It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Preseason game number four. The game where the least relevant things happen with respect to the regular season. This game is primarily about deciding the last few roster spots and little else. But that in itself can be quite interesting to follow.
I’ve already run down a list of players to watch for, but we might as well include one here.
Quarterbacks: Joshua Dobbs, Landry Jones
Running backs: Stevan Ridley, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jaylen Samuels
Offensive line: Zach Banner
Defensive line: Daniel McCullers, Lavon Hooks, Joshua Frazier
Linebacker: L.J. Fort, Matthew Thomas, Keion Adams, Ola Adeniyi
Secondary: Coty Sensabaugh, Brian Allen, Marcus Allen
The Steelers band the game with the ball, Ryan Switzer on the kick return, not reaching the 25. Joshua Dobbs ripped a deep pass on first down to Justin Hunter, who was unable to climb the ladder and get it. Solid coverage late on the play. On second down, Dobbs, rolled out and hit Phaorah KcKever for four yards. Now third and six, Dobbs bobbled the snap, but was able to retreat and get it, avoiding pressure and scrambling for a first down. Proof that he should be starting in the opener.
Jaylen Samuels, who threw a key block on that scramble, bot the carry on the new set of downs for no gain. Off a rollout, he avoided immediate pressure, looking for Trey Griffey down the field. The pass was short at the feet of the wide receiver, who could not pull it in, but Dobbs was able to find Hunter with good pocket protection, open between two defenders to move the chains.
The two connected again for eight yards. Dobbs was very nearly sacked on the following play, Okorafor getting beat at left tackle, but was able to get the ball out down the field to a wide open Bucky Hodges, down inside the five. Samuels got the first touch on first and goal for one yard to the three. Dobbs kept it himself on a read option, cutting inside one defender and diving into the end zone for the three-yard score.
The Steelers began their first defensive possession giving up three successful plays in a row, displaying a host of poor tackle attempts as the Panthers crossed midfield. Finally, following an incompletion, Coty Sensabaugh batted down a pass to the flat coming on a blitz to force a third and 10 from the Steelers’ 45. The third-down pass sailed wide downfield, resulting in a punt. Lavon Hooks provided good pressure on the play, registering a hit despite being held. Switzer called for a fair catch at the 13.
On the first play of the drive, Dobbs went down the field again for Hunter, this time connecting. A Panthers defender just missed batting the pass down, Hunter showing good hands. He didn’t have to get up much thanks to his height. Damoun Patterson on an end-around picked up 13 yards. Dobbs connected for a wide-open touchdown to Tevin Jones one play later.
Following a good special teams stop on the ensuing kickoff, the defense made a good play on the first snap of the drive. Cameron Sutton played the pocket of the receiver to knock the ball out at the catch point. He also made the initial hit on an arcing pass into the flat, but bounced off. The defense still made the stop. Now third and 12, Heinicke completed for 14 in front of Brian Allen.
Back on the Steelers’ side of the field, we were blessed to witness a fullback dive on second and three for about six yards, the defense frankly looking like a team of second-stringers with no actual gameplan…or in other words exactly what we’re seeing.
Dobbs took a shot as he released a deep pass on his first play of the next possession, too long for Hunter. An illegal contact penalty, however, resulted in a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down. Stevan Ridley got his first game action since the preseason opener and ripped off a long run with good blocking to the 44. Dobbs felt the pressure from behind and checked down to Ridley for five. Dobbs misfired on a deep pass, off-target looking for Trey Griffey on third down, resulting in a punt.
Brian Allen made a solid open-field tackle on second down to force a third and 11. One thing the second-year cornerback has shown is greater physicality. He was also in coverage on a deep incomplete pass on the following play, a punt incoming. Switzer showed a lot of shiftiness on the ensuing punt, but most of it laterally. You see the potential, but he hasn’t had a shot to break one yet.
Ridley showed some good running on the ensuing drive, helping the Steelers get inside the Panthers’ 30, but Dobbs was drilled for a sack deep. Fortunately, the Panthers were flagged for unnecessary roughness on the sack, putting the body weight on the quarterback. So a big loss turns into a big gain due to penalty. Dobbs lofted a pass to the deep right corner of the end zone for Jones, incomplete, but another roughing the passer penalty was called, half the distance to the goal. I need to get another look at the pass, no replay was shown.
Now at the seven, Ridley was smothered for no gain, no chance to go anywhere. Tevin Jones dropped a touchdown pass on the following play, Dobbs being brought to the ground once again. The quarterback scrambled down to the three on the following play as the offense settled for a field goal and a 17-0 lead.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi recorded his second strip sack of the preseason on the following drive, likely, in my opinion, assuring that he makes the roster. He has too much potential to not keep him. Similar to how they approached Adrian Robinson way back when.
Mason Rudolph checked in for the two-minute drill, completing a pass to Jones for a good gain. He fired incomplete to Patterson in the end zone on the following play, out of bounds. On second down inside the red zone, Rudolph did a nice job of feeling pressure before scrambling for a good gain, but Chukwuma Okorafor was flagged for holding, his second in as many weeks. Now second and 20 back to the 24, he seemed to connect with Patterson for the touchdown, but the ruling was an incomplete pass, the ball hitting the ground. He had control of it, but lost it late. Could have been a touchdown.
Now third and 20, Rudolph ripped one, sticking the ball between defenders to hit Jones for the score. A successful two-minute drive. Going for the two-point play, Rudolph scrambled for the point himself. He took an unnecessary shot from a defender and lost his temper, going after the player who hit him. I actually like that.
The Panthers got a good return on the ensuing kickoff, giving them a chance to for for a score with 45 seconds left. Allen on the defense on the first pass, incomplete. Got a hand on it; good play. He made a good open-field tackle to prevent a first down two plays later to force a punt. Switzer had no chance to return it, bouncing out of bounds inside the 10 with 23 seconds left and no timeouts.