By Matthew Marczi
Below is a list of random notes and observations from the first half during the second preseason game for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Washington Redskins.
- Steelers rookie safety Shamarko Thomas looks like he could make a great pair at gunner with cornerback Curtis Brown. On the first punt, Thomas was the first man down the field, right in front of the returner as he caught the ball. He seemed to anticipate a fair catch, however, so he did not take the opportunity to blow through the receiver. Still, he and William Gay were right there to make the tackle. On the second punt, Thomas was once again right in the returner’s face, this time forcing him to call for a fair catch.
- It is not surprising that Mike Adams was flagged for illegal formation. He was cheating back in a deep set for a good portion of the night. The play before he was actually flagged, he appeared to be set just as deep as the next play.
- Adams is not a fan of Daryl Tapp, who rudely introduced him to the NFL as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in his first preseason game a year ago. Tapp is the reason he was taking such a deep set. He just tossed Adams aside on the next play for a four-yard loss. Tapp also got the better of Adams on several skirmishes in the red zone around the beginning of the second quarter, one of which drew a holding call.
- There is only a small sample size on which to judge thus far, but I do like what I am seeing from fifth-year defensive end Ziggy Hood. Last offseason, he spent a significant amount of time getting his body right. This year, he spent that time getting his technique right. I am not an expert on the intricacies of the techniques employed by a 3-4 end in this system, but he looks better on tape according to this observer, particularly as it relates to the running game. He finished last season stringing together a few strong games in run support, and he seems to be building upon that.
- The Redskins’ first play of their second drive may be a good illustration of how the Steelers being forced to play against the outside zone in practice on a daily basis has helped them to better defend it. Jarvis Jones, who just entered the game, replacing Jason Worilds, takes out the fullback while Brett Keisel rides the left tackle down the line. Lawrence Timmons loops around to disrupt Alfred Morris’ running lane, forcing him into the waiting arms of Steve McLendon, who was able to play off Keisel to get to the edge of the play.
- Could Casey Hampton have gotten to the edge on that play the way McLendon did? I’m betting not. Chances are he learned that one from Chris Hoke.
- Two plays later came LaMarr Woodley’s sack. Now, it is not great accomplishment to beat Tyler Polumbus, but his form and power on the play is very impressive. The Steelers rushed four on the play, including Jones, Hood, and Keisel, and all four were able to collapse the pocket and make Kirk Cousins uncomfortable.
- David DeCastro’s holding penalty simply looks like a good block to me. Early in the skirmish, he briefly flashed his right hand on the defensive end’s shoulder pad, and that was about it. It negated a four-yard slide by Ben Roethlisberger that was executed with the grace of a Tony Romo or an Eli Manning. Fortunately the Steelers hit on some big plays to Antonio Brown and David Paulson immediately after to negate the impact of such a questionable penalty.
- Emmanuel Sanders had himself a nice night, but some of it went unnoticed because two of his receptions were negated by penalty. Both of them were third down conversions, and the second would have set the team up with first and goal. Baron Batch also had a reception that would have set up first and goal negated by penalty.
- If Sanders would have actually impeded DeAngelo Hall on Jonathan Dwyer’s third and 18 carry following the aforementioned reception negated by penalty, he may have gotten the first down. Fortunately, it’s only preseason.
- Jarvis Jones looks like Troy Polamalu out there at times, and not just because of the hair. The biggest jump that I see in him from game one to game two is that he is playing faster and making quicker decisions. That is good progress for the rookie.
- The Steelers could legitimately be playing five defensive players at a time with hair protruding from their helmets, assuming McLendon can earn some playing time in sub-packages. He, Jones, Polamalu, and Shamarko Thomas will all play a big role on defense in certain situations this year, and if nobody else steps up, Josh Victorian may as well (unfortunately, William Gay recently cut his hair). Despite what the depth chart may say, he continues to see time as the third corner, although that will change now with Cortez Allen back in the mix.
- I was hoping to see tight end Jamie McCoy more during the first half, but he was only in on about a half dozen or so plays. When he was in, however, he performed well. It is also worth noting that he took two snaps out of the backfield following Will Johnson’s injury.
- On the other hand, David Paulson does not look in any way improved while on the field from a year ago. Core strength is still a significant issue. Perhaps the one slight improvement in his game is technique, but it often gets nullified by being outmuscled. On the plus side, the one thing that I don’t see him get is outworked. He’s trying, guys. He’s really trying.