While we will analyze individual performance more than anyone after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first preseason game Friday night, there is a larger picture. A forest through the trees. And partially, that’s how Mike Tomlin will evaluate his group.
“I want to see collectively that we are developing into a tough team to beat,” Tomlin told the media in a press conference today. “By that I mean, we play fundamentally sound and we keep penalties to a minimum. That we take care of the football. Those that handle the football, ball security is paramount. If you’re going to be a tough team to beat, you have to do a great job in that area.”
First preseason games are notoriously sloppy. But the Steelers have the benefit of playing at home and as Tomlin pointed out, the team has had a clean camp. Quarterbacks have thrown just four interceptions, way down from their numbers last year, and some blips aside, the ball hasn’t been on the ground very often. The center/quarterback exchange have been consistent, running backs haven’t put the ball on the ground, and drops are far and few between.
But things can quickly change in the preseason, especially against a vastly different opponent like the Detroit Lions. If yesterday was any indication, their 4-3 front and pass rush could pose a lot of trouble for the Steelers’ second and third team offensive line. Tough on them to plan for a new look when they’ve been scheming against an odd front for the entire year.
Tomlin expanded on the rest of his expectations.
“Lastly, we got to play hard. I’ve been impressed with first, our conditioning, and secondly, our willingness to play hard to this point in the journey. But we got to be able to take that into a stadium environment.”
He was offered up praise to his team’s conditioning, even rookies, praising Sean Davis after yesterday’s practice. With most of the starters either not playing or bowing out early, the backups are going to have their conditioning tested.
For those who have never gotten a taste of the NFL before, it’ll be a strong dose of reality. Those who are in football shape can play fast, play smart, and not worry about how gassed they are. And even if the talent isn’t quite there, they’ll come out looking better for it.