First Preseason Game A Vital Building Block For Younger Steelers Players

The days immediately following the first preseason game of the year are a time for reflection and sometimes, a time to head back to the drawing board, as the team found out the horrid news regarding kicker Shaun Suisham and his season-ending knee injury.

For the rookie draft picks and undrafted free agents, it’s their first chance at live game action on the professional level. Many of the Steelers’ draft picks from last year had a less-than-stellar rookie campaign, so Sunday’s game versus the Minnesota Vikings was a chance to put their rookie campaigns behind them and begin to live up to the promise that made them a draft pick in the first place.

The Steelers definitely needed to juice up their pass rush this offseason, so naturally they took athletic specimen Bud Dupree in the first round this year. After showing uncanny power and explosion in the draft buildup, he lacked it on Sunday night, continually failing to get off blocks, but it’s unfair to make a prognosis on one game. The biggest thing Dupree took from Sunday’s experience is the vast difference from college to the pro level.

“First, how in shape players are,” Dupree said, according to Teresa Varley of “Also how big the assignments are in the league. If you make one mistake, it’s hard to make up for. The speed of the game was established in OTAs, so I got used to that.”

I look for a bounce-back performance from Dupree Friday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars and he’s obviously still very green in this defense so immediate expectations should be tempered.

Playmaker Dri Archer is one of the second-year players who used the preseason game to help erase a very forgetful rookie season, as he failed to deliver the speedy “splash” plays like he did in college with his 4.2 wheels. He had a decent stat line Sunday, grabbing six passes for 33 yards and taking four hand-offs for 24 yards.

“It felt pretty good to have a good start like that and build your confidence and move forward to next week,” said Archer, according to Varley. “Having a game like that builds your confidence. You know what you are capable of doing and what you have to do to get it done.”

With an offense with plenty of mouths to feed, Archer’s unique skill set would be a welcome addition as perhaps the piece that puts it over the top, if it’s not there already. His speed is scary and in space, he could be lethal if given ample opportunities. Let’s hope that continues Friday night and beyond.

Rookie third-round wide receiver Sammie Coates also made his debut Sunday night, and he certainly lived up to his billing, blowing through the secondary on several occasions despite making only one grab for 12 yards on the night. He blew by rookie cornerback Trae Waynes, ultimately drawing a nice PI call due to Waynes grabbing him.

On the other hand, he also seemed to be lackadaisical at times, sort of looking like he wasn’t giving 100 percent effort. “You just have to play fast and be in a good position,” Coates said. “You just have to play fast. You can’t just do it during parts of the game, you have to play fast at all times.”

Other players, like rookie tight end Jesse James, had horrendous nights while others, like second-year linebacker Ryan Shazier, showed much improvement. That is what the preseason is all about is gaining invaluable reps in live, game atmospheres and the team will look to continue this Friday.

  • steeltown

    There are a lot of people ready to give up on Jesse James, already, that is asinine IMO one preseason game does not a career make. He’s still very young and we all knew it would take some time to get him up to speed and ready for the pros. I think it’s almost a good thing he struggled, now he has to work even harder.

    On the other end of the spectrum, good showings from 2nd yr guys like Shazier, Tuitt and Archer will do wonders for their confidence moving forward.

  • VIPSteel

    It really did seem like this game was just to get the younger player’s feet wet. I’m really not going to put much thought into what happened on Sunday. It felt like something they just wanted to survive.

  • Orlysteel

    It’s about what the coaches see, hell of a blocker he could make the team on that alone much like Spaeth.

  • steeltown


  • LucasY59

    The thing that people are overlooking/forgetting is that Spaeth was a 4th rd pick (so expecting James to be better than Matt from the beginning is ridiculous, thats what most seem to want, and JJ did have some hype so I guess they had their hopes up too high) the play of Jesse was disappointing but definitely some overreacting going on.

    And Miller was a 1st rd pick so IF James is heir it will be some serious overachieving on His part to be a player that is worthy of mentioning with Heath (I would be VERY Happy if it happened tho)

    some growing pains from a VERY young 5th rd rookie should be expected (and them happening in a bonus 5th PS game is a great time for it, instead of during the season when it would actually matter)

  • LucasY59

    Dupree, Coates, James, Goodwin will hopefully have better games

    H.Jones, J.Jones, Harris, Holliman, Wild, Darby, Boykin (not that young, but new) and Cortez are guys I want to see play more

    Shazier, Tuitt, Archer, Phillips, Fogg are guys that I hope continue to impress

    L.Jones, Dismukes, Green. I have seen enough of and they should only be getting the normal or minimal amount of play for the team to make it through the remainder of the PS games