I’ve got a Steelers problem. Got to sit at home and watch the Black & Gold play their first preseason game just two days ago and already craving more. Unsurprisingly, the offensive display was rather dull. The defense looked dominant forcing field goals instead of touchdowns. The special teams looked solid aside from anemic returns which plagued the team last season.
But as pointed out by many including my last article here; this game was more about camp battles in a new setting rather than a team result. Twenty-four (if you include Sammie Coates & Le’Veon Bell) players did not play. Some are injured and some were held out to prevent an injury. Obviously, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Bell if he had decided to show up to work and other starters were being protected.
Alternatively, Justin Hunter, Demarcus Ayers, Cameron Sutton, Senquez Golson, James Conner, Trey Williams, Christian Brown, Lucas Crowley & Keion Adams would have played if available. Their standing on the roster is hurt by not being able to play regardless of the reason. Yes, even draft picks like Conner & Sutton. It was just a couple years ago that hopes were high that 2nd round draft pick Golson would return from a foot injury to compete for a spot. It will be a good sign if Conner & Sutton are back in pads today along with the others.
For those that did play; we did get to some on the field comparisons and their relative roster standing by how coach Mike Tomlin employed them in the game. We got an extended look at Joshua Dobbs at quarterback and now we have a baseline to measure his future performances. Ben’s job is safe for now … and so is Landry Jones whenever he recovers from the abdominal strain.
At running back, Fitzgerald Toussaint started the game over Knile Davis. 19 yards on six carries by Fitz compared to 34 yards on eight by Knile. Davis did have a nice run gaining some extra yardage on individual effort that out the Steelers within field goal range. Terrell Watson outshined both with his powerful touchdown run. Mike Tomlin showed no mercy; giving Brandon Brown-Dukes no opportunity to carry the ball. Le’Veon’s job is safe for now.
Five wide receivers did not play … five. Including AB, Martavis Bryant, Coates, Ayers & Hunter. Then a 6th, JuJu Smith-Shuster got hurt trying to make a play after an interception early in the game. Would Tomlin send Alejandro Villanueva out wide? No, but Cobi Hamilton who is near the bottom of the pack took the lead with a couple nice receptions including a touchdown. Canaan Severin had a couple catches but hurt his cause with some misses and overthrown balls by Bart Houston. Marcus Tucker got a catch too. Brilliant effort by Cobi but still a roster long, long shot. AB’s job is safe for now.
Tight end is generally acknowledged to be the Steelers weakest position group. David Johnson got in on some blocks early and lined up at fullback I believe. Xavier Grimble made a nice catch in the end zone that was negated by a holding call. Jake McGee got himself in a highlight film with a lead block that sprung Watson’s touchdown. Couple that with a Phazahn Odom drop and we have a new contender for the practice squad. Despite only one reception for one yard; the outlaw’s job is safe for now.
Yoi. The offensive line had some … offensive play. You know what I mean. At times, it looked like the running backs were trying to burst through a brick wall. B.J. Finney did okay at center in Maurkice Pouncey’s place. Chris Hubbard okay at left tackle for Alejandro. But I swear, that Javon Hargrave stole a scene from The Longest Yard and never moved from his three-point stance other than to swing his head on one play to watch a New York Football Giant rush unimpeded into the backfield to sack Dobbs. Some say that it was just a mental error and that at least he wasn’t bull rushed. How much intellect does it take to get your body between the defender and your quarterback? You got to move son. Marcus Gilbert’s job is safe for now.
In what may have been a motivational move or perhaps just a signal that the end is near; both L.T. Walton and Johnny Maxey were put in ahead of Daniel McCullers and got more snaps. Big Shade’s 13 snaps were more than fellow linemen Roy Philon, Lavon Hooks, Francis Kallon or Christian Brown but don’t think he outperformed them. Javon Hargrave’s job is safe for now.
Wow, it was fun watching the linebackers even with Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier and James Harrison sitting this dance out. T.J. Watt was entertaining. Sacking the quarterback, tipping passes, making tackles. He led the defense with at least 63 snaps. Some say, the sacks were gifts. Okay, but he finished the plays. Arthur Moats is one that is thought to be on the roster bubble. He was all over the field on defense and special teams. Three sacks; 6 tackles an interception. L.J. Fort and Steve Johnson also showed that they are viable football players who should be inside rather than the outside looking in at a roster spot. Farrington Huguenin and Matt Galambos recorded tackles. Tyler Matakevich got his time in the game but this was a hungry pack all trying to tear off a piece of meat of their own. That said, Ryan Shazier & Vince William’s jobs are safe for now.
The defensive backs did not seem to give up too many big plays. Brian Allen led the way with 54 snaps and a nice pass defended. Mike Hilton was only 10th in number of defensive snaps among the secondary but proved to be “the real deal as a camp darling.” He seemed to be all over the place in both defense and special teams. Senquez Golson your roster spot is not safe; not that it ever has been.
On special teams, Colin Holba & Kameron Canady had five snaps apiece and no one noticed. That is a good thing. The NFL has lobotomized what used to be one of the most electrifying plays of the game: Kickoff returns. The Steelers did return 4 of 5 kicks received but that was probably just to test out the blocking. I bet all but one would have been a kneel-down in the regular season. Boring. Even punts are anticlimactic. The most you can hope for is a returner to fumble the ball – and that’s just what happened with a fumble recovery by Art Moats. Ok, that was exciting. Both Jordan Berry and Chris Boswell looked solid and their jobs are safe for now.
I watched the game on the NFL Network broadcast who tortured football true fans by switching to other games in the second half. Then after a tweet storm would switch back. But as an average fan; I also had the television muted and listened to Steelers Nation Radio and followed the Steelers Nation live update and discussion thread. One of the top first half comments was John Noh saying, “Mike Hilton is going to be hard to cut!” Bryan got a nice reaction in the 2nd half with, “Regardless of holding, that was impressive from Dobbs imo.” But my personal favorite was DoctorNoah’s “Screw You NFL Network.”
Well, I’ve blathered on. Like a heap of hot chicken wings; I can’t eat just one and anxiously waiting for the next preseason game. In the meantime, will stifle my cravings with generous helpings of Steelers Depot reports on training camp and all news Pittsburgh Steelers.
Some of you may recognize this tune from a certain pharmaceutical commercial. Here is a live 1964 performance of Howlin Wolf doing Smokestack Lightning