Steelers Vs. Giants: Some Rapid Fire Conclusions

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.

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series. MichaelKReynolds.com
  • Paddy

    Adams got beat by the Giants DE a couple of times in pass protection but was OK against the back ups. Since he’s a #2 draft pick that is the least he could do. I don’t think they’ll cut him because they have nobody better.
    McCullers impressed me but I wasn’t expecting much.
    As for the game the Steelers looked off balance the last 3 quarters of the game.

  • Matt Manzo

    The missed FG bugs me the most.
    I missed the game, but I haven’t heard Worilds name yet? How was his game?

  • Zivco

    I’m not nearly as impressed with Archer as some are. I didn’t see a 4.2 guy after he made the cut…4.2 guys score on that play.

    The long TD run happened mostly because Heyward and Timmons were completely abused. Spence off the edge might have been a zone fire concept…but ultimately that play is on Timmons and Heyward.

    I’m not impressed with the starting Oline, either. First possession was about Bell…who just might end up being special.

  • cp72

    Define okay? I watched him a lot and he was constantly getting beat the entire night. His feet looked like they were wet cement. He dips his head and misses the guy he’s blocking. He can’t anchor and gets bull rushed by much smaller defenders.

    Get the feeling I am not a big Mike Adams fan?

  • RW

    The long touchdown was speed. Will Allen should have had Jennings stopped at a 12 yard gain. Time to let him go.

  • mlc43

    And this is the complete over-reaction I was talking about in my last post. I’m sorry, even 4.2 guys can’t beat geometry and the defense had multiple players that had the angle. By Timmons being abused do you mean bear hugged and tackled? I do agree with you about Bell…he may just be special. All in all….chill bro. PRE season game 1.

  • Paddy

    Most reporters at the game have said Adams was exceptional on pass blocking They have a better view of game than we watching on TV

  • Chazsteelerfan

    To be fair at least 4 defenders had the angle on Archer, no amount of speed beats that, I thought he caught the ball and got to full speed very quickly.

    And yes Heyward got blocked, but Timmons got hugged. Secondary needs to make a tackle there.

  • cp72

    I could have been watching right beside the referee and tell you Mike Adams was far from exceptional.

  • WIINGY

    One has to wonder why he is above Shark on the depth chart. You draft speed and play the slow guy.

  • Crowned

    I thought Antwon Blake played great, and the 1st team defense got a good amount of pressure and penetration on run plays.

  • WIINGY

    Time to put Tuitt in the nickel D. He played well, and deserves a shot in there.

  • WIINGY

    Adams is Limas Sweed 2.0. A second round bust. Time to get Wesley Johnson some much needed reps.

  • RW

    He’s a Tomlin favorite. I think Tomlin is the type of coach who values experience. Not entirely sure why – at some point you just have to throw caution to the wind and evaluate guys in big situations. Anyway, thankfully Troy is at the top of the depth chart. Plus I suspect that Shark will end up #2 by pre-season’s end. He’s playing well enough that he’s going to force the coaching staffs’ hands.

  • Nolrog

    A few things I took out of the game. Archer can flippin FLY! Wow. Really excited when he took that first pass for a long gain.I was not at all happy that the defense let up that long run. That was early in the game, so our starters were out there. Spence played and looked pretty good. I was really high on this pick when they made it 3 years ago. I hope this is the beginning of something . . . .Was hoping to see Shazier play this game. A little disappointed that he had to be held out.

  • Steelers58

    No mention of nick Williams DE. I thought he was great. I had a bad angle on the td run. Could not see the whole play. I thought we ran the ball very well. Starting off line did nice job. Adams is horrible. Dri is gonna be special. Would like to see more pressure from olbs

  • frednash

    ya it looked like Allen taking up where Clark left off!

  • Scott

    He was pretty quiet, but also didn’t play a whole lot. I’m thinking games 2 & 3 will give a better look at him.

  • Jesse Murray

    You hoped Blake would have flashed more? Jeesh he got thrown at twice and was in superb coverage both times, I think you’re being a little harsh to say the least.

  • Scott

    Allen and Mitchell both blew it on the big run. Mitchell got too close to the line of scrimmage and Allen was too slow to react to the run, thus leaving a hole between the 2.

  • Yiz

    Oline performed well, they bought Ben & Gradkowski time in the pocket. Plus they got a great push in the run game. Decastro pulled well to the left. This first run by Bell was on him cause Ramon’s man beat him but the rest of that 1st drive was on the Oline. Its just the 1st preseason game but they still looked good.

  • Jacque Strappe

    100% this.

  • Reese Dare

    I wonder if we’ll see a 5-2 defense more often this year. I like the prospect of having JJ, Timmons, Shazier, Spence and Worlids all out there at the same time..Throw in Tuitt and Heyward and that’s an interesting front 7.

    Now we just have to find a way to get Shark out there too.

  • Steelers12328882

    I think my conclusion is that last night brought me back down to the reality that this team finished 8-8 last year. Offensively I think we’re ok, and will have an improved running game. We might struggle a bit passing until Ben gets acquainted with the new receivers. Defense is a work in progress though. We’re gonna give up big plays again this year.

  • Reese Dare

    Based on the play of Shamarko and Spence/Vince Williams, its interesting that our biggest FA signing and 1st round pick were safety and ILB…

  • steeltown

    I think Poole is the obvious front runner right now for #4 or practice squad RB, he showed very well on special teams. I think Blake played well in coverage. Carter may have had some quickness, but we already new that. In the end he had 0 tackles against the 2nd and 3rd stringers and he played the 3rd highest amount of snaps on Defense.. still not impressed.

  • Big White

    I liked what I saw from Moats. Now, I didn’t go through the game tape or anything, but he was in on a couple of good stops. I think he played inside and outside for a spell.

  • ApexSteel

    Well no it’s hard to run a 4.2 in pads, but he was still the fastest player on the field. A guy who wasn’t being pursued by 4 players might score on that play, but he was being chased from every angle.

    The TD run was bad, but three defensive starters weren’t on the field and I’ll bet that doesn’t happen if they were.

    And how can you not be impressed with the first team o-line? They gave Ben time and they gave the runners some good lanes. What do you want them to do? Score some TDs?

  • Steeler Fanatic

    It is so hard to judge the big picture… But to me Tuitt is going to be a beast, and Spence looked great. Our depth at offensive line is not good. I think Bryant should spend a yr on the practice squad. I thought save the Timmons hold, the team showed good pursuit on defense and a push on offense. And they stayed healthy!

  • cp72

    Sorry I thought the first unit o-line played well. Got some movement and protected well. Ramon Foster got beat across his face and JPP beat Beachum and rocked the QB, but other than that I thought they were quite good.

    On the Jennings TD you have to think Polamalu makes the tackle that Allen missed.

  • joed32

    Timmons was abused all right the blocker had him in a bear hug, otherwise he makes the tackle.

  • joed32

    Williams did have a good game.

  • Kurt Williams

    It’s game ONE of the PRE season. Practice squad players can be poached by other teams and they are not going to risk that. Bryant only started one year at Clemson. He’s raw, but talented and they knew that when drafting. Perhaps they should have put him in the game and thrown the fade to him in the endzone instead of 5-9 Lance Moore.

  • joed32

    I don’t think they were sure about Spence back in May and Shazier looks special. Shamarko plays strong safety and Mitchell plays free.

    He was needed to replace Clark but I hope Shamarko gets some playing time this year, he will be Troy’s replacement so why not put him ahead of Allen.

  • joed32

    Bryant may need a tear to develop but he wouldn’t last on the practice squad.

  • RMSteeler

    Ben will block any move to put Bryant to Practice squad. Tomlin not that stupid. Second round talent in 4th round is high value. PatriCheaters would have Bryant before the end of the day.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Green was picked on exclusively for the winning drive…not sure if it was by design or where the QB was comfortable throwing at but there wasnt much resistance from him…hoped he would have done better.

  • RW

    Troy and McLendon were both out. So was Shazier for that matter. Keep calm and carry on my friend. The defense will be improved.

  • Chazsteelerfan

    Yep- thats the detailed account.

  • RASTA

    Worst play call of the game…what do we have Miller, Bryant, and Brown for exactly if we are going to just throw it to the oldest, slowest guy on the team anyhow? Go Steelers!

  • RW

    Meh – he’s expendable with shark able to play in the slot.

  • Craig M

    Just a quick hit- I get the feeling we won’t be going 16-0 this season and there may still be argument for Keisel and Harrison coming back for one final year as quality depth.

  • RASTA

    Let’s hope this is finally the beginning of the end for Tomlin’s old pal Mr Allen…youth movement in full force; because we all know how badly older, and slower has killed our defensive big play ability – both making them and stopping them – for years now. Go Steelers!

  • Big White

    Shamarko and Dangerfield definitely are making that a possibility.

  • mlc43

    You concluded this from watching the FIRST game of the PRE season?? Wow….I just don’t know what to say about that.

  • joed32

    I thought that the DE depth was looking up last night. The young ones played well and the starters were fine.

  • charles

    The article’s thoughts on our defensive pressure alarms. Feel confident, though, that doit Tuitt and Shade tree will improve exponentially. They both should play EVERY snap of preseason. Tomlin needs to work the refs on chop blocks along the D line because we know that our division foes are going to chop McKullers.

  • pat

    Well Troy will be there in regular season and though not as fast as he use to be he is faster than Allen and alot smarter so no need to over react just yet

  • treeher

    I haven’t seen anything about Foster’s eye.

  • treeher

    I thought that was a strange call too, but maybe they wanted to see something. Everybody knows you can throw a fade to the 6’4″ guy.

  • Craig M

    The ability is not a problem I just think the maturity factor and experience is lacking, something that isn’t normally factored in that often counts for improvement from one season to the next. (Just my thoughts)

  • Birdman

    Adams didn’t give up a sack, qb pressure, or hit on the qb the entire game smh.

  • Steel PAul

    The question of whether teams are figuring out the LeBeau scheme actually crossed my mind after that play. Way too soon to buy in.

    But there seems to be a few random times where the play call catches his defense flat and shallow and the burst thru is a TD. Then again, the rest of the time, usually not much for the offense.

  • cencalsteeler

    If Shazier and Timmons are locks at the Mike and Buck positions, we need to get Spence some reps in nickel and dime packages to get him on the field. I’d put him in competition with Will Allen and may the best man win.

  • Addison

    Everything that goes wrong in pittsburgh should henseforth be know as a “Sweed” example: Ray Rice uppercutted his wife’s head. That was a real sweed move.

  • Big White

    Beginning of the offseason I expected Wheaton to be a polished Troy Edwards. Now I look for Wheaton to be Louis LIpps.

  • Jason Vancil

    Somebody explain just what exactly Cam Heyward was doing on that long TD run. That was the beginning of the issue with that play. Either he was playing a run stunt or he got pushed hallway across the line of scrimmage.

  • Big White

    No, you saw it right. Got cleared out. I thought I saw two blockers perhaps. He may have got stapled down by the tight end as well. I wish I could watch the game again. Anyone know if KDKA will replay the games here in Pittsburgh. Other wise NFL network should show it I think either Tuesday or Wednesday.

  • jamson64

    Timmons was tackled. NFL Officiating is PP.

  • patrick Mayfield

    Thought Baxter was on the positive side. Made a tackle in ST and was around the ball on defense.

    Landry Jones was a check down machine. Would be nice to see him throw past the line of scrimmage…

    Should be helpful for the team to get a look at out #2’s versus the giants #1’s.

  • ND_Steel

    First preseason game, so not much to get overly excited about either way, but Good, Bad & Ugly was still to be found:
    Good
    Dri Archer definitely has top end speed
    Tuitt, Shamarko, Spence, Blake got some good reps
    Bad
    Run game beyond Bell, Blount
    Archer was not very shifty and goes down easily, seemed to be sliding around
    Ugly
    Gradowski…he is no Charlie Batch, expect more from a vet backup
    Landry Jones…horrible, they better not carry this guy all year
    Brad Wing…stick with the vet, don’t need 20 yd punts with backspin
    DE looking incredibly thin

  • ND_Steel

    Thoughts on Mike Mitchell? Looked awfully slow and didn’t wrap up on his tackles, I didn’t see any improvement over Clark.

  • ND_Steel

    Lots of Steeler DBs running with their back to the ball as usual…

  • Douglas Andrews

    I commented on the gif of the 73yrd play that he still looks like he’s not 100%. Seemed like he was playing at half speed.

  • Douglas Andrews

    This may be a reach but i’m willing to bet Shark pushes Will Allen off the roster this year. He seems to have a good grasp of the Playbook and he’s blowing people up left and right. Will Allen’s experience is great but when you see how he can’t close on a ball carrier like last night what good is all that experience if you can’t make a tackle in the open field. Time to infuse some youth at that position and Shark seems like he’s ready to make that next step.

  • ND_Steel

    Was surprised to see Gradowski’s stats as 8 of 12. I didn’t think he did well and doesn’t get a pass in my book, he seems awfully comfortable enjoying his time in hometown Pittsburgh. He missed way too many open WRs, not just by a little either, he was way off to Brown and again to Speath.

  • ND_Steel

    I hope that was the case. Have a feeling we are going to see a lot of miscommunication with Troy and Mike early in the season, they are getting very few reps together to this point

  • Jason Vancil

    NFL Network already showed it once early Sunday.

  • joed32

    We don’t have a Baxter this year?

  • dave

    He did throw down field. It went right through Moye’s hands.

  • dave

    Archer made two guys miss as he ran across the field to get into space. I guess that’s not shifty enough for you.

  • joed32

    The one to Spaeth was a killer, easy touchdown.

  • ND_Steel

    Ok, I hear ya, he made a very nice move at speed and took off. I was referring to the first punt return where he didn’t seem to get started on the line drive punt. It was just the first pre-season game…a couple of plays…I’m very excited for this guy, if he can make the first guy miss, we are going to see some great things from Dri

  • SteelCitysFinest

    Spence is going to be valuable depth. I was the most impressed by him. Its been said but our second sting offensive line didn’t look good.

  • Steelers12328882

    Well, then why did you say anything? I’m allowed an opinion.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/JohnnyLoose Johnny Loose

    Mike Mitchell getting his helmet knocked off was a disappointment lol.

  • keth Naab

    i watched him exclusively for a few series and he shut down JPP during that time. I apparently need to rewatch because some folks were saying he was getting beaten badly but I just didn’t see it while i was focused on him

  • keth Naab

    “starting D” is what you meant to say I believe.

  • keth Naab

    agreed 100%. for all the abuse Ike took about his play last season, Will Allen and Ryan Clark left him out to dry so often it’s nuts. Allen had some nice impact plays but he was horribly inconsistent last seaosn, and considering his ceiling is about a foot above Shamarko’s floor, I’d like to see the Shark get some more playing time as the first DB off the bench. Dude was the 2nd best player on defense last night behind Sean Spence

  • sean mcmartin

    I noticed with landry The line was collapsing in on his left side as soon as he snapped the ball. The O-line once again has little depth. I am hoping Munch can weed out the poor performers before the season starts..

  • Ms Green

    Keep your eye on the mentioned bubble!

  • Hard Row

    There is no weakness in Lebeau’s scheme. The safeties should have made that play or at least held it to a modest gain. No scheme can overcome multiple players failing their assignments.

  • AJP

    That long TD was on the safeties, neither Troy, Shamarko or the guy from the Chargers were on the field… so that is at least ok.

  • Jace Naughton

    Doesnt make sense.

    If youre saying the Steelers need more attitude, I agree….but character has nothing to do with that. There are ALOT of high character guys that have attitude and talent. The low character guys that have that are usually the ones you see getting suspended.

    On top of that, Ryan Clark was one of the highest character guys on the team, and his “head shots” hurt us more than they helped, and were usually the result of poor form than Clark trying to hurt someone. He isnt Brandon Merriweather.

    We do lack attitude on defense, but we also lack talent. Timmons simply isnt THAT good. He is merely solid and a soft minded guy. Our OLBs are still light years behind what we had for a decade. We have no true LeBeau NT that is a good fit for this defense.

    Scheme isnt an issue aside from certain players not being great fits for it.
    Attitude is a minor issue.
    Talent is the biggest issue. We dont have enough of it, and while we have some young POTENTIAL, thats all it is at this point….POTENTIAL.

  • Louis Goetz

    What game were you watching?!
    On the 1st play from scrimmage, Gay blitzed, which forced Manning to thrown early and behind Jernigan for an incompletion. 2nd & 10 was a 3 yard run. On 3rd and 7 Tuitt’s jump offside negated what would’ve been a Sean Spence/Jarvis Jones sack as they both blitzed and were untouched. On 3rd and 2 Manning was chased out of bounds by Spence and the Giants punted.
    The Giants’ 2nd possession was the 1 play TD.
    The third drive started with a Jarvis Jones 8 yard sack, and was followed up by runs of 2 yards and 6 yards, before the Giants punted again after another 3 and out. After that the starters were done.
    How can you say they got no pressure? They got plenty of pressure on Manning who didn’t complete a pass.

  • Jonas

    Didn’t he start the game?
    First defensive snap was in the Nickel: Wreck’em and Tuitt
    Cam came into the game with the base.. even with CamT playing NT in this game, it’s interesting the athletic Tuitt gets the sub package reps (as LeBeau said), however, early on!

  • Jonas

    Besides the holding of Timmons, the TD was an excellent read of Manning. With Spence shifting out, there were a LOT of room up the middle..

    Of course, Safeties not as sure-hitting as they should be, canot happen again, too!

  • Jonas

    Would be nice, yes. But isn’t it 2-5 than?
    I’m expecting a lot of Nickel formations. If we install some Big Nickel, where Spence or rather Shazier plays this “big nickel”, we still would be stout against the run (and therefore no-huddle), as we basically have 4-3 material on the field :)

  • Jonas

    I’m more concerned with our depth..

  • joed32

    He’s OK.

  • Melly

    sorry that I don’t get excited about 1 sack and some would’ves!

  • Steelers12328882

    Yeah definitely a problem, but the defense will need some time to get things together. So many new faces.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I thought he had an outside chance of making the roster but after that performance he will have to turn heads now.

  • Hp B

    When you take another look at the tape see if you don’t spot a Timmons mugging on the big play which wouldn’t have been a play in the regular season. Ten yards is more like it. Big as Dallas.

    That said the thing I found extremely disappointing was the first drive of the new season. Super drive! Straight down the field easily and then, yep, 3 points…
    It sucked like a bad deja vu.’

  • Hp B

    He got high ratings from some people (Pro Football Focus)

  • Louis Goetz

    Well, the starting Giants’ offense and the starting Steelers defense were only on the field for what turned out to be 3 passing plays, EVERYONE OF WHICH resulted in Manning being pressured and either forced to throw a bad pass, throw the ball away or be sacked. From a pressure standpoint, what else could you possibly expect? I wouldn’t call successfully pressuring the QB 100% of the passing plays “no pressure”