There was plenty to talk about following the Pittsburgh Steelers first preseason game, a 31-14 victory over the Philedelphia Eagles. It was the play calling debut of new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner but it was also the official debut for new wide receiver’s coach Darryl Drake. After four years with Richard Mann at hand, the Steelers transitioned to Drake this offseason and his early influence on the receiving core could be seen during yesterday’s game.
In a seminar from last year, Drake talked about the four essentials he instills into his receivers.
- Get open
- Catch the football
- Run with the football
- Maintain possession
The Steelers flashed all four of Drake’s core principals against the Eagles, a big reason why they were able to explode for 31 points in their first preseason game. Here are what those principles looked like in action.
- Get Open
Damoun Patterson continued to prove his worth last night, finishing as the Steelers leading receiver with six receptions for 77 yards. He also demonstrated Drake’s first commandment with ease on numerous occasions, none clearer than the completion above. Patterson waits for Eagles cornerback D.J. Killings to flip his hips into a bail technique before cutting into the middle of the field giving Mason Rudolph an open target and clear throwing lane to safely place the ball.
- Catch the Football
Patterson backflips his way back into the discussion again here as he goes up and makes a spectacular toe tapping catch at the back of the endzone. Catching the football seems like a straight forward and very obvious principle but it is the ability to consistently catch and adjust your body to ensure the catch that is important. That is something that perhaps no one does better than Antonio Brown and Patterson did his best impression on the play above, controlling his body in order to catch the football and get two feet in bounds.
- Run with the Football
JuJu Smith-Schuster seemingly does all three mentioned commandments on his 71-yard touchdown reception. The sophomore receiver gets open, makes an impressive catch and then fulfills Drake’s third principle : running with the football. Smith-Schuster comes down with the football and is then off to the races, beating Eagles safety Tre Sullivan into the end zone. The Steelers witnessed Smith-Schuster replicate last night’s touchdown many times over his rookie season, and the hope is under Drake, his yards after the catch ability will only continue progressing.
- Maintain Possession
Last but not least, rookie James Washington made a very impressive catch during the third quarter of last night’s affair. A free play, Rudolph threw one up to Washington, who climbed the ladder, high pointed the football and most importantly maintained possession on the way to the ground for an incredible catch. Expected to help replace Martavis Bryant, Washington is already showing one valuable asset that Bryant lacked at times, that is being physical and competing for tough grabs. While just a rookie, if Washington can consistently be physical at the point of attack and maintain possession on the way to the ground, the Steelers could be looking at an upgraded receiving core from last season.
It is easy to remember that last night was just the first preseason game and to temper expectations but there was a lot to like from last night’s victory. The receivers performed admirably in their first performance under Drake, showcasing and executing all four of his core principles.