Hritz: Steelers At Redskins Instant Analysis

By Jeremy Hritz

Man, maybe Ed Bouchette was right. Maybe the 2013 edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers is just “okay.”

There wasn’t much to celebrate on Monday night against the Washington Redskins, but there were some highlights worthy of recognition.

With that said, here are my notes from last night’s game:

A completion given up by Jason Worilds for a decent gain prompted him to be pulled from the game and be replaced by rookie Jarvis Jones, who responded by forcing a fumble and recording two tackles. While he didn’t get to the quarterback, he did force some pressure, but he needs to seal the deal and record the sack. On the other hand, LaMarr Woodley earned a sack, and he was very active in his limited number of snaps.

I’ve got a feeling that after tonight, Jones will be the starting right outside linebacker against the Tennessee Titans.

The starting offensive line looked terrible, and Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro, Mike Adams, and Maurkice Pouncey were all guilty of committing penalties, something that was characteristic of the line in 2012 that cannot follow the team into this season. Additionally, Ben Roethlisberger was under constant pressure, and it did not allow for any continuity to develop in the passing game. Roethlisberger did not look sharp, and his throw on the pick six was predictable.

Le’Veon Bell got his first work of the preseason, and while he didn’t look amazing, he didn’t look hateful either. He simply did not get enough snaps for anyone to make an accurate prediction about what he can contribute this season. And unfortunately, Bell was injured, and was forced to come out of the game after only four carries for nine yards.

Troy Polamalu looked fresh and his burst was reminiscent of his early days, especially when he closed in on Rex Grossman and delivered what could have been considered a late hit.

Reggie Dunn had a decent kickoff and punt returns. But more than anything, Dunn demonstrated that he can field the ball cleanly and without error. Mike Tomlin values that, and if Dunn can break a return for a touchdown in one of these last two preseason games, he may earn a spot on the roster.

Jonathan Dwyer ran hard and carried the ball 14 times for 68 yards, and at times, looked explosive, physical, and decisive. However, at other times, he looked hesitant, and his fumble cannot be ignored This is the kind of mixed-bag performance that we came to expect from Dwyer last year, and he must be able to play mistake-free football if he is to be a major contributor to the team in 2013.

Against the first team defense, Grossman had an awful lot of time to throw, and he made some big plays. If the Steelers defense doesn’t generate more pressure, imagine what Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers will do.

William Gay got beat for a one-handed touchdown grab. He is still a liability to the team no matter where he lines up and no matter how well he understands the defense.

Emmanuel Sanders made some very athletic catches and is a reason for optimism in the passing game. He ended the night with two catches for 39 yards with a long of 20. Antonio Brown had a decent night as well, collecting three passes for 35 yards, though he tried to get too fancy on a catch in the red zone.

Shamarko Thomas had a solid night, delivering big hits, including forcing a fumble that was recovered by fellow rookie Terry Hawthorne. The Steelers have to find a way to get Thomas on the field and soon.

Markus Wheaton also had a good night, catching three passes for 52 yards, including a 45-yarder from Landry Jones that was reminiscent of a Roethlisberger deep ball to Mike Wallace. It appears that Wheaton is growing more confident, and it will be exciting to see him get some reps with the first unit.

Derek Moye had a decent night as well, and may have jumped ahead of Justin Brown in the battle for a roster spot. Moye caught two passes for 19 yards, including a touchdown on a fourth down. On Moye’s other reception, he showed good second effort as he worked hard to try and get a first down.

To close up what was a good night for the rookies, Nick Williams had a sack, and even though it came late in the game, it was good to see him making a play after missing significant time in camp with an injury.

Key takeaways? The Steelers absolutely have to get better in every area of the game, most importantly on the offensive line. It may be time for the Steelers to take a look at Kelvin Beachum at right tackle to see what he can provide over Gilbert. And as far as depth is concerned on the offensive line, if it was a worry before, it is a full-blown crisis now, as the second team o-line was a sieve.

Lastly, the defense has to get pressure or 2013 will be a repeat of last year. The Steelers cannot afford to give QBs time to make plays, and what Grossman did tonight simply cannot happen.

The good thing is, it still is only the preseason, and there is plenty of time for things to come together.

But if it doesn’t, we may be yearning for the days of 8-8.

  • steeltown

    Very poor performance by many… OLine was terrible…

    Wheaton looks awesome IMO and so does Shark Thomas, nice to see Jarvis, N.Williams and Hawthorne make some significant plays and McCoy played well

    Blocking is very suspect at this point.. Paulson might have good hands but he needs work sustaining blocks..Miller and Spaeths talents cannot be understated

    Thank the stars this was a Preseason game

  • Gautama Om

    In Tomlin’s organizational abilities and Colbert’s quick FA signings we trust.

  • Good summary, Jeremy. That’s the bottom line. Either they get it together individually and as a team, or this season could be ugly. Any unit who played as badly as our O-Line played tonight will cripple its team. The problem was that the meltdown tonight wasn’t a matter not picking-up the new blocking scheme. It was individual linemen being consistently beat in one-on-one match-ups. Scary.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    It’s nice to see some of the rookies making plays but we need to see continuity with them. Shark was awesome tonight! Dunn is making a case for him self and Moye played well along with McCoy.

  • GH05T

    i’m still amazed that they brought Gay back and the amount they paid to get him i feel it was a panic move from the front office

  • bgsteelfan

    We. Need. Work.

  • bgsteelfan

    Dwyer looked good. Wheaton and Shark looked good. And…


  • steeltown

    Yes.. Dwyer as well


    No one has mentioned Haley. Quit being predictable.

  • dgh57

    I’m trying very hard to remind myself that what I just witnessed was only a preseason game played by a bunch of 2nd and 3td stringers!

  • Mikey Greensheets

    That was tough to watch. I hope this game was a wake up call to the O-line. I thought the starting first team line should have stayed on the field into the 3rd just to get their crap together. Im going to bed with a little tear in my eye tonight.

  • j m

    Lack. Of. Talent.

  • Guest

    3 short points:

    1. real reason will be played by first string pros/starters. 2. we only have to win by 1 pt or FG. 3. our OL pass protection sucked and will continue to suck.

  • Mike.H

    3 short points:

    1. real season will be played by first string pros/starters. 2. we
    only have to win by 1 pt or FG. 3. our OL pass protection sucked and
    will continue to suck.

  • Mike.H

    starters who play too long in pre season is career suicide. Why risk it.

  • Superdriller316

    Once the Shark bit, there was blood in the water, and he kept chewing. He was laying down some hard hits.

  • steeltown

    Oh yea

  • steeltown

    Preseason… its supposed to be predictable, its all about execution

  • Mark

    Defense will be fine once Cortez Allen gets back.

    Offense is going to be very average unless the line gets their act together. The only thing worse than their starting line are the backups.

  • Tom

    Same stuff as last year. Horrendous O line play, turnovers, and too many penalties, I am really hoping they can find some O line depth help via the waiver wire over the next few weeks.

    And…does Colonel Sanders really need to pose after every catch?

  • Superdriller316

    I’m not happy about our turnovers, but it’s great to see us get turnovers.
    It’s good to see the secondary snatch a few balls out of the air.
    Great play by JJ.

  • Mikey Greensheets

    So is playing behind that line! I understand your point. I just think they need more game speed reps. That was ugly.

  • bgsteelfan

    It’s more than that. Nobody is debating that Pouncey or Decastro have talent. They still played poorly.

  • bgsteelfan

    Unfortunately, it appeared that a lot of those 2nd and 3rd stringers started.

  • bgsteelfan

    Other than a few looks, he SHOULD be predictable now.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    We got some DL and WR that need to make the roster, they cant be on PS or they’ll get snatched. Veteran leadership cannot stand in the way of young players with a potentially higher ceiling not making the team.

  • Matt Searls

    Bell is supposed to have an MRI tomorrow. Is this standard? Or a sign that this could potentially be a major injury?

  • Gautama Om

    OL depth was my main concern going into TC but I didn’t think our starting OL would be an issue.

    I still think Adams will get better as the season goes on for the same reason he’s having trouble right now: because he lacks Pro level LT experience. He still has high upside/room to grow because of this reason.

    Beachum should start at RT even if he’s more valuable as a backup. I’ve NEVER had confidence in Gilbert like many fans have in the past.

    However, it’s starting to look like I was wrong about my confidence Worilds so JJ should be starting sooner (1st half of season) rather than later.

    Don’t panic yet. If the Steelers look horrible/uncompetitive during the first half of the 3rd preseason game then we can. Even then, it’s still the preseason and it doesn’t mean as much because it’s still vanilla defense and offense.

  • DoctorNoah

    It wouldn’t be standard for you or me, maybe, but definitely for an NFL player. He has a Lisfranc injury (call it a midfoot sprain if you want) and the MRI evaluates the severity. Hopefully minor and not like Spaeth’s…

  • DoctorNoah

    I am -shocked- at how bad and out of sorts Pouncey looked. I can understand if Ryan Kerrigan beats a 3rd string TE or RB off the edge, but when a pro bowl center gets alternately tricked and manhandled, I am concerned with his strength and focus and the below-the-line job of the O-line coach.

    I am glad there are two preseason games left. Pouncey has to get it together. I’m less worried at tackle. BTW – Joe Long was uneven, but better than Whimper

  • Patrick

    How bad do they have to be to draft Clowney?

  • treeher

    Observations from a 55 year Stiller fan: O line: needs their collective butts kicked. Pouncey: 1st round. DeCastro: 1st round. Adams: 2nd round. Gilbert: 2nd round. Unacceptable performance by this group. Whimper must go, he’s horrible. Gotta find a diamond in the rough quick. Lineback and receivers: Flush with talent, gonna be fine. RBs: Snake bit. Who’d have guessed the most durable college running back would break down? Maybe he shot his wad last year. QB: Roeth is a victim of Haley’s offense and poor line play. D Line and D Backs: Will be ok. Summary: Can’t play football without an offensive line, but right now these guys are offensive.

  • JPDQ

    I’ve said before that Pouncey is the most overrated player on the Steelers. And wearing “Free Hernandez” hats doesn’t exactly encourage me to overlook that fact. The whole O-line looked inept last night, at least in pass pro.

  • JPDQ

    Tom, you said almost the exact same thing as I did in the initial Bell injury post, almost verbatim. Not sure waiver wire depth is gonna help us. I expect that we’ll play *somewhat* better once the regular season begins, but I don’t think that elevates us beyond mediocrity, given all the other issues we’re seeing on this team.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Already the teams third best corner, might be the second best middle linebacker. Every snap for Willie Gay is a lost learning opportunity for Shark or other DB’s that actually might make plays on the field. Cut him loose along with Whimper.

  • Crazy Bone

    How did Colbert think this kind of terrible OL depth was acceptable? I think the Steelers may have the worst group of back up OL in the league. Honestly, I feel safe with my prediction for 6-10. Ben won’t last the season behind that OL.

  • JPDQ

    Yeah, maybe Eddie B. WAS right, huh? Where did all the fans go that wanted to crucify the veteran beat writer for being “negative” or “grouchy” or actually -gasp- waiting to SEE Le’Veon Bell play in a live action game setting before evaluating him.

    Yeah, yeah, it’s just the preseason… I can hear you now. Lemme save you the speech, folks. I know it’s preseason. And guys are supposed to be making mistakes and working out the kinks on offense and defense and special teams. But what I saw last night was kinkier than a Sasha Grey film.

    It wouldn’t be quite as disappointing if it didn’t seem like the same ol’ problems just carrying right on over into 2013. Line can’t pass protect, can’t get out of their own way, Ben’s running around like a human pinball (in the freakin’ preseason, no less — nice “slide” by the way, Ben), defense is making 3rd string QBs look like Dan Marino, receivers acting like they have no clue that the team is getting their ass handed to them, RBs all injured, penalties everywhere… I mean, what did you guys WORK ON all offseason and training camp??? Losing weight and building camaraderie? Christ.

    Getting beat by a superior team with better talent or a better scheme doesn’t really bother me, but what we saw last night just does not bode well for 2013.

  • AndyR34

    OK all you Kool-Aid drinkers…where are you now? While I am not ready to throw the baby out with the bath water, there has been nothing happen in either of the two pre-season games that indicates this team will improve upon last year’s record…even though they might be playing a slightly softer schedule (that one is tough to evaluate). Nevertheless last night they showed what is becoming a hallmark of Tomlin’s teams..a lack of discipline and focus…ergo, all of the penalties and missed assignments. We know that the Bengals have improved…probably the Brownies also, while the Ratbirds will remain a mystery. Maybe there is a grand plan on the part of the coaching staff to bring this all together, but I don’t see it. Batiste and especially Whimper need to stop doing their wooden-legged windmill routines…and I agree on the posing routine of Emmanuel…wait until the team has actually achieved something…otherwise you are just holding yourself above and separate from the team. Call me at this time totally un-impressed.

  • Bumpyjenkins

    I agree with 75% of your points. the linehas no technique at all. But I’m starting to think Ben is part of his own problem; does he not have ONE play where he just throws the ball? In the past I thought arians routes were too far down the field so he had to hold it, but even on 10 yard in patterns, it’s NEVER out of his hands quickly. i say this to say the entire defensive line has the confidence up because they know he will give them time to get there and if you compound that with lunging and grabbing O-lineman, these are the results you will get.
    Side note ZIGGY needs to be cut. if you can watch the fumble recovery play (Jones created) watch where ziggy is then watch his celebration coming to the sidline. He was literally blown 6 yards backwards and sideways. What a bust. He walks like his back is hurting for 2 years.

  • Bumpyjenkins

    Focus and discipline – Agree – Tomlin needs to quit acting and talking like a 3rd world general and teach these guys. Telling them and teaching them are two different things. Still a very good coach just need to lose his tom coughlin 2004 impersonations.
    Whimper – agree – he is just there to field a second have unit.
    Emanuel – disagree – let the boy get his confidence up his mojo or whatever he needs to keep diving across the middle making finger tip catches. Everyone can’t be heath miller.Sometimes your Aaron rogers “belt” dance needs to come out. 🙂

  • Bumpyjenkins

    O’line has athletic ability, they don’t have technique. As
    much as I like Tomlin, he needs to stop yelling and acting like Mussolini and
    start to “TEACH”. These guys aren’t being taught. It appears they are
    being “TOLD”. There’s a big difference. It’s an easy fix. You can’t
    hold if you’re “punching”. If you’re punching then you can’t lunge.
    We don’t punch and pull back, punch and pull back. We grab and lunge.

  • cencalsteeler

    Pouncey, all bark and no bite.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Here’s what I wish someone would tell our O-lineman: PUSH BACK! When you’re in pass protection, you don’t just hold your feet and try to stay between your man and the QB. You will get moved back EVERY TIME doing that. Instead, once you’ve identified your guy, meet him at the point of contact and PUSH his ass BACK!!

    I don’t want a whole season of watching both tackles allowing the pocket to collapse on either side, and Ben having to step up the middle and PRAY no one is there to finish him off before he can throw.

  • Larry Sarver

    First 2 pre-season games have got to have been invaluable experience for players (especially OL) and coaches. Steelers need to keep scheduling top tier opponents for these games to get themselves tested by some of the best.
    Giants & Skins both provided very high quality defensive players to defend against. Steelers just have not been up to these early tests! No illusions now about Steeler OL. Its obvious now; inexperience is there; some weaknesses are there; repair work is needed. As painful as the pre-season games (against top opponents) are to watch ( for the fans) the game play is hopefully giving the coaches exactly the kind of data they need to sort the wheat from the chaff and address the weaknesses.

  • cencalsteeler

    Jeremy pretty much summed it up! The Redskins manhandled the Steelers last night.
    The first team offense didn’t deserve to come off the field last night. Pre season is practice and they need more practice! If I was Tomlin, I’d say first team stays in until they score 7 points. We need to put production ahead of injuries on the priority list.
    The D line and lbs looked good. The secondary still scares me. First, Eli to Cruz on their second possession and Cousins and Grossman seemed to slice right through our dbs on this round. Imagine when Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson and AJ Green start coming into town. Clark and Troy I trust, but Ike and fill in the blank have me worried.
    Special teams I thought had it turned around until the third quarter started. I do love how Suishams improved distance has virtually eliminated opposing teams kickoff returns, though. Shaun is probably my mvp to date.
    I didn’t see the Steelers being more physical than the Redskins, in fact, it was opposite. The live tackling drills didn’t seem to do anything for this team.
    And as much of a Tomlin fan as I am, we were outcoached again. I’m starting to worry if LeBeau has been making Tomlin look better than he actually is. Actions speak louder than words, and so far, all I hear from Tomlin are fancy words.

  • Bumpyjenkins

    More teaching less fancy words

  • Mikey Greensheets

    You hit the nail on the head!

  • treeher

    If we made the 1st team stay in until they scored a touchdown, we’d never see the backups …

  • SteelerCop

    Ziggy SUCKS! Heyward is BETTER!

  • SteelerCop

    STEELERS OLine will be ok running the ball…they are athletic…and as long as they have a quick back to follow the pulling guards…they will be fine….BUT, pass blocking needs work…Big Ben must get rid of the ball quickly…or we will see a lot of #5!

  • Brian Miller

    Good article, and well said Jeremy…I couldn’t agree more…and yes, I am very worried. I just cannot understand how our O-line could play that bad. No excuse! If this play continues, especially from the o-line, we will get violated in the regular season…

  • Dan

    I don’t follow the Redskins, is there Defense that great or did we really just muck it up? I saw an 8-8 team in the Black n Gold last night.

  • alex

    we play against some big powerful biscuit eatn’ DL boys in the AFCNorte, and Foster/Pouncey/DeCastro better get used to dealing w/ power explosive leverage guys now!

  • alex

    it begs the question of pre-season games…

    do teams try to hide what they will do during the reg. season or are they experimenting with different strategies to look at the possibilities?

    we know they are trying to see how the new talent is, but how much of the pre-season game plan is a smoke and mirrors game for the reg. season?

  • alex

    ouch, and true

  • alex

    ouch and true Part 2

  • +1! KC’s defense is at least as good (and tough) as the Skin’s, so we should soon see feedback re whether there’s hope. :<)