By Michael K. Reynolds
The wait seemed forever for Pittsburgh Steelers fans to see their team in action once again so there was much anticipation for their 2014 debut performance against the New York Giants.
Unfortunately, much like many off-Broadway plays, it opened to mixed reviews.
Traditional football wisdom would argue against drawing many conclusions from this opening act, but throwing that notion out the window like a high Bruce Gradkowski spiral, here are some of my rapid fire assessments that I took from this first performance:
Dri Archer Was A Great 2014 pick.
The case has already been proven. Barring some unforeseen injury, Dri Archer will bring excitement and explosiveness to the Steelers offense for many years to come. Even in his first NFL action he demonstrated an ability to flash brilliance in the big leagues.
Lock Up Ben Roethlisberger For the Next Five Years
There was well-executed performance and enthusiasm in the first offensive series of the game. But as soon as big number 7 left the field it was like Elvis had left the building for offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
The Giants Had An Advantage
There is a considerable advantage for a team when they are playing their second game of preseason versus a team competing in their first. Giants coach Tom Coughlin played his starting quarterback and offense longer into the first half because that is what you do in the second game.
It Was Still A Bad Loss
Throw out this notion that it “was just a preseason game”. Sure, the Giants played their offensive starters longer but the Steelers had every opportunity to win this game. Missed field goals, flubbed kicks, stalls in the red zone and big play giveaways were all part of a disappointing package. Then when the Giants rolled over by giving a freebie defensive touchdown to the Steelers, the Black and Gold refused to clench the deal. Not only did they allow the Giant offense to march down the field for a go-ahead touchdown, but the Steelers two-minute offense fluttered and sputtered and died an inglorious death. This was an important win for this young team and they let it slip away.
Jarvis Jones Gets What He Needs
If anyone needed a sack early in the preseason it was Jarvis Jones. Last year’s wonder boy had lost his luster in the 2013 regular season and needed to start out camp well. His impressive sack may give him the confidence to carry his play forward in a positive direction.
Sean Spence Is Not Only Healthy, He’s A Talented Player
It’s time to turn the page on the Sean Spence recovery story. It’s time to start talking only about what a good player he is. The Steelers are in good shape at the inside linebacker position and may be for several years to come.
The Running Backs Are Who We Thought They Were
Le’Veon Bell looked impressive from the start. LeGarrette Blount proved there will be little to no letdown when he steps on the field. And Dri Archer will be a nightmare on third down and flex formation options.
The Starting Offensive Line Can Bang
In what was a great sign, the starting offensive continued right where they left last year with an excellent push and well-timed coordination. They took on a strong Giants defensive line and created holes and opportunities for the backs. They provided a nice pocket to Big Ben and Gradkowski until they got sent to the bench.
Mike Adams Is In The Crosshairs
Either they wanted to give the former second round pick a lot of practice or they are giving him a serious look to decide whether he’ll remain on the roster. It’s hard to tell without a close look at the tape, but he seemed to fair all right. Although he didn’t have any super positive plays, he did hold fairly steady on his pass protection which has been his biggest weakness.
Pressure Remains a Concern
All of the Giants quarterbacks had way too much time in the pocket. Although the Steelers didn’t flash their exotic blitzes this early in the preseason, it was clear there wasn’t a whole bunch of pressure being caused the good ‘ol fashioned way. Even Howard Jones, who had two important football recoveries seemed to struggle against the left tackles he faced. A sack for Jones and a few bright moments for Chris Carter proved to be highlights, but the rest of coach Joey Porter’s kids didn’t show up on the radar.
Big Play A Weakness Now For Coach Dick LeBeau?
Rashad Jennings 73-yard touchdown for the Giants was yet another chapter in a sad and continuing saga for the once-vaunted Steelers defense. Is this a case of the Steelers being slow as was believed last year, or have offenses found some fatal flaws in LeBeau’s defense? Maybe it’s scheme and not speed after all. The Steelers better get that sewed up or we’re in for another long and frustrating season.
A Few Do-Gooders
- Tauren Poole looked strong on special teams, which may be his ticket to make the roster.
- Josh Mauro performed at a high level considering he was an undrafted free agent.
- Chris Carter flashed quickness on the edge.
- Shamarko Thomas appears ready to press for playing time.
- Daniel McCullers may get himself a helmet this season and be a key part of the defensive line rotation. No one on the team pushes the pile like he does and he even showed a little agility.
- Stephon Tuitt is ahead of schedule. To get the start on the defensive line and to hold his own—this was a good day for the rookie.
- Cam Thomas is already looking like a solid addition.
- Markus Wheaton started off slow, but began to flash well the longer he was on the field.
A Few Disappointments
- Martavis Bryant looks a full year away from being a productive member of the team.
- Brad Wing looks inconsistent which makes it difficult for the coverage unit.
- Would have liked to see more from Arthur Moats.
- Not getting to see Ryan Shazier play—big bummer.
- Was hoping Antwon Blake would have flashed more. If he’s not truly an up-and-comer than the secondary is really thin.
Don’t Answer the Phone…it Could Be The Turk
- Isaiah Green had a nightmare performance and his bubble may burst soon.