Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers rested almost half their starters during the team’s final preseason game. Mike Tomlin made the mistake of announcing this beforehand and fans reacted accordingly. I’m sure he got a stern talking to because when you make it obvious that a game doesn’t matter, people don’t watch and more importantly they don’t show up to pay overpriced parking or buy watered down beer. So this year, Coach T kept his intentions to himself.
Not that anything different happened. Last night, the Steelers played their fourth and final preseason game. And last night, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, LaMarr Woodley, Brett Keisel, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and even backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski all didn’t dress.
It was Scrub-a-poloza in Carolina last night as the Black and Gold went 0-fer the preseason, falling to the Panthers 25-10. Thus concludes Pittsburgh’s first winless preseason since Bill Cowher’s final season back in 2006 and only their third in nearly 50 years. Again, the worst team ever, the 0-16 Detroit Lions, went undefeated that preseason so these games are hardly an accurate predictor of the season to come. Still, it doesn’t exactly instill one with a great deal of confidence coming off a miserable 8-8 campaign.
So, what’s Tomlin’s assessment of his team pulling a Detroit this preseason?
“Hopefully, it’s reflecting of guys who don’t belong and we’ll correct that over the next 48 hours,” Tomlin told the Post-Gazette in one of the more badass lines you’ll ever hear attributed to meaningless games. I’m not Tomlin’s biggest fan but every once in awhile he drops a gem. He’d also make a fantastic super-villain.
Anyway, last night’s game was the Landry Jones show. Young Landry played more like Matt Saracen (“Friday Night Lights” reference!), completing 16 of 35 passes for only 189 yards while throwing three interceptions. Again, I’m not giving up on the kid but this is exactly why I laughed at the people predicting he was Ben’s heir apparent or he’d immediately supplant Gradkowski as #2 QB. There’s a reason Jones was the 115th pick, folks. He’s got talent but he needs work, a lot of work, before he’s ready to be even a quality backup.
In the meantime, cross your fingers and hope nothing happens to our top two quarterbacks.
While most of the starters rested, the Steelers did get all their (healthy) running backs into the game. For whatever reason, newly acquired Felix Jones was supposedly on the bubble. I’m not sure why since with Le’Veon Bell sidelined and Isaac Redman banged up, the Steelers are short on featured backs. Jonathan Dwyer continued to do what Jonathan Dwyer does; he averaged nearly 5 yards on a half dozen carries although he also fumbled yet again. Jones got the majority of work last night and while he’s not going to remind anybody of Barry Foster, he showed he’s capable of doing a decent job in a pinch.
Should calamity strike the backfield, I’d certainly feel more comfortable giving Jones 15-20 carries rather than LaRod Stephens-Howling. I like LSH but he’s strictly a third down guy. The Steelers also finally realized he’s an accomplished kick returner, letting him return kickoffs on special teams.
Speaking of special teams, there was only one glaring mistake last night. Rookie WR Reggie Dunn, who our annoying announcers continuously pimp as a lethal return man, fielded a punt at the 3 and went backwards, eventually getting tackled in the end zone for a safety. Between that and blowing the only pass thrown his way (which led to one of the picks), I’d lock the door to my hotel room if I were Mr. Dunn.
I mentioned some battles in my preview post and it looks like things sorted themselves out last night. Again, a disclaimer, I haven’t done the math on a 53 man roster so don’t leave me any annoying “How can you keep six linebackers when you have eight receivers?” type messages. Not that any of you putzes comment anyway.
Chris Carter looks to have sewn up a linebacker spot thanks to two sacks, the only two sacks of the game. Rookie Vince Williams solidified his spot by leading everybody in tackles. If the Steelers keep seven linebackers, there’s your Magnificent Seven (Four starters + Jarvis Jones + those two). Over at wide receiver, Derek Moye did all he could do, leading the team with 55 yards on 2 catches. Yeah, two catches doesn’t sound like much but Jones was so bad nobody except TE David Paulson had more than two. Markus Wheaton caught 2 for 25 but he was targeted seven times vs Moye’s four.
Then we have the epic Punter Battle of 2013. To show the sheer idiocy of punter battles, incumbent Drew Butler and veteran Brian Moorman both kicked four times yesterday. Their stats were exactly the same. EXACTLY. Both netted 160 yards. Both averaged 40 yards per punt. Both dropped two inside the 20. The only difference was Moorman had one touchback. Usually I’d say a tie goes to the incumbent but in this case, I think the Steelers will go with Moorman because his balls tend to have more hang time. Wouldn’t that sentence sound hilarious taken out of context?
Good grief, I’m actually discussing punters. Thank Tebow the preseason is finally over.