Following each game in the 2022 Steelers season I will be giving you my ten takes. These aren’t going to be hot takes and meant to shock the world. This will be instant reactions to the game written while still in that period just following the game when the emotions are high and the ideas are fresh. Included will be thoughts, observations, queries and reasons that caused me to yell at the television.
Preseason Game 3 – Detroit Lions
1. Steel Sharpens Steel – A play on words from the iron sharpens iron proverb fits what we saw from this preseason quarterback competition. All three quarterbacks were considered in the race to start but it was primarily between Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett. What we saw from both was they were up for the challenge. Both of them played very well every step of the way. Accuracy, touch, pocket presence and ball security have all been on display. I believe Trubisky well get the ball on opening day but Pickett did everything that was expected. The future has a nice glow to it right now.
2. Do As I Do – Cam Heyward can do a lot of things and do them well. He is a tremendous leader on this team and often leads by example. In 2021, he set a career high in pass breakups getting his paws on nine last seasons. Overall, pass rushers get pressure far fewer times than they when they don’t. Getting hands up in passing lanes has become a team activity. They had five pass breakups from the defensive line/pass rushers in this game with Derrek Tuszka, DeMarvin Leal and Carlos Davis each getting one along with two from Heyward. Nice to see the young players following in their veteran leaders footsteps.
3. DPOY – There may not be a more decorated team historically for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Joe Greene (twice), Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Rod Woodson, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and T.J. Watt have all won previously. It was mentioned on the broadcast that Minkah Fitzpatrick is very competitive so with Watt winning last year, he may be thinking it’s his turn. In this game he had a sack, tackle for a loss, pass break up and a forced fumble. Yes, it is preseason but he looked highly motivated.
4. You’re in Good Hands – Another positive from this preseason was the ability of the receivers to catch the ball. Over the course of the three games there weren’t the glaring drops we have seen from the team the last couple of seasons. There we a couple plays where receivers got their hands on ball while trying to make difficult receptions but couldn’t come down with it but not the blatant groan inducing drops. Small victories can snowball into big ones.
5. Do you Golf, Bro? – Okay, this will be my “reading too much into it” take. I think we can all agree that Chris Boswell is the man. In recent seasons he has become nearly automatic. Last year he was so consistent that kick after kick was centered between the uprights. This preseason he has developed a draw on his ball. For the non-golfers, that means for a right handed hitter (kicker) the ball moves from right to left. Many of his kicks have travelled this way and he even hit an upright on his first field goal attempt in week two. The farther the kick, the better chance it has to curve outside they left upright. I hope it’s just my overthinking and not a pattern of things to come.
6. It Works for Magicians – If you’ve just returned from space and you haven’t heard I am here to let you know the offensive line has looked bad. Other than Mason Cole, they have taken turns committing penalties. The offense is going to have to rely on misdirection until hopefully the line gels. They will need to use bootlegs, play action and sliding the line to keep the defense guessing so they can’t just race up field. The quarterback is going to have to help too by reading the defense quickly and getting the ball out. They should keep a rabbit in a hat nearby just in case.
7. Screening Calls – If there is a benefit to the defensive line getting in the backfield it is the potential for using running back screens. They ran a couple in this game. One to Najee Harris for nine yards and one to Anthony McFarland for seven. The team has run a lot of wide receiver screens in recently yards to varying success. Using the backs and also the tight ends on screens could be decent yard gainers for an offense that will need every yard they can get.
8. Third and Long – Ugh. We saw this last year. The defense allowing teams on third and long to either convert or get close to the line to gain to allow for more attempts on fourth down. On third and seventeen they gave up a twenty-seven yard run! Not acceptable at any level. We all expect this defense to be pretty darn good but great defenses don’t allow that to continually happen. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since it was preseason.
9. I’m looking at You Too Offense – For the second week in a row the team got called for and illegal formation penalty. It usually happens with some kind of pre snap motion. For example a tight end lines up on the line and a receiver lined up off the line to one side. If that tight end shifts to the other side of the formation, the receiver must move up to the line of scrimmage to “cover” the tackle. This is either a mental error or someone doesn’t know what they are supposed to do. Regardless, they can’t give up five yards for silly mistakes.
10. Khan He Fill the Holes? – New general manager Omar Khan has had a busy offseason. He may be new to the title but he understands this process well. Each team will be making 27 cuts in the next few days. That is well over 800 players that will be looking for jobs. All teams have needs and will be looking to find players to help. The Steelers should be actively on the hunt. Offensive line is an obvious area that could use help but they won’t likely find a cut player that can make a big difference. Outside and inside linebacker I feel could find a gem or two. If Damontae Kazee is seriously injured they could look at safety. Also it would be wise to look for a move tight end. They don’t have a tight end on the roster that can win consistently against Man coverage. Adding a speedier tight end to the practice squad could be helpful down the road.