammie Coates: Ugh, this is a punch in the gut. Not the end of the world, we still have three games to make us forget this performance, but his hands and ball security problems showed up at the worst time. So weird because he had been near perfect in that regard in training camp. He double-caught a screen and fumbled twice, officially finishing with three grabs for 18 yards.
Some of you on Twitter pointed out some “tells” on run/pass based on his stance. I’ll have to go back and look at those.
The Passing Attack: Even by the preseason’s low bar, this unit was hot garbage. Under 130 yards of total passing yards and the group struggled to get anything going downfield, sans one nice catch by Darrius Heyward-Bey in the end zone. It was the only play of the night, run or pass, to eclipse 20 yards.
Brian Mihalik/Bruce Gradkowski: Yes, they were injured, and you never want to add insult here. But both had some really good opportunities to prove their worth and unfortunately, their days were cut short. Gradkowski has the durability of Flat Stanley and injured his hamstring sliding at the end of one of his runs.
Mihalik suffered a potentially serious injury, Tomlin called it a probable MCL sprain, that could keep him out for a couple weeks. He showed real practice squad material and potential but the injury obviously throws a wrench into that equation.
Chris Hubbard: Though it was positive, albeit a bit predictable, to see him at right tackle, the results made me queasy. I’m sure the left side is more natural for him, it’s what he played in college, but he was schooled routinely by the Lions’ backups. You can only imagine what might happen in a regular season setting.
Sean Davis: It’s the first game for a rookie so I’m not looking to crush every fiber of his being, but there were several missed tackles and one lose-your-jock moment to Anquan Boldin in the slot. Quite the welcome the NFL moment. He did make up for it by defeating a block later in the first half and showed the conditioning to play slot and safety.
Tyler Matakevich: I wouldn’t call this a “bad” game by any stretch but if this is going to be his playing time, it’ll sure be tough for him to get those 10 tackles we all talked about. It took until basically the fourth quarter for him to get consistent snaps into the defense, the Steelers, for whatever reason, choosing to play Vince Williams for three quarters.
Fort had five tackles, Johnson had four, Matakevich with a goose egg, per ESPN. He needs to play his way onto the roster and these performances aren’t going to cut it.
(EDIT: He actually had two tackles tonight, per ESPN’s updated stats).