The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their 2012 preseason Thursday night in Philadelphia with a 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, as kicker Alex Henery booted home a 51-yard winning field goal with 12 seconds remaining in the game.
The biggest news out of the game was that fullback David Johnson suffered a severe knee injury after tackle Marcus Gilbert fell into the back of his leg. Johnson had to be helped off the field and was carted off to the locker room immediately.
The Steelers won the opening coin toss and drove 52 yards on 16 plays as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was 7-of-8 passing on the drive for 49 yards. On the drive Roethlisberger was sacked twice, but avoided another as he moved left and connected with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for 17 yards on a 3rd down and 11 play. The drive stalled at the Eagles 28 yard-line, however, and the Steelers had to settle for a 46 yard field goal by Shaun Suisham.
After the Eagles went three and out on their opening drive, Byron Leftwich entered the game at quarterback and drove the offense 70 yards on 10 plays that culminated with a Leftwich to Sanders touchdown pass from 2 yards out to put the Steelers up 10-0. The key play on the drive came on the first 3rd down play of the drive as Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie left his feet to hit Leftwich in the helmet after an incomplete pass. The personal foul call gave the Steelers a first down and extended the drive.
After defensive end Al Woods intercepted a Mike Kafka pass and returned it 53 yards to the Eagles 4 yard-line, the Steelers had to settle for a Suisham 31 yard field goal after failing to punch in on three straight running plays.
The Steelers led 13-0 at the half but gave up two big touchdown passes in the second half to third string quarterback Nick Foles, who hit Damaris Johnson for 70 yards on one touchdown and Mardy Gilyard on another for 44 yards. The first to Johnson was blown coverage and the second one to Gilyard was against the Steelers second year cornerback Curtis Brown, who failed to get his head around to find the ball despite having tight coverage on the play.
The Steelers answered on the next drive as rookie running back Chris Rainey took a little dump off pass from fourth string quarterback Jerrod Johnson 57 yards for a touchdown down the left sideline. The Steelers held a 17-14 lead until Eagles fourth quarterback Trent Edwards hit Jamel Hamler for a 16 yard touchdown on 4th down with 5:32 left in the game. On the score, cornerback Andre Freeman and safety Myron Rolle both missed tackles.
The Steelers would drive back though to take the lead as running back Baron Batch carried 7 times on the drive for 19 yards. The big play on the drive was a nice back shoulder throw from Johnson to wide receiver Tyler Beiler for 30 yards on the second play. The drive stalled at though at the Eagles 25, but backup kicker Danny Hrapmann nailed a 43 yard field goal to give the Steelers a two point lead with 1:57 left in the game.
The Eagles, who were out of timeouts, started their final drive at their own 22 and Edwards was able to move the ball 46 yards on 11 plays against a very tired Steelers defense for the game winning kick by Henery.
Rookie left tackle Mike Adams had a rough night as he allowed 2.5 sacks before exiting with a knee injury. Adams wasn\’t the only tackle to struggle with the wide-9 pass rush of the Eagles though as Gilbert, Trai Essex and Kelvin Beachum all had trouble out on the edges.
First round draft pick David DeCastro looked good overall, but also figured into at least one of the 7 sacks allowed in the game. DeCastro looked his best on the move to the left, much as he did in college with Stanford.
Players that stuck out on defense for the Steelers in the game were linebackers Brandon Johnson, Sean Spence and Stevenson Sylvester. Johnson was responsible for the pressure that resulted in the Woods interception. Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon had a good game as did cornerback Cortez Allen. Outside linebacker Adrian Robinson provided great pressure from the left outside linebacker position once he entered the game late.
It was not an overly good night for the special teams units as backup tight end Jamie McCoy was flagged twice for illegal blocks in the back on two separate returns. The kickoff coverage unit also gave up 46 yards on their first kickoff of the night following their opening drive score.
I will have a more detailed breakdown of the game after I run back through it two more times.