The Pittsburgh Steelers will host a home crowd at Heinz Field for the first time in over a year in this preseason week three exhibition match against the Detroit Lions. The Steelers are 2-0 so far in the preseason with victories over the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. The previous two games followed the same script with a slow start in the first half, followed by a dominant display in the second, which speaks volumes about the depth that the Steelers currently have across their roster.
This week, we should get to see the first snaps of the 2021 season from Ben Roethlisberger. While it will likely be a short drive or two for the veteran quarterback, many are also anticipating Dwayne Haskins’ first chance to work with (and against) starter quality players. While Mason Rudolph has generally played well in his preseason action, there has not been much in the way of results while he leads the offense. Haskins on the other hand has led multiple scoring drives.
Mike Tomlin has been pretty mum on the subject of Dwayne Haskins earning more reps, but did say the team likes to get a look at all of their quarterbacks in different situations.
It is crazy that there are non-rookie players who have yet to experience this fanbase at home.
Today may also be the first time we get to see this starting offensive line (as projected prior to camp) of left-to-right Chukwuma Okorafor – Kevin Dotson – Kendrick Green – Trai Turner – Zach Banner. Banner tweeted out a gif that made it seem like he was excited for tonight being perhaps his first game action since the injury.
This should also be a great test this week for the starting edge rushers. Of course, TJ Watt is not expected to participate until his contract is figured out, but Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram will get to test their progress against Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker who are both excellent NFL tackles.
Getting closer to the game, it doesn’t appear that the quarterback rotation will change from previous games. After Ben’s series or two, Mason Rudolph will come in and then Dwayne Haskins. Tomlin said that he does not know if we will see Josh Dobbs in this game. Maybe a ton of Haskins tonight, albeit not when many wanted him to be out there.
Chase Claypool appears to be a go for tonight. It remains to be seen how much he plays, but he is reportedly suited up. This is good news either way as the ankle sprain must have been super minor.
This is giving me PTSD from Senquez Golson
For anyone doubting Devin Bush’s position as a (developing) leader of this defense:
Chase Claypool and Benny Snell Jr. are reportedly not going to be playing tonight, per Noah Strackbein. Regardless, Claypool went through the motions in pre-game and should certainly be ready by week 1 of regular season, if not sooner.
All systems go on this starting offensive line. Everyone is anxious to see how they do.
The Steelers won the toss and have elected to receive. The full starting offense will take the field for the first time this preseason.
START OF GAME:
On the opening kickoff, Anthony McFarland Jr. was back to receive, but it rolled out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
On the first play, there was a pre-snap penalty. Chuks Okorafor was called for a false start. He needs to look good tonight, perhaps more than anyone else on the offensive line.
The first pass was complete short to James Washington who was immediately tackled to the ground for a short gain. 2nd and 12, and Zach Gentry checked in on offense which is notable given Freiermuth and Ebron’s availability.
Najee Harris had a nice pickup on 2nd down to make it 3rd and manageable. Ben Roethlisberger scrambled out of pressure and shook off a defender to deliver a perfect deep strike to Eric Ebron, but the ball was dropped. Pressley Harvin III was back to punt on the first of the night. The punt was good for 50 yards and the gunner was there to make the tackle immediately.
Heyward, Wormley, and Alualu in on the defensive line. Stephon Tuitt is still out dealing with a family tragedy.
Joe Haden nearly intercepted the ball on 2nd down undercutting the route, but dropped the interception.
On third down, Melvin Ingram brought the pressure. The pass was delivered to the middle of the field, but was dropped to force the punt.
Ben Roethlisberger is likely to get another drive here given the three-and-out.
Ray-Ray McCloud was back for the first punt but felt the pressure and called for a fair catch.
The starting offense is on its way back out.
Najee Harris on first down tackled for a loss as the blocking broke down and he was swarmed by several defenders. Eric Ebron was involved on the blocking breakdown.
James Washington picked up about 8 to make it third and manageable once again. Hopefully a first down here as Ben Roethlisberger likely won’t be around too many more drives.
On third down, Ben Roethlisberger hit Diontae Johnson deep on a post route for a big gain and a fresh set of downs. The pass protection appeared to hold up pretty well there.
Najee Harris with the 7 yard reception on 2nd down. Juju converted and picked up a couple extra yards dragging some defenders along. The offense has a good look so far.
Najee Harris was sandwiched by two defenders immediately in the backfield for a loss on 2nd down. 3rd and long for the Steelers offense in the red zone. Ben Roethlisberger pump faked so hard the cameraman lost track and then hit Pat Freiermuth in the end zone overtop of the defender.
The PAT was good by Chris Boswell. 7-0 Steelers.
The pump fake by Ben Roethlisberger was ridiculous. He has done things as if the clock was wound back 6 years in this game so far.
The Steelers defense is looking sharp, too. They took a good angle to prevent the defender from getting the sideline, and Alualu with a nice batted ball to force the three-and-out.
Ben Roethlisberger came back in along with Dan Moore Jr. replacing Zach Banner. Najee Harris turned a 5 yard catch into a 47 yarder. A nice explosive play.
Dan Moore is being groomed as the swing tackle, per Mike Tomlin, so it is good to get looks on both sides. He got out there and blocked on that Najee Harris catch-and-run.
Diontae Johnson on a sweep on 2nd down in the red zone, the defense sniffed it out and hit him hard.
On third down, Najee Harris is split out as a wide receiver. Pat Freiermuth again in the red zone. Touchdown number 2. Unbelievable. The offense is stunning the league right now. 14-0 Steelers.
I would assume Ben Roethlisberger is done for the night.
Anthony McFarland Jr. is being looked at by a trainer.
The defense is in and Joe Schobert and Alex Highsmith put the pressure on to force and intentional grounding penalty.
Amon-Ra St. Brown had a step on the defender deep, but couldn’t haul in the ball. Darren Fells called for penalties on back to back plays, but Pittsburgh declined to force 4th and deep.
Ray-Ray McCloud back to receive the punt. The punt was excellent and Ray-Ray picked up about 12 on the return. Maybe about 53 net-yards on that punt.
Mason Rudolph checked in to end Ben Roethlisberger’s night. Anthony McFarland must be fine because he took the ball off-tackle for about a yard. Not much there.
Anthony McFarland with the reception swinging out to the left. He took the ball for a first down and a nice pickup.
Rudolph keeping the short passing game going as Juju Smith-Schuster was wide open in the flat for a pickup of 7.
END OF FIRST QUARTER — 14-0 Steelers.
Juju Smith-Schuster with a quick hitter underneath losing a yard setting up 3rd and 4. Eric Ebron on a corner route for a 14 yard reception. A nice pass by Mason Rudolph and the offensive line seems to be holding up pretty well.
Dan Moore Jr. getting plenty of shout outs from the commentators. He can move for a guy his size.
Kalen Ballage for another 14 yard pickup on a shallow pass. The offense is successfully doing what it failed to do all last season. The added threat of a running game makes it way more effective.
On 3rd and short, Mason Rudolph went for the kill-shot into the end zone deep right to Juju Smith-Schuster. It was on target, but the defender was in great position and Juju couldn’t haul it in. Jeff Okudah in coverage.
Chris Boswell with another good field goal, and Mason Rudolph breaks his preseason streak of scoreless drives. 17-0 Steelers.
Arthur Maulet’s injury is something to keep an eye on. With Antoine Brooks Jr. already out injured, Maulet was expected to be the slot corner. Now it goes to Sutton with Layne or Pierre outside? It starts to put the defense in a bind in situational football.
Tre Norwood with the tackle on the kickoff. A holding call puts the Lions deep in their own territory. Melvin Ingram with big tackle for loss, beating the tackle badly. Nearly a safety and the Lions have their backs up against their own end zone.
Joe Schobert was dragged for a first down on third and long. The pressure came on 1st down and the ball was off target deep right. The edge rushers, without their best player, are playing lights out.
James Pierre in coverage on third down, he tackled the catch well but it was a first down.
James Pierre was seemingly beat deep by Breshad Perriman, but he tried to punch out the ball during the tackle which is nice to see. It ended up being an offensive pass interference.
On second down, the pass rush put on massive pressure again and the dump off pass was immediately swallowed up by Terrell Edmunds. 3rd and 20 for the Lions. A pass underneath to St. Brown, but Cam Sutton was able to tackle 12 yards short of the sticks.
The starting defense was lights out tonight, as that will likely be the last we see.
The punt was not caught by Ray-Ray McCloud and took a perfect roll out of bounds at about the two yard line. Mason Rudolph has the opportunity to work through a tough situation here, and I imagine Mike Tomlin will pay close attention to his play here.
Nothing inspiring from the one yard line with some poor blocking and a false start. The offense was bailed out by a facemask penalty as Bryant grabbed the facemask of Mason Rudolph.
Eric Ebron got wide open and caught the deep pass from Mason Rudolph. Kalen Ballage with a hard run that picked up five yards. A flag on the play, but the refs picked it up. They initially thought Juju Smith-Schuster had an illegal block.
Mason Rudolph tried to pick up a couple hard yards up the middle on a broken play but got hit hard as he was going to the ground. The Steelers will have 4th and short after the two-minute warning.
It looks like the Steelers are going for it on 4th and inches. Mike Tomlin wants to see his players perform in situational football.
Mason Rudolph hit Juju Smith-Schuster, who broke a tackle to pick up the first down and then some. Juju is making some grown man plays on this drive.
The offense is looking good, but the drive was made possible by a penalty. I suppose its a bit of balance for Mason Rudolph who had his drives killed by penalties the last couple weeks.
Anthony McFarland Jr. made the first defender miss after the catch with a really nice jump cut. James Washington with a 14 yard reception. The Steelers are knocking on the door of the end zone once again.
Rudolph lofted one up for the fade to James Washington, but it was slightly overthrown. Good to see Washington getting some looks, given the Claypool injury.
Rudolph with a similar type throw to the other side of the field just barely missing outside to Eric Ebron. Pat Freiermuth over the middle almost hauled in his third touchdown, but the defender was in a great position. I wouldn’t label it as a drop.
Anthony McFarland Jr. had a great blitz pickup there on third down. Chris Boswell nails the field goal. 20-0 Steelers.
Rudolph has to be a bit frustrated not getting any touchdowns once again, but at least he has his first two scoring drives.
END OF FIRST HALF – 20-0 Steelers.
Join us for the second half here.