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Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: On The Road Vs Tennessee

Prelude

The Pittsburgh Steelers visited the Tennessee Titans and will be on the road again this Thursday versus the Carolina Panthers. It was a quiet week with news around the NFL universe mostly taking place outside of Pittsburgh. As an average Steelers fan the peace & quiet between games is welcome.

Mike Tomlin named Ray Sherman named interim WR position coach. Interest in assistant DB coach Teryl Austin’s impact on the secondary’s performance. News about various roster battles including the quarterback rotation following Ben Roethlisberger’s first snaps in the preseason. Then there was the unfortunate news of Levon Hooks’ injury and subsequent waiver. Also, speculation whether Javon Hargrave would remain with the team after this season. Can’t we at least start the season before leaping to the offseason next year?

The Steelers Forecast

The Steelers Depot gives us specific things we should look for during games. In the preseason, the focus is different than regular season games, but it is always great to have a guide:

Matthew Marczi described what we should watch for in the game against the Tennessee Titans. Matthew directed us to see where James Washington lined up including the slot saying, “it’s important for him to know and be comfortable in every role.” He asked whether either Zach Gentry or Christian Scotland-Williamson would standout as a back-up tight end. On defense, he wanted us to watch Steve Nelson in coverage. Also, how would Mike Hilton, Kameron Kelly and/or Cam Sutton play in the slot position (or in the box)? Would Tuzar Skipper play special teams? As a unit, “it would be good to see the defense record an interception.”

Tom Mead will identify matchups to watch each week this season. This week, Tom directed our attention to how well the Steelers cover the Titans tight ends. How will the defense cover tight ends downfield including the seams & multiple tight end sets? He asked us to watch whether the tight ends were jammed or at least pressed at the line of scrimmage. Good article to preview each week. How well did they do?

Dave Bryan identified 8 offensive players to watch versus the Titans. He also listed 8 defensive players to watch. On offense, Benny Snell, Jr. did not play. Ryan Switzer was returning punts & kicks but did not catch the only pass targeted to him. Ben’s chemistry with the WR’s clicked after a rusty start. Mason Rudolph may have locked the back-up position. While Diontae Spencer did not have any receptions and little on returns though he had a nice 29-yard gain on a reverse. On defense, Skipper continued strong on defense but did not play special teams. Sutton Smith did but did not make his presence felt. Kameron Kelly was in the game early. Glad to have a guide on 16 players to focus on.

You can compare these pregame guides to Alex Kozora’s analysis of the game’s winners and losers which came out within minutes of the final whistle. How does his analysis compare with your view of the game?

Steelers Offense and Defense

First half

Switzer does not impress me as a kick returner. His longest of three returns only went for 20-yards. Donte Moncrief caught the first two passes of the game. James Conner had a couple nice runs. Ben’s 17-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster was a wonderful way to cap his evening. Nice block by Jaylen Samuels to allow Ben to loft the TD pass. With the rain, it seemed that Randy Fichtner was satisfied to use a dink & dunk offense to start out. Jordan Berry’s punts looked fine to me. The touchback could have been down at the goal line. The defender just stuck to the returner a fraction of a second too long.

A couple defensive penalties to start a defense that was rearing to go. Terrell Edmunds caught in the neutral zone and on next play Stephon Tuitt called for hands in the face. Edmunds & Tuitt would make up for this later in the game. Devin Bush and T.J. Watt look mobile. The defense stuffing the run and pressuring the quarterback.

Mason Rudolph’s 41-yard touchdown pass to James Washington looked pretty. Bud Dupree came to play. It was not good to see Sean Davis hurt. Hope it is not a lingering leg injury. Overall, happy with a 15-3 lead even though the two-point conversion failed. I felt the Steelers should have used their last two timeouts to see if Rudolph could move the ball into field goal range. A good pressure situation.

Second Half

Last season, the opening drives seemed to catch the Steeler’s defense sleeping. I hope this is a harbinger of the regular season. The Titan’s opening drive ended by Tuzar Skipper’s strip sack. Steelers offense with Josh Dobbs in at quarterback cannot exploit the turnover. Not helped by Johnny Holton not keeping ball in bounds. Refs called Holton for pushing off (declined) to boot but thought that was a ticky-tack call. Marcus Allen tackles a Titan receiver for no gain to prevent a first down on 3rd & 1 to force a punt.

The Steelers next drive starts with Deontae Spencer running 29-yards on a reverse after a lackluster punt return. He has some wheels. Dobbs extends a play with his feet and gets off a pass. Trey Griffey taps his toe and drags it before going out of bounds, but the referee misses it and rules an incompletion. Tomlin challenges the call and Steelers Nation holds its collective breathe. Whew, he won a challenge! Matt Wright finishes the drive with a 31-yard field goal.

Titans have two nine-play & an eight-play drive but end up with just a field goal to show for it. The back-up defense bends but not breaking. Big Dan McCullers is in the mix and penetrating the line of scrimmage. Ulysses Gilbert III and Skipper continue to disrupt. Robert Spillane led the team in tackles with 5.

Dobbs runs hot and cold. Completes a 30-yard pass to Brandon Reilly. Converts first downs scrambling and hits Zach Gentry for one. Then an interception, but in fairness looks like that Gentry should have caught it but it tipped up off his hands. Rudolph had an interception too but appeared to be miscommunication with Washington in first half. I think this roster battle is over. I had hoped Devlin Hodges would get a series or two in the 4th quarter.

Your Hot Takes During the Game

First Half Reader Comments

Steelers Depot readers commented 663 times on the game’s first half Live Update and Discussion Thread. Reader Tom White summarized his thoughts of the first half near the end of the thread. Check it out:

1. Loving Edmunds/Bush on the field together. Looks like a nice young core for the future of our defense.
2. Kam Kelly is going to play Davis out of a new contract. Not that he was guaranteed one anyway but Kelly playing to this level is going to give the Steelers a lot of leverage.
3. Bud Dupree is giving me hope that I may have a lot of words to eat this upcoming season. He is looking really good this preseason.
4. People we need to be good are looking pretty good. Washington with another big play, Tuitt and the DL on the whole looking dominant, Conner looking really good. Addition by subtraction is going to come true.
5. I am definitely going to be wrong about Switzer. I was pretty sure he was going to be the odd man out but tonight looks to prove Dulac right. Looks like maybe he is stamped and the 6 have been set all offseason.
6. Last note is just a play I don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. Third down and they go to Eli Rogers who put a lot of effort into trying to get the first. Didn’t quite get it but that shows all of the haters what the Steelers see and some of us fans see. The dude is a threat on third down and it is effort like that people don’t think he has.”

El Sweet Lee (A Jam Up Guy) had the ‘best’ comment saying, “Some of these young guys are cause for celebration, particularly on defense. Watt, Edmonds, Bush…that’s a hell of a defensive core if they keep progressing.”

I don’t listen to the national broadcasters preferring SNR instead. Apparently, the national broadcasters were spouting nonsense as usual which got AJ Gentile complaining, “Listen I don’t care what this Dean guy does when he goes bathroom, I’m here to watch football.”

Your truly even got a popular comment; “Mason Rudolph just locked the backup spot up.” His pass was beautiful.

Second Half Reader Comments

Tom White’s 2nd half thoughts:

1. Dobbs gonna Dobbs. I like him and he is exciting to watch but his lack of ability to make easy plays is almost shocking giving how good he does at the more difficult stuff. I REALLY hope they give Hodges a legit chance to win the job in the 4th game.
2. Somebody we think is likely to make this roster has to lose their spot to Tuzar Skipper. If that guy hasn’t played his way onto the team who can? I think Gilbert has shown well and have been saying I could see 10 LB’s kept. Not sure what Skipper got as far as ST burn though.
3. Thought McCullers showed well tonight. Looked like a bit of the force we have always hoped for.
4. Spencer is definitely a better returner than Switzer and probably a more exciting offensive piece as well. Have said this whole time Switzer isn’t likely to make it but he got a ton of burn tonight and Dulac says he is a lock. I am not sure what to think. I would personally keep Spencer but who knows.”

“Tomlin doesn’t have any nads if he doesn’t put Hodges in! Create some controversy!” Alas, the GrumpyHighlander has neutered our head coach.

DirtDawg1964 made an interesting proposal that caught some attention.  “I know the sports writers, and the writers here, think we should keep Dobbs, but what’s the point? If he isn’t your #2 why make him your #3? It’s not as if he will develop into something. I’d keep the third spot for the kid who might become something someday.” He also noted that “Skipper and UGIII definitely making some noise.”

Only 539 comments in the second half. Well below the standard. Someone pointed out that when Steelers fans have nothing to complain about, they just sit and pout silently.

Conclusion

A solid game by the Steelers all the way around. Not much time to prepare for the next game coming this Thursday. I wish the NFL would forgo the money in favor of player safety and team preparation and eliminate Thursday night games. With Sean Davis hurt, Kam Kameron may get extended look at safety. We may also see if Marcus Allen has any chance at the 53-man roster. I was hoping to see Devlin Hodges at the end of the game. I’d like the bulk of Thursday’s game to feature Dobbs & Hodges. Very worried about tight end depth. I can see the Steelers signing a player or two after the rosters drop from 90 to 53. Here we go.

Your Music Selection

I always like to offer a music selection. Here is On The Road Again sung by Willie Nelson. Or how about, Canned Heat’s On the Road Again since the Steelers are doing it twice in a row and then on to New England to make it three to start the season?

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