The Steelers are about to embark on their most significant preseason game, the ‘dress rehearsal’ in which such noted players as Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, James Harrison, and Ryan Shazier are expected to make their debut. While the team has come up with victories in each of their first two preseason games (for the first time since 2010), there have still been plenty of issues they no doubt would like to see addressed.
Among them is the secondary play, and we should see some tinkering there tonight, with Coty Sensabaugh and perhaps Mike Hilton seeing some time with the first-team unit.
According to Joe Rutter, Mike Mitchell, Keion Adams, Senquez Golson, and Steven Johnson are not dressed tonight. Adams and Golson are no surprise. Mitchell said weeks ago that he was hoping to play tonight, so his inability to get back by now could be something that bears watching. Johnson was nicked in the last preseason game, but he said that it wouldn’t keep him out of practice. Apparently he was wrong.
Mike Mitchell, Keion Adams, Senquez Golson and Steven Johnson not in uniform as team goes through warmups for #Steelers
— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 26, 2017
We also have visual evidence from our own, Beaver Falls Hosiery:
— Beaver Falls Hosiery (@subBurgher) August 26, 2017
The Steelers got the ball first, with Fitzgerald Toussaint and Knile Davis back. Davis fielded the ball short of the goal line and returned it to around the 22. Davis started and got the first carry, taking a run the other way, off the left end and finding the corner for a first down. Roethlisberger looked for Davis down the field, but the pass fell incomplete between two defenders. On second down, Davis showed some shiftiness for another first-down run.
Davis received the check-down pass on the following play and looked to get close to first-round yardage. A facemask penalty added another 15 yards, putting the Steelers near field goal range. Alejandro Villanueva allowed pressure off the left side and Roethlisberger was hit as he threw, into the ground for a fumble that the Colts recovered.
On the first play, Donte Moncrief got ahead of Artie Burns for a first-down run, but as Robert Golden came in to make the tackle, the defenders collided with one another and allowed the receiver to escape, running down the field for a 50-plus yard gain until Sean Davis chased him down, setting up first and goal.
After a short run on first down, Scott Tolzien found his tight end for just a yard into the flat as Ross Cockrell made the tackle at the sideline. On third and goal, it was Cockrell’s receiver targeted, wide and incomplete, but he was flagged for pass interference to set up another first and goal, from the one. The Colts punched it in on the next play for the touchdown.
Following a touchback, the Steelers executed a fullback dive…something you don’t see very often. Roosevelt Nix only gained a yard or two for his efforts though. On second and eight, Roethlisberger found Brown for the first time this year for a first down over the middle, picking up some YAC in the process.
From the 40, an easy catch and throw to Rogers crossed midfield, with six yards after the catch. Bryant got the next target off the right side for nine yards. On second and one, however, the defense won in the trenches and penetrated as Davis tried to bounce a run outside, dropping him for a loss of four. On third and five, naturally, Roethlisberger found Brown for a 14-yard gain over the middle. Brown made an excellent adjustment on a ball thrown behind him.
From the 33, following a false start on Maurkice Pouncey in his first action of the preseason, Roethlisberger and Rogers connected on a crossing route with YAC for 15 yards and the first down. Davis was stuffed trying to find the left edge again for a gain of just one. He probably should have looked north rather than west. On second down, a pass intended for Jesse James was batted down in front of him by the safety. Now third down, James made an excellent adjustment making a catch over the linebacker, but he was unable to hold on after a hard collision from the safety. Hard to blame the tight end for not holding on to that one with the ball elevated over his head. Chris Boswell got the Steelers on the board with a field goal, making it 7-3.
Coty Sensabaugh, Mike Hilton, and Jordan Dangerfield came in to replace Cockrell, William Gay, and Golden. Tolzien was forced to scramble on first down, with Shazier making the tackle after a gain of six. Frank Gore picked up 11 on second down, with Shazier gaining penetration but not reaching the back. Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Watt buried Gore on the following play for a loss of several yards. A first-down catch by the tight end on the following play stood up after Watt was flagged for illegal contact.
Phillip Dorsett’s comeback route beat Sensabaugh off the right side for 16 yards. Across midfield, Gore ripped right through the heart of the defense for 11 yards. Cameron Heyward came up just short of the tackle near the line.
Now at the 38, Javon Hargrave pressured Tolzien, forcing him to roll out and throw deep. Sean Davis was there in coverage at the back of the end zone to break up the pass. He actually caught the ball, but was out of bounds when he landed. He came off the field after that play, however. A screen to the left picked up nine yards with Burns getting caught by his blocker. On third and one, Tolzien couldn’t get the ball off before a delay of game. Now third and six, the Steelers shifted into the dime with both Gay and Hilton inside. Gay was targeted, Kamar Aiken getting away for the first down.
From the 27, Shazier dropped into coverage and picked up where he left off last season, intercepting the pass and getting his offense back on the field.
Roethlisberger and Brown did not come out for the ensuing drive. Instead, it was Landry Jones and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who despite everyone shoving him off the roster is still earning top playing time behind the starting wide receivers.
Jones’ first pass was a short one to David Johnson, picking up three yards as he was hit quickly after making the reception. On second down, David was buried in the backfield for a loss of five by Margus Hunt. On third and 11, the Steelers tried to run a screen pass for Bryant, but James didn’t read his blocking assignments correctly. Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates were the starting gunners, with the former making the tackle, and maybe drawing a hold too.
Shazier was replaced by Tyler Matakevich for the next drive, and Cockrell and Golden were back out for Sensabaugh and Dangerfield following the punt. Burns allowed a run to bounced around him for four yards on first down. Bud Dupree was flagged for hitting the quarterback on the shoulder, but Tolzien still got the throw off and Dorsett beat Cockrell for a sizable gain. He did have good coverage on the following play. Now second and 10, the defense was able to bottle up the run. The pass was deflected at the line, but still was caught, picking up nine yards. Watt tipped the pass. Matakevich was in coverage. On fourth and one, the Colts settled for the field goal, extending their lead to 10-3.
Davis took the ball out of the end zone and reached the 18. Not very exciting. On first down, Nix’s lead block around the edge helped pick up about five yards for Davis. He doesn’t run that pull very often, more of a north-south blocker, so that’s interesting to see. On second down, Jones was sacked after not picking up the safety blitz off play action. Now third and 14, he was forced to check down to Toussaint for a short gain. David DeCastro was flagged for being an ineligible receiver downfield, for the second game in a row, but it was declined for obvious reasons. Jordan Berry’s punt took a Steelers bounce to the Colts’ 36 and downed by Heyward-Bey.
James Harrison made his debut following the punt, with Watt playing up until now. Anthony Chickillo and L.T. Walton also in. The defense bottled up the run on first down for a loss. On second and 11, a screen to the running back picked up 11 and the first down, but the offense was flagged for pass interference, a loss of 10. Now second and 21, Ferguson picked up about nine on a draw run to set up third and long. Matakevich did a fantastic job of beating a blocker on the blitz and hammering the quarterback as he threw, but he still got the pass off and completed for a first down over Burns.
Off play action on the following play, a screen off the left side picked up big yardage down to the Steelers’ 33. Aiken picked up 17 from the right slot to the sideline, covered by Chickillo. Now from the 14, Mack was chopped down by Vince Williams trying to stretch a run to the short side of the field. Following an incompletion over the middle, Stephen Morris looked for his tight end down the seam with Gay in coverage. He broke up the pass. Another field goal made it 13-3.
Knile Davis keeps trying to make things happen as a kick returner and not making it happen. He got off to a good start in this game on a few nice runs, but he is not helping himself now.
From the 15 after an awful decision to return a kick several yards deep into the end zone, Jones looked for JuJu Smith-Schuster over the middle on the first play, making the reception and taking a hard hit, hobbling off the field, clearly with a lower body injury. He is working through a bone bruise. It looks like a left knee injury for the rookie. Davis did pick up four yards up the middle on second and two.
A short pass to the left sideline for Bryant added about six yards as the game clock reached the two-minute warning in the first half. Jones launched one deep for Heyward-Bey on the following play, but the ball was slightly overthrown. On third and four, Jones did a nice job of stepping up in the pocket and throwing a rocket to Rogers for the first-down conversion.
Unfortunately another heater to Rogers on the next play, slightly high, ricocheted off his hands, though it fell incomplete. A crosser to Bryant dropped him for a loss of two, setting up third and 12. Jones stepped up to avoid pressure behind him and found Jesse James over the middle for the first down.
From the Colts 47, Jones threw underneath to Heyward-Bey, picking up just four yards. He was unable to get out of bounds, forcing the Steelers to use their second timeout with 43 seconds remaining. With fantastic pass pro from Davis, Jones was able to find Rogers over the middle for the first down. An injury on the Colts resulted in a charged timeout.
This time he looked for Bryant deep in the end zone, but the ball was overthrown. Escaping pressure, the quarterback was able to find Rogers for six yards out of bounds. With 14 seconds remaining from the 22, Jones threw a low bullet wide for Coates, incomplete. Would have been a very, very difficult reception. The offense settled for a field goal, made from Boswell, making it 13-6.
With six seconds remaining, the Steelers got a look at their squib kick coverage, settling the ball at the 22, as a knee ended the first half.