The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to get underway for their second of four preseason games in a short amount of time, now in Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. They came out of their first contest with the Eagles the victors, but faced only third- and fourth-string quarterbacks, which is what they will themselves be fielding.
Of the notable debuts for Pittsburgh in this game is Bud Dupree, their fourth-year edge rusher who missed the first preseason game with a concussion. T.J. Watt on the other end is still working his way back. We should see others such as Marcus Gilbert get on the field as well.
Mason Rudolph is going to start tonight and play through the first half, with Joshua Dobbs commanding the offense through the second half. We will be looking at wide receivers James Washington and Damoun Patterson in particular to see how they do, as well as rookie running back Jaylen Samuels, who had a quiet opener.
Defensively, we want to continue to monitor the progress of this young secondary, from Artie Burns to Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen. The inside linebacker position…well, you already know the drill on that one. The last spot on the defensive line also remains up for grabs. Don’t count out Greg Gilmore.
The Steelers won the coin toss and chose to get the ball first. After a short return from…Roosevelt Nix, Rudolph looked to his left for Jaylen Samuels but was intercepted by veteran defensive back Tramon Williams for a touchdown. An inauspicious beginning, but it’s one throw that doesn’t count for anything but a learning experience.
And so, after a Fitzgerald Toussaint short return, Rudolph gets a second chance at a fresh start. From the, he…handed off to James Conner, who was tackled at the line of scrimmage on what looked like a bit of an awkward exchange. Now second down, Rudolph looked down the right sideline for Justin Hunter, but it fell incomplete with two Packers nearer to the ball than his target. On third and long, after a delay of game, the rookie quarterback settled for a draw for no gain.
For the second week in a row, Jordan Berry shanked a punt, traveling just 30 yards and bending back toward the kicking team, giving the Packers the ball in Steelers territory.
Rodgers taking over at the Steelers’ 40 was forced to throw incomplete with nobody open. A quick slant to Davante Adams went for 27 inside of Coty Sensabaugh. Daniel McCullers was on the field. Now from the 13, Rodgers threw out of bounds to the deep right pylon with no clear targets. On second down, following a false start by Jimmy Graham, McCullers got pressure up the middle but couldn’t make the play on Rodgers, who scrambled for three yards.
On third down, Rodgers quick-snapped and looked to the back of the end zone. Terrell Edmunds intercepted the pass but was out of bounds; the play would have been negated anyway because the Steelers had 12 men on the field as McCullers was getting off. Now third and five from the eight, Rodgers connected with Graham in the end zone in front of the rookie safety, Edmunds, for the score.
Toussaint this time got out past the 25. Conner on first down was able to weave his way up the middle for seven, the Steelers’ first positive yardage. On second and short, the back was able to punch through the first level and keep going for 24 yards. A penalty on the play for a facemask on the Packers added another 15 yards. From the Packers’ 26, it was right back to Conner, breaking tackles up the middle for the score, a very nice drive for the second-year back.
Terrell Edmunds forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and then recovered it as well, giving the Steelers the chance to tie the game up in a hurry. Taking over from the 25, Rudolph had a hard time reeling in the snap from B.J. Finney, which was snapped wide right, but got the pass off to Jesse James, down to the four. On first and goal, he hit JuJu Smith-Schuster over the middle into the end zone for the tying score. Rudolph’s first touchdown pass as a pro.
Now with Brett Hundley under center, the Packers take over at the 31. After a four-yard run up the middle, Hundley was slow to get a pass out, but connected for four yards. On third and short, the quarterback was able to scramble for the needed yardage as the gap integrity broke down.
From the 41, Vince Williams put the pressure on Hundley, who forced a pass down the field. The pass was intended for Graham, who was able to draw a pass interference on Jon Bostic. Mike Tomlin was not happy about the call.
From the Steelers’ 34, Ty Montgomery added six up the middle. Ola Adeniyi had a shot for a tackle for loss but missed. The defense still held for just a yard. Now third and short just outside the red zone, Montgomery was left open in the right flat for an easy nine.
Morgan Burnett dragged Montgomery down this time for a loss in the backfield. On second and 11, Dupree drew late pressure up the middle. Hundley scrambled and Burnett made a good open-field tackle on the athletic quarterback for no gain. Now third and long, Burnett was among a pair of blitzers with Hundley throwing a duck to his left, incomplete and near nobody. The Packers retook the lead on a Mason Crosby field goal.
Rudolph completed to Hunter for 18 on first down over the middle. From the 43, it was Toussaint, finding some space through the middle for eight to cross midfield. On second and two, with Nix in, Toussaint ran away from the blocking after finding daylight to the edge for about eight and a new set of downs.
Now at the 38, Rudolph scrambled, even offering some semblance of a stiff-arm, for three yards. Toussaint was stuffed on second down. Under pressure, Rudolph unleashed a go ball to Damoun Patterson, just a bit long. He was hit as he threw. The Steelers going for it on fourth and six from the 35, the rookie checked to James Washington coming over the middle for no gain to force a turnover on downs. It made sense to go for with just outside of field goal range for a kicker who is mainly a punter.
Williams pressured Hundley to scramble to his right and toss the ball away on first down. He found Marcedes Lewis down the field for 23 on the following play, and the Steelers were flagged for the new helmet rule, Coty Sensabaugh the perpetrator. I don’t really know what to say about the review of that right now.
Now at the Steelers’ 27, Hundley found Lance Kendricks to the left, Edmunds missing the tackle to allow a nice gain to the 12. Just outside of goal-to-go range, McCullers made the tackle after a two-yard gain. Hundley spun away from pressure multiple times on second down before finding daylight into the end zone for a 24-14 lead. I think Bostic was among those who whiffed on the pressure.
Following a penalty on the ensuing kickoff for a double-team block, Toussaint was tackle for a loss in the backfield on first down. Now second and 13 from the 10, Rudolph went to the draw for the back, getting back to the original line of scrimmage. Under pressure, Rudolph tossed the ball away on third down.
On the second play of the Packers’ drive, Dupree got pressure, but not enough to prevent Hundley from getting the thrown out to a catch-and-run slant for 20. Williams made the tackle for no gain on the run that followed. Dupree recorded a sack after that to force a 50-yard field goal, which was made.
Nix got another kick return and ran through a tackler or two. After a short Toussaint run, Rudolph threw high to Washington, incomplete. Now third and eight, he sailed a pass high and wide for James to force a punt.
Sensabaugh made a good tackle after a gain to limit the damage, and on the next play got away with a pass interference call. Now third and seven, Ola Adeniyi forced DeShone Kizer to scramble for just a yard, well short of the first.
Cameron Sutton was back to receive the ensuing punt, which went out of bounds and was not returnable. Rudolph was strip sacked from the right side on the first play of the drive, a rusher coming unblocked. Looked like Jaylen Samuels failed to pick up the rusher. The ball was recovered though. Second and 21, Rudolph hit Samuels for a short gain. Now third and long, Rudolph escaped one sack, but couldn’t survive the next two rushers. Jake Rodgers at right tackle allowed the initial pressure.
On the ensuing drive, Kizer routinely connected on intermediate passes all the way down to the 12, the most notable bit being some physical tackling by Nat Berhe. On first down from 12 yards out, on the other side of the two-minute warning, McCullers collapsed the pocket and Lavon Hooks was able to trip up Kizer as he scrambled up the pocket. Now second and eight, Brian Allen broke up a pass into the end zone, but was also flagged for interference, setting up first and goal from the one. Allen locked the receiver’s inside arm.
From the one, after a run stop, Edmunds was beaten for a score for the second time in the game, this on a fade to a tight end.
With 38 seconds remaining in the half, Rudolph took over from the 25 following a touchback, with all three timeouts. He showed a lack of feel for the pressure in getting taken down, even though he gained a yard, causing them to burn a timeout. He let go of a wobbly incompletion in Washington’s direction on second down. Now third and 10, a draw up the middle to Toussaint ended the half.