Preseason over. On to Washington.
These aren’t in any order, by the way. So don’t yell at me.
1. Artie Burns – It was just one game, and against strictly backups no less, but an encouraging initial showing. He closed quickly on the football, threw his body around, and had a nice diving breakup to prevent a touchdown at the end of the half. He’s still getting used to the NFL, nearly forgetting to tag up a receiver after making the catch on the ground, but for the limited snaps he got, it was some positive news most of us have been patiently waiting for.
2. Anthony Chickillo – That is, until he left the game with a right foot injury, the second time this season he’s bowed out early. But when he was in the game, he consistently got pressure and finished the game with a full sack from two different plays. That was the Chickillo I saw in camp.
3. Daryl Richardson – As putrid as the Steelers’ offense was, Richardson was a bright spot. He ran hard, explosively, and ripped off a 26 yard gain, by far the longest play of the game. His roster spot is now safe after Le’Veon Bell’s suspension came down final but he continued to run well. Not that that should surprise you at this point. It’s everything else he needs to work on.
4. Jordan Dangerfield – It was a classic Dangerfield-type game, flying around the ball against the run and on special teams. He tied L.J. Fort for the team lead with ten tackles. Dangerfield threw his body around, even taking out quarterback Joe Webb early in the game. If Shamarko Thomas’ injury keeps him out Week One and maybe even if he doesn’t – Dangerfield has a clear path to the 53.
5. Matt Feiler – This offensive line won’t get a lot of credit tonight, and rightly so, but Feiler continues to be an impact as a run blocker. Gets a good push on the first level defender and has enough athleticism to work to the second level. I like his odds of making the practice squad.
6. Arthur Moats – Moats has had a really nice camp and put a bow on things tonight, leading the charge with 1.5 sacks. He’s not going to be a 10 sack guy, of course, and he hasn’t reinvented himself. But watching him go against Marcus Gilbert in camp and what we’ve seen in the preseason, he’s made some strides. Speed bull rush has been a big weapon for him.
7. Sean Davis – Not the first guy you’ll think about tonight but he continued to be a reliable and impactful tackler. His one stop halted a long punt return. He started and safety and moved to the slot while covering kicks and punts. High marks to his conditioning, as Mike Tomlin has praised him for all season.
1. Coverage Units – Danny Smith rage time. The Panthers averaged 14.8 yards per punt return on four tires with a long of 24. Which is to say, the Steelers basically had no successful stops. Too many guys getting out of their gap and missed tackles.
2. Pass Protection – Gotta feel for Bryn Renner. Almost impossible to even evaluate him with a line that gave him no time. Big reason why the Steelers finished with just 59 yards passing tonight, probably one of their lowest outputs of any preseason game.
3. Demarcus Ayers – This was a game for Ayers to really show up. But he caught just one pass and didn’t get under one punt, letting it bounce off Steven Johnson and recovered by Carolina. Return guys all start with trust and making good decisions. That play showed neither.
4. Xavier Grimble – He had another drop and I didn’t see him do much as a blocker tonight. Squandered the chance to make the team as the #3. He’ll fight the world – the waiver wire – for the #3 spot.
5. Cameron Stingily – Worked behind Brandon Brown-Dukes and fumbled his only carry, though it was debatable and held up under review. Not a good look.