Steelers Rookie Report: Week 1 (Preseason)

Throughout the season follow each game I will be taking a look at the Steelers rookies and how they fared each week.  This will consist of thoughts such as the positive and negatives from that game, areas to watch or work on and clips to support what I’m sharing. Hopefully, this will shed some insight on some things you may or may not have seen. I’ll also provide links to some of the other great coverage we have for the players.

Preseason Week 1

The Draft Picks

Devin Bush/ILB – And impressive debut for the first round pick and Alex already covered it very well so no need to go too in depth here. He made plays all over the field including outside on screens and in the backfield on 4th down. He showed good punch while taking on blocks and had a nice pass break up and was in good position on a seam route but the pass was just out of his reach.

Diontae Johnson/WR – Did Not Play (groin).

Justin Layne/CB – Layne probably had the poorest performance out of the drafted rookies.  There were a few missed tackles and he gave up a lot of receptions primarily by giving up too much cushion. Defensive back is very hard to play in this league and to be honest this is not unexpected.  The two things that I find most important going forward are his head and his ability to adjust. From what Matthew covered it sounds like he’s on the right track. He didn’t sound down on himself and knows there is room to grow.

Benny Snell Jr/RB – Yards were hard to come by in this game but he was able to show the ability to get something when it looked like there was nothing. But that’s just part of the game. He showed the ability to pick up free rushers in pass protection and hauled in two passes for 25 yards. He was also active on special teams with a tackle. A couple of missed stiff arms cost him a chance at more yards and a few of his chips weren’t very effective.

My favorite run was in Q2 when he shows some agility jumping around Zach Banner (#72) who had given up penetration. The outside was close so he jump cut back to the inside showing vision to find a small hole and uses leverage and leg drive to gain four when it could have been a loss.

Zach Gentry/TE – Overall, a solid performance from “Big Blue” as a blocker he was solid with his best rep coming in the red zone. I’d like to see him drop his pad level a bit more but he’s a work in progress. As a receiver he showed the hands I expected, uses physicality to get open on a quick out and liked the work he did on the TD pass to work to get himself open.

Sutton Smith/OLB – Did not play (unknown)

Isaiah Buggs/DL – Watching the game for the third time put a smile on my face watching Buggs. Maybe he read my piece questioning his motor (its likely he didn’t) but the big man showed very good effort and motor throughout the game. He was chasing plays downfield, fighting through double teams and good hands standing up OL. He had a fumble recovery and a near interception on a play with pressure from Tuzar Skipper. He needs to stay square so he doesn’t get pushed downfield.  Its one game but it left a good impression.

Ulysses Gilbert III/ILB – Another guy who had an impressive debut shining in the second half. He showed good timing and acceleration when blitzing and agility to beat an attempted block by the RB. Speed to chase down a WR screen on the outside. Coverage ability jumping the slant on the 2pt conversion. Making splash plays is a good way to get on the roster.

Derwin Gray/OG – Got some run late in the game at the right guard position. Showed solid agility on slide protection and good extension to hold off the DL. He looks strong holding his ground to wall of defenders on runs and anchor on pass protection.

Stand out UDFA’s and signings

Devlin Hodges/QB – The 4th QB isn’t use one to make you sit up and take notice but he showed pretty good poise aside from one pressured throw that was almost picked. He showed good accuracy throwing a catchable ball and could’ve had better number if there weren’t 3 drops. His eyes were always downfield, went through progressions and threw the ball well off platform.

Nice play here. It was designed to go left and he looks at a couple of receivers. With them covered he rolls to his right and throws on the run to find Johnny Holton (#80).

Fred Johnson/OG – This was my first extended look at Johnson and I now understand why some of the other Steeler Depot guys were high on him. First impression, this dude is massive for a guard.  It looked like he was missing with his hands early but corrected it as the game went on. He was solid overall as a run blocker and in pass protection. He showed solid mobility on counters several time to pull to the outside and kick out the Edge and was good on the second level.

Tuzar Skipper/OLB – Watching his college tape his strength was obvious.  He has heavy hands and likes to use a long arm to get OL off balance to get pressure or control the backside edge. Hard to overlook someone who can get pressure on the QB. He showed a nice dip get around the LT and get another pressure.  Another MAC player making himself known.

Dravon Askew-Henry/S – Good work on special teams being one of the first guys down there to force the runner inside on one play and get a tackle on another. Solid timing on slot blitzes, but needs more aggression attacking the blocker in the backfield. He looked comfortable in zone coverages with solid awareness that looked better as the game progressed. Missed a tackle on the scramble drill but solid tackler overall. He was called for holding in end zone on the final drive which you don’t want to see but I want so see more of him.

Liked the rep late in the game. Playing in the slot, he looks a bit on his heels during his backpedal but shows good COD to break on the ball and dive in front of the receiver.

Quick notes on the others

Ian Berryman/P – One punt blasted 66 yards but landed in the end zone.

Garrett Brumfield/OG – Got in late in the game. Solid timing and push on a combo block but dipped his head pulling to the edge at contact. He needs to anchor better but showed a nice recovery on and outside in move.

P.J. Locke/S – Nothing really popped watching the game.  He showed solid COD to close on receivers in Zone coverage. Had a chance to recover a fumble late to seal the win but tried to pick it up and run.

Trevon Mathis/CB – For not being with the team long he looked okay.  Made the tackles he had to and stayed close in coverage.

Travon McMillian/RB – Got a couple carries late in the game. Weren’t many holes but showed some patience trying to find one.

Jermaine Ponder/CB – Like Mathis he was a recent signing due to injury. He had some playing time on special teams and at corner late in the game. Good effort to try and recover the fumble on the Gilbert strip sack.

Damian Prince/OT – On run plays he hands were a bit slow and relied on leaning on the defender. He looked comfortable in pass protection with good balance while playing left tackle.

Trevor Wood/TE – He had one target in the game and no receptions. Looked tentative leading on counter plays needing to be more decisive and just hit somebody.

Matthew Wright/K – 3 kickoffs with 1 touchback and 2 just about the goal line. He was fully running up on the ball (Chris Boswell was taking a couple steps) and seemed to have trouble getting the ball deep. Although he could’ve been trying to kick returnable ball so the coverage team could get work. Extra points and field goals varied in direction but effective.

For snap counts for each player, those are here.

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