Following each game in the 2022 Steelers season I will be giving you my 10 takes. These aren’t going to be hot takes that are 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 1 – Seattle Seahawks
1. Return of the Mac – He missed most of 2021 and in year three I had no idea what to expect from Anthony McFarland. He had struggles his rookie year. It’s just one preseason game but he looked like a completely different player. He showed the ability to make people miss behind the line of scrimmage. Behind his blocks he showed patience and vision. He was decisive and showed good burst. He even broke some tackles. This game was really promising for him and I hope it continues.
2. Let’s Go Kazee, Let’s Get Nuts – Across the NFL there are a lot of defensive backs that make a minimal effort to make tackles especially against the run. This group that they have, to a man, showed no hesitation to put a hit on ball carriers. There were several plays made near the line of scrimmage by multiple players. I would like to highlight Damontae Kazee. Watching a defensive back making clean, wrap up tackles and nullifying yards after contact was refreshing.
3. Into the Great Wide Open – Here me out on this. Can the team keep eight wide receivers? If you’re a guy on the bubble you need to make plays and this group made a bunch. Gunner Olszewski is a very good return man but looked good as a receiver displaying nice change of direction after the catch. Miles Boykin showed soft hands and a couple of nice plays on special teams. Steven Sims had a big return, a big run and two good decisions to let punts go. It’s going to be a tough decision when filling out this group.
4. Jumping Jack Flashes – This was my first good look and Myles Jack and I’m pretty convinced he is going to make a big difference in this run defense. He has a nose for the ball and the knowhow to get around blocks. He was consistently in gaps finding his way to the runner. In his career, he has finished with over 100 tackles with a high of 118. He may top that this year.
5. Pickens and a Grinnin’ – This was our first look at George Pickens in game action and frankly he made it look easy. He has soft hands and makes very clean catches. Maybe it was me but it doesn’t even look like he is running hard. Stress-free is not a word that is often used with rookies in their first game but I think it fits here. The subtle push to create space, ball tracking, body control and toe tap on the touchdown would draw the envy of many veteran receivers.
6. In-N-Out – I think as a whole the reserve linebackers left me wanting more. The outside linebackers didn’t get pressure or didn’t handle the run well. I saw guys over pursuing and getting pancaked. The reserve inside linebacker had a lot of issues covering and that included Robert Spillane. They allowed the running backs to make several big plays quite easily and looked confused at times. There is work to be done.
7. Ready to Run – The run game the past couple years has not been good. Changes were made and the early returns are good. According to ESPN, they finished with 185 yards and 6.9 yards per carry average. McFarland, Jaylen Warren and Master Teague all ran with power and each averaged over 5 yards per carry. You can never have enough depth and like the wide receiver position there are going to be some tough decisions.
8. It’s Da Club – Like the linebackers I was a little underwhelmed by the defensive line but one player did catch my eye. DeMarvin Leal was able to beat a couple different guards and get some pressure using a strong club move. Being able to get pressure up the middle is essential to defenses with the quarterbacks getting the ball out so quickly. That was a good start by Leal and I’m looking forward to seeing more.
9. Comfort and Joy – I don’t remember seeing a preseason game were all three quarterbacks looked completely comfortable. No matter who was taking the snaps the offense moved the ball and was successful both on the ground and through the air. Give Matt Canada some credit creating a simple game plan that they all could execute. I lot of the plays were run multiple times so I don’t think there were a lot of different plays involved in the game plan but it worked. Canada and the offense created comfort for the team and joy for the fans. It is encouraging.
10. Electric Youth – The 2022 draft class got off to a great start. Kenny Pickett had as many incompletions as touchdowns and a game winning drive. Pickens I already addressed and looked really good. Leal had two tackles; a quarterback hit and put pressure on the QB. Connor Heyward had two receptions, a two point conversion and was close to a couple tackles on special teams. And Mark Robinson despite some coverage issues had five tackles and an unblocked sack with a forced fumble. Kevin Colbert’s final draft has some upside at the moment and may turn out to be one of his best.