Today I wanted to provide some data and takeaways from watching the Panthers game. Obviously, many things went south Friday night as the Steelers closed out the preseason, but there are still many things to learn from what happened and what the 53-man roster might look like. With that in mind here is a graph of the Steelers offensive players snaps and grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF):
First things first, the top-rated offensive player this week was Rashaad Coward, but context is important. His PFF grade was a 75.1, compared to the Hall of Fame Game (Claypool 88.3), Eagles game (Dotson 94.5), and Lions game (Freiermuth 93.1). Coward played in the third and early fourth quarter and while not spectacular had a good start with a couple of good blocks in both the run and pass game but noted a whiff on a run block and getting pushed back in the pass game later in his snaps. Chase Claypool was another player that I thought did well and loved seeing Jaycee Horn matchup with him (had a nice pass breakup against Claypool). Chase had the successful jet sweep play and the 18-yard catch on an awkward escape the pocket to the left and a wobbly throw from Dwayne Haskins.
Speaking of Haskins, his PFF grade is not high by any means, but thought it would be lower after watching the game. The first drive went three and out, noted his first incomplete pass to Claypool had some wobble on it as well. The second drive also went three and out, with an inaccurate throw to James Washington and pressured on third down and took the short completion to McCloud. The first play of the third drive Haskins made another inaccurate throw behind Derek Watt that was intercepted. The Steelers first drive of the second quarter was the previously mentioned Claypool catch, which was Haskins first successful pass play. The very next play he fumbled a good shotgun snap though. That drive ended with a better throw but drop by Ray-Ray McCloud. The last drive of the second quarter he was 0-2 to McCloud, the second of which was another evade to the left and awkward throwing motion on the run. To start the third quarter, Dwayne completed another quick screen, but the drive went three and out. Haskins appeared to be done for the night but came back in for the injured Joshua Dobbs. His first play back (7:51 fourth quarter) was a successful quick screen play to McCloud, only the second successful pass play for Haskins of the game. Unfortunately, the next play Tony Brooks-James fumbled the ball to the Panthers. The last drive of the game, Haskins doubles his total successful plays with four successful completions capped off by the only touchdown of the game to McCloud, but the game was already well at hand for Carolina.
Dobbs played four drives and I noted an inaccurate pass on the three and out first series (8:23 third quarter), then lead the longest and first scoring drive (field goal) with two successful completions on his second drive. He showed good effort on a scramble to convert on a third and long, then eluding a sack for a completion but ending the drive with an inaccurate throw and a short of the stick throw on third and seven. Joshua’s first drive of the fourth quarter was a three and out, Mathew Sexton slipping on his out route on third and five. On the drive Dobbs got injured he was sacked where Joe Haeg was beat at left tackle and the result was another three and out.
As expected, the starting offensive line for this game (Okorafor, Dotson, Green, Finney, Moore) struggled overall against the Panthers defensive line. Carolina had a particularly good twist pass rush to force the first three and out that gave Kevin Dotson, B.J. Finney, and Dan Moore problems. Moore especially had a poor game at right tackle, getting beat twice on both the first and second drive and throughout the first half. I did have Dan down for a good run block on the only drive he played in the third quarter. Dotson made my notes for a couple of good run blocks, and Finney particularly getting beat to start the first and second quarter. Okorafor made my notes for good blocks on the second drive but getting beat twice on the last two plays of the final drive before halftime. For Green, while not spectacular, thought had a better performance and enjoyed monitoring 3-4 versus 4-3 defensive fronts we have faced this preseason and think there is a correlation with Green getting pushed back more often when facing a nose tackle head on (0 tech) and more successful/highlight plays without a nose tackle. The second-string offensive line (Haeg, Leglue, Hassenauer, Coward, Chaz Green) came in with Dobbs in the third quarter. I was lower on Chaz Green’s performance than the PFF grades, noted he was beat a couple times on the second drive in particular. Leglue had a good first drive but had notes of him getting pushed back in the pass game in the fourth quarter. I didn’t have many notes on Hassenauer except for allowing penetration on a Benny Snell run late in the game.
Perfect time to switch to the running game, or lack thereof. The Panthers did a great job holding the running backs to 50 yards total, with Snell leading the way at 28 yards on eight carries. Benny did have a 17-yard run in the second half to push his yards per carry (3.5) and played the entire first half. Kalen Ballage came in next in the third quarter and had the wide-open drop on the three and out on the first drive of the second quarter. He then provided a successful run on the next drive with the second-string offensive line. In the fourth quarter he had a hesitant run on his last attempt. Jaylen Samuels first drive was at 6:57 in the third quarter, and provided three successful plays in a row, two catches and an eight-yard run. Tony Brooks-James fumbled his one rush opportunity on what would have been a good successful run.
Now let’s switch over to tight ends, Eric Ebron started the game and noted he pulled across the formation to run block on the first play of the game. I’ve noted this in other preseason game recaps and like how Matt Canada is using this in anticipation to the regular season. Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry came in on the next drive and rotated with Ebron through the first four drives. Pat only had five snaps, so I didn’t have many notes on him, but definitely did for Gentry. He got abused as a pass blocker, something we saw as a strong suit last game. Early in the second quarter he allowed pressure forcing the Haskins rollout and came in late in the third quarter for a snap and allowed another pressure that Dobbs had to elude as well. Kevin Rader had the better game and found it interesting that Marcus Baugh was the only tight end on the receiving stat line with two catches on two targets.
Speaking of receiving, Ray-Ray McCloud led the team comfortably in snap counts and led the team with nine targets. Unfortunately, only four of those were completed though as I pointed on earlier. He had a drop early second quarter then the catch opportunity on the sideline that I noted he body caught and needs more awareness to get both feet down in that situation. I did note that two of the incompletions when Dobbs was in the game were more on accuracy than McCloud. Starting alongside Ray-Ray were Claypool and James Washington, and each had a target that was incomplete but the one to Washington was inaccurate from Haskins. Anthony Johnson and Cody White were the next receivers to come in with McCloud in the third quarter, and they went to White on the first play on a screen for a successful play. I noted Anthony Johnson for a good run block mid-third quarter and his only target was on the last drive of the game. Mathew Sexton had two short catches in the third and fourth quarter and slipped on an out route on his incomplete target.
Offensively a poor night, but it is encouraging to remember our lack of starters playing and enjoyed learning more about the players moving into roster cutdowns and the regular season.
Now let’s do a similar view for the defense:
James Pierre tops the graph with a 90 PFF grade and started the game. He had two good coverage and tackle plays on the first drive, then a good recognition of a short running back pass to make a tackle for a gain of only one yard. He played the entire first half along with Justin Layne and Tre Norwood. On the first drive I noted Norwood following Terrace Marshall Jr. in motion, then getting picked on a rub route which allowed a first down. Two plays later I noted D.J. Moore creating separation on Layne. In the second quarter I noted Norwood getting off a block on the recognition play by Pierre I mentioned to rally at the tackle. On the last drive of the second quarter, I noted Layne getting beat in coverage getting beat a couple of times, allowing a successful play and a first down catch. In the second half, the cornerback group was Mark Gilbert, Lafayette Pitts, and Shakur Brown. Right off the bat Gilbert had a nice recognition and tackle on a short play, followed by Brown making a tackle but on a ten-yard run play getting faked out by play-action allowing a big gain. This set up the 20-yard touchdown run where Pitts and Lamont Wade had the key missed tackles. The second drive I noted Pitts’ stiff in coverage on allowing a 19-yard gain. The next drive the Steelers forces a three and out but noted Gilbert and Pitts were beat in coverage on back-to-back plays, but both were incomplete passes. At the end of the third quarter Mark Gilbert was penalized for holding and Pitts had another poor play in coverage. At 13:03 in the fourth quarter I noted Brown for a good play/tackle on a short pass. This would have been a three and out stand, but Gilbert was penalized again for unnecessary roughness.
Miles Killebrew got the start at strong safety, and when Tre Norwood was the nickel corner the Steelers played Donovan Stiner at free safety. On the first drive Killebrew allowed two successful catches for Carolina in coverage but was able to make the tackles on both. In the last two minutes I noted a poor coverage matchup with Killebrew against D.J. Moore on a fourth down conversion by the Panthers. Stiner and Killebrew joined on a tackle at the end of the quarter on the play I mentioned earlier that Tre Norwood was picked/beat on. Norwood also had the missed interception opportunity in the second quarter. Stiner and Lamont Wade played the second half safety snaps, and the first drive ended on with the Wade missed tackle I mentioned earlier. On the next drive, Wade made a couple of tackles, but both were successful plays for Carolina. In the fourth quarter I noted Wade having a good play getting inside the right tackle on a tackle in the run game. I liked Wade’s aggressive tackle nearly forcing a fumble on third down. Stiner was also in on two tackles and Wade for one on the last defensive drive to close out the game.
The starters at linebacker were Robert Spillane and Marcus Allen and had Allen down for a good tackle on a short pass on the first drive. On the second drive noted Allen a step slow in coverage, then I enjoyed Spillane instantly recognizing a run play and making the tackle for a loss of three yards. The next play was a bad coverage situation for Robert though, and he ended up slipping in zone against D.J. Moore. Spillane was targeted quite a bit with the favorable matchups the Panthers had and in short it worked. Ulysees Gilbert came in for Marcus Allen late in the second quarter while Spillane stayed in the game. At the start of the third quarter Lamont Wade and Ulysees Gilbert had a good play in coverage, but Tommy Tremble had good awareness and an extremely lucky bounce that basically dropped in his hands while he was on the ground for the completion. Mid-fourth quarter I noted Gilbert getting blocked allowing additional yards in the pass game.
Jamir Jones and Cassius Marsh started the game at the edge position, and they rotated guys through the game on the defensive line. I thought they both had good moments. On the first drive I noted Marsh having a late reaction on a play-action play and getting washed out in the run game. Later in the drive he had a good pressure that continued through his first half snaps, leading the team with six pressures. Later in the first quarter I noted Jones setting the edge well on a short run play, and having a great inside move to get the sack at the end of the quarter. Jamir was also in coverage on a third and short stop early in the second quarter. I noted there was a lack of pressure at the end of the second quarter (Jones and Marsh were still in) where Carolina had a long drive ending with the touchdown before halftime. We continued to see a rotation of edge players in the second half until the fourth quarter where we saw Quincy Roche and Jamar Watson close out the game. On the second drive of the third quarter, I had Watson down for failing to set the edge on a successful running play for the Panthers and getting beat on the next drive where the receiver dropped the pass. Late in the third quarter I thought Marsh had a good fill on a run play and tackle in backfield. To end the third quarter, I enjoyed Roche with a good pursuit on a run play along with Ulysees Gilbert.
The defensive interior was one of the few bright spots for the defense, with Henry Mondeaux and Carlos Davis having the better game according to PFF. Chris Wormley, Isaiah Buggs, and Mondeaux started the game, and at the end of the first drive Buggs had a good run stop by getting good hand use/punch into the blockers chest and making tackle on a third down stop. On the next drive they started rotating players like the edge position, Isaiaah Loudermilk and Carlos Davis joining Buggs. Loudermilk getting good push on two running plays with the latter being a good joint effort from all three. On the next drive I enjoyed Mondeaux’s opening play/tackle in the run game. The last drive of the second quarter was a lower point of the second half, the long Panther drive that I noted lack of push and pressure comparatively. They started the second half with the starting group again, and Buggs had a good pressure on the first defensive play. On the next drive the grouping was T.J. Carter, Carlos Davis, and Loudermilk. I noted Davis getting washed out on a running play but responding with a good run game tackle a few plays later. The next play T.J. Carter had a nice pressure as well. Mondeaux and Wormley played close the second half and noted Wormley with a good pressure play. Loudermilk and Carlos Davis were the pairing on the next drive, and noted Davis being washed on the QB scramble touchdown. Really enjoyed the sack by Loudermilk on the next drive, good bull rush and finish for a loss of nine. The lineup was Carter, Davis, and Loudermilk on the last drive: Loudermilk being controlled then responding well the next play. Later in the drive T.J. Carter had a missed tackle and both Carter and Davis getting pushed back before the successful field goal.
Defensively a poor night also, but it is encouraging to remember our lack of starters playing and enjoyed learning more about the players moving into roster cutdowns and the regular season.
Now let’s look at special teams: (NOTE: The descriptions on the graph are important!)
Using the datapoints on the graph we get a nice view of total preseason snaps, grades, and snaps in the Lions game to see who was used most recently as well. The top four players in PFF total preseason grades are noteworthy and the biggest takeaway of the game for me. This provides additional confirmation to some feelings I had watching the game and preseason. Jamir Jones’ roster spot seems safe on the 53-man roster, Tre Norwood’s strong play in this facet, Anthony Johnson’s value and could circle back to the practice squad, and Christian Kuntz strong finale and likely long snapper to make the cuts. Kuntz was great and ran down two plays for tackles and seems to be a lock. Kevin Rader and Henry Mondeaux provide interesting special teams value to their positions, especially considering how close the battles have been through the preseason. Leading the team in total preseason snaps are Buddy Johnson, Quincy Roche, and Mark Gilbert.
Jordan Berry had the first punt of this game, and it was a nice one, a 55 yarder that landed inside the 20-yard line with Jamir Jones making the tackle. Harvin had the next punt, a 48 yarder with Buddy Johnson on the tackle. Berry then had a short punt situation that was fair caught at the 10-yard line, but Shakur Brown had a penalty on the play. Harvin then had an inside the 20 punt to the 12-yard line with Kuntz on the tackle. Berry had a shorter punt but good hangtime this attempt that was fair caught at the 27-yard line with the tackle. Noticed more of Harvin’s punts to this point were returned compared to Berry, including Pressley’s next attempt with Norwood missing a tackle and Kuntz making his second tackle along with Jamir Jones. Berry had the next punt that was returned and pushed out of bounds by Jamir Jones. Harvin then had the final punt opportunity of the game more of a line drive then good hangtime that bounced and was fielded with Jamir Jones getting him out of bounds. The punter battle is still so close to me, but I thought Berry looked better this game. I have favored Harvin for the majority of the preseason and Berry made the battle even closer, in my opinion. It will be interesting to see what the team decides. Mathew Sexton was the loser of the bunch with two muffed punts.
STEELERS VS. PANTHERS SNAPS AND PRESEASON TOTAL SNAPS
|PLAYER||POS||GAME 3 OFF SNAPS||GAME 3 DEF SNAPS||GAME 3 ST SNAPS||PRESEASON TOTAL SNAPS|
|JuJu Smith Schuster||WR||0||0||0||56|
Norwood reached 200 total snaps and the other main takeaway that puts this game into perspective are the 26 players that did not get snaps. While this was not an exciting game to watch as a fan, I hope you enjoyed the article and takeaways about the players going into the cutdown to 53 players on Tuesday. Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!