Winners and losers from the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-20 win against the Detroit Lions Saturday night.
Ben Roethlisberger: Welcome back Roethlisberger. Just your ho-hum, 8 of 10, 137-yard, two touchdown, perfect passer rating first quarter. Roethlisberger showed a great rapport with rookie TE Pat Freiermuth and more importantly, showed plenty of zip on those throws. He might not be the NFL’s best deep ball thrower, but the velocity is there. He even showed some vintage Roethlisberger with a crazy pump fake on his first TD and a backyard, spin-and-run-around pass on the first drive, a would-be conversion had Eric Ebron not bathed in cooking oil before the game.
Pat Freiermuth: The sounds of “Muuuuth” could be heard from Erie tonight. Two catches, two touchdowns in the first quarter for the rookie, making tough end zone grabs above his head. If you watched him in camp, this is all he did, making tough grabs and coming down with the ball once it hits his hands. There’s a reason why he had the highest catch percentage we’ve ever tracked (and proof of why we track this kind of stuff). The next pass he drops will be his first.
Alex Highsmith/Melvin Ingram: Pair of outside linebackers bullying the Lions’ hapless looking offensive line. Highsmith against the pass, Ingram against the run, but both made an impact in each phase of the game. Ingram was held several times before the refs finally called one. And oh yeah, TJ Watt hasn’t played yet. Steelers will have a strong top three at the position this year.
Diontae Johnson: Johnson’s been the team’s deep threat this preseason, catching long passes last week and then another for 43 yards against the Detroit Lions. A nice job of tacking what felt/looked like a bit of an underthrow by Ben Roethlisberger and willing to stand tall with the safety bearing down on him.
Mathew Sexton: 47-yard punt returns will get you on this list. Sexton took a risk fielding the ball at his five. If you’re going to do that, you better make a play. He did, working across the field and turning down the left sideline for a big returner. Kudos to some solid blocking and everyone avoiding the dreaded block in the back. Common when returners cut across the field like that.
Tre Norwood: Sneaky good game for him. Quality open field tackle on a kick return, pinning the Lions deep in their own territory. It looked like Norwood had a good airplane block on Sexton’s long return (running in front of his man with hands up to avoid pushing from behind) and Norwood had at least one quality run fill in the second half.
Chris Boswell: Because kickers are people too. 4-4 night for Boz. Love to see it.
Eric Ebron: To his credit, Ebron had a couple of downfield catches though he was left all alone on his second, 27 yard grab. But he had a drop on third down, negating a great play-extension by Ben Roethlisberger. Ebron was also called for a false start later in the game. Couple that with Pat Freiermuth going off and this wasn’t a good week for those holding Ebron’s stock. Felt more like Enron (ok it wasn’t that bad but I need to get these jokes off).
Benny Snell: I tend to stay away from players who don’t actually play in the games but with a short list, he’s worth adding. Justifiably so. For undisclosed reasons, Snell didn’t play in this game despite practicing earlier in the week. He’s now missed multiple games this preseason. Kalen Ballage suited up tonight and played reasonably well. At this point, not only is Snell the #4 RB, he’s in danger of not making the team. He better get healthy and ball out in the preseason finale.
Shakur Brown: Increased chance for slot reps tonight with Antoine Brooks limited (or not playing entirely) but Brown was called for holding on 2nd and long and got turned around later in the drive. After that, he was flagged for hands to the face on 3rd and 6 that would’ve gotten the Steelers off the field. Need to go through the tape but felt like a missed opportunity for him.
Hands Team: Not their best moment though it was good teach-tape just to be in an onside kick situations. Mark Gilbert let the ball go through his initially while TE Marcus Baugh couldn’t fall on top of things.