Steelers football has returned. There will be football in Heinz Field just a short time from now. Granted, it may not look like what you would expect to see in the regular season–many starters will be rested–but it will be Steelers football.
Expect to see a long look at some of the team’s newest components, particularly their draft picks, such as Devin Bush, Benny Snell, Jr., and Isaiah Buggs. Others are dealing with minor injuries, but perhaps some, like Diontae Johnson, may be able to give it a go.
Arguably the biggest story of the game may be the quarterback position, as Joshua Dobbs, who will start, looks to tend off 2018 third-round pick Mason Rudolph for the backup job. Also, can Devlin Hodges get on the field and try to make this a three-horse race? For some reason, many are intensely interested in this, so I would be remiss not to mention it.
Matthew Wright kicked off with Snell and Tegray Scales in on the tackle at about the 20-yard line to start things off. Bush recorded the run stop on first down after a couple yards. Breshad Perriman had space at the right side for a first down, Justin Layne slowing him down for the tackle after a game of 12. Barber spun away from Mark Barron but still only picked up four yards. Ola Adeniyi looked like he was held. On second down, Barber spun through the middle of the defense for a first-down run to the 45.
Jameis Winston looked for the bomb against Layne down the right sideline, but the ball was overthrown to Perriman. Layne was a bit behind. Barber one-cut for seven yards past Adeniyi. Now third and three, Winston had Chris Godwin for an easy completion in front of Layne. Both Haden and Burns are not playing. Neither is Steven Nelson. Cameron Sutton is on the opposite side.
A dumpoff to Ronald Jones picked up four off the right side, Anthony Chickillo making the tackle. Adeniyi put the pressure on Winston, but he spun out of it from the blind side and peeled off to his left to run for a first down.
At the Steelers’ 22, Jones was stopped after a seven-yard gain through the B gap on the right side by Terrell Edmunds. He almost got all the way to the right edge for a first down run before being stopped by Kameron Kelly, starting for Sean Davis.
Now first and goal from the 9, it was a screen to Godwin, making a tackler miss for the relatively easy score. It was Layne missing the play, the rookie having a rough first drive in the NFL as the Buccaneers march 80 yards for the touchdown on Keith Butler’s unit.
Johnny Holton made a mistake taking the kickoff out from deep in the end zone, stopped not much beyond the 10. Edmunds was flagged for a hold to boot, putting Dobbs in awful field position.
Jaylen Samuels got the first touch for perhaps a yard on what looked like a read option. On second down, Dobbs looked down the field for James Washington, who came up with the catch for 40-plus yards, beating Vernon Hargreaves.
Near midfield, it was a short slant to Tevin Jones for a gain of six. Diontae Spencer now in, Dobbs dropped back to pass but was sacked with some miscommunication in the protection. Now third and 12, his pass sailed over everybody in Jones’ direction down the field. Jordan Berry’s punt traveled about 43 yards with a fair catch at the 10.
Layne continuing to get a lot of play, the cutback run in his direction, making the tackle after eight yards. Another run right was stopped for a loss by Layne and others. On third and five, Bush was targeted on a crosser to break up the pass for an incompletion. The tight end fell on the play. Tyson Alualu was flagged for roughing the passer, however.
Now at the 15, Blaine Gabbert threw a short seven-yard out to Wilson in Layne’s direction. Andre Ellington was stopped at the line of scrimmage but cut to the right for seven. Bush with the chasedown.
At the 45, it’s another quick screen on Layne’s side for five. Edmunds whiffed on a tackle attempt on a short screen, but the defense rallied after a two-yard gain. On third and three, a short pass to Ellington crossed midfield for a new set of downs.
Adeniyi got pressure again, perhaps forcing a slightly early vertical throw by Gabbert that wasn’t where he wanted it to be, incomplete. Following a delay of game, Gabbert found his tight end for 21 yards down the middle of the field. Edmunds was only just barely able to force a Watson incompletion for what easily could have been a 25-yard touchdown. Now third down, Bush stopped Tanner Hudson just shy of the chains. On fourth and one, it’s Bush and Adeniyi making the stop to force a turnover on downs. Great play by a pair of young linebackers the team is trying to be excited about.
Snell was stopped for losses on each of his first two carries on the following drive, but there was a defensive hold on that second play. Center B.J. Finney was clearly held. At the 21, Dobbs was sacked with some free rushers in. Another flag was thrown, this time on Finney for holding, but it was declined. Dobbs looked deep down the field on the following play, nearly throwing an interception, only due to offsetting penalties, including a defensive hold. Repeating second and 26, it was a short pass over the middle to Snell for five. On third and 21, a pump fake led to a strike down the middle for Washington, picking up 22. A nice play by the pair of young players. You never want to give up a third and 21.
This time Snell finally gets some forward yardage for a five-yard pickup. He wasn’t able to get out to the edge on second down in a one-on-one situation against the cornerback, however. Now third and four, Dobbs tucked it and scrambled for eight just shy of midfield.
Following another short run, Dobbs threw an errant pass in Ryan Switzer’s direction; a hold on Chukwuma Okorafor would have negated the play anyway. It’s his second holding penalty I believe. Samuels picked up some YAC on a dump-off to make it third and 10. Dobbs scrambled once again on third and eight, looking as though he decided to scramble pretty early on. He was able to find a lot of open space to get inside the 20.
Snell on the carry subsequently fought for two up the middle. Dobbs just missed Washington for a toe-tap touchdown, his left foot out of bounds. On third down, Dobbs underthrew an underneath pass to Snell for an incompletion. Chris Boswell was true down the center for the Steelers’ first points of 2019.
Adeniyi was in on the tackle on the ensuing kickoff. Much of the second- and third-team defense checked in, the Buccaneers killing themselves with penalties on the drive, including the kickoff and two over the next three plays. Isaiah Buggs had a nice short series to force a quick punt. Diontae Spencer back to return the long punt, he fielded it just beyond the Steelers’ 45 but was tackled immediately, almost as he was catching the ball. The Steelers were flagged for holding, on Kameron Kelly.
Rudolph checked in and completed his first pass to Jones for a first down to the 46. Snell got the handoff, fighting for four up the middle. Snell with nice pass protection helped allow Rudolph find Washington on a drag route for another first down. Snell now finding some more room gets five. This time he has more success getting to the outside for four yards. On third and one, it was Samuels with a big hole opening up a big lane for 20-plus. It almost looked as though he was surprised and didn’t know quite what to do with all the space.
Following the two-minute warning, from the eight, Rudolph fired the ball to his old teammate, Washington, snagging the ball behind him with his big mitts on the back-shoulder pass. The OK State connection as they lead a 65-yard touchdown drive. Wright’s point-after try was good, making it 10-7.
Tyler Matakevich came in on the blitz, ripping the ball out, beating the running back, Buggs on the recovery to put the offense right back out there in scoring position. At the 27, Snell was stuffed for a short loss. Following a timeout, Rudolph looked for Jones down the left side, but his foot landed out of bounds. The quarterback bobbled the snap but still got the pass off well for the jump ball. Now third and 12, he fired one for Spencer, but couldn’t hold on in tight coverage. Boswell now from 47 was good, through the middle third of the uprights to make it 13-7.
It’s Adeniyi flashing again on special teams with the tackle on the ensuing kickoff, his second. Tampa Bay was again flagged for holding, so more bad field position. From the 11, Ryan Griffin did find his tight end for 23. Another quick pass for 10 in front of Layne. After another first-down pass, the Buccaneers were flagged for a false start. With 33 seconds to play, and eight-yard completion made it second and seven with layne in coverage. Another short gain over the middle with Bush on the stop. Now third and short, with eight seconds remaining, the pass was incomplete out of bounds with Sutton in coverage. Now a long field goal attempt from 55 yards, the rookie kicker was good to make it 13-10 heading into the half.