Quick Poll: If your entire life savings rode on the milk bottle game at Kennywood and you had to pick one person to throw for you, who’d you chose: Pedro Alvarez or Landry Jones?
Either way, I imagine you’d end up living in a van down by the river.
I’m not sure what to call it other than the Curse of Tom Brady. In 2000, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Tee Martin in the fifth round, thirty six picks ahead of Mr. Bundchen. Since then, every late round quarterback we’ve taken has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Sure we struck gold with first rounder Ben Roethlisberger but it’d be nice if one of these late round fliers could at least end up being a decent back-up.
Young Landry looked terrible last year in preseason, lollipopping throws to the sideline or tossing balls up for grabs right into the heart of opposing defenses. I gave him a break because I figured he was a project. Well, here we are in year two and he continues to look just as bad if not worse than he did last season. Bruce Gradkowski might as well go home until the season starts because he’s got the safest job on the roster.
One excuse I’ve heard for Jones’ inept play was that he always played in the second half with third stringers and soon to be cut roster fillers. On Sunday, the Steelers gave him a chance to run with the first team. He promptly rewarded them by throwing one of the most hilariously awful interceptions you’ll ever see. You know a guy’s playing bad when even Edmund Nelson is throwing shade at him.
At this point, I have no idea what the Steelers can do with Landry. It’s hard to justify wasting a roster spot on him when literally any QB off the street could probably come in and play just as well.
Moving on, this was my first chance to watch the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers. It was everybody’s first chance to see 2014 first round pick Ryan Shazier. I admit I wasn’t really enthused by the pick but after seeing the dude play, I’m fully prepared to pretend like I was on board all along. Eleven tackles, one beheading, and a really good INT on a short crossing route pretty much adds up to one hell of a debut. Lawrence Timmons may be a freaky athlete at linebacker but Shazier’s speed and athleticism make him look like Jerry Olsavsky.
Jason Worilds also saw his first preseason action and looks primed to pick up right where left off. He was constantly harassing EJ Manual, highlighted by a play where he broad jumped a fallen lineman and forced him into intentional grounding. The last time LaMarr Woodley pulled out a move like that he was hopping over some spilled Lo Mein at the all-u-can-eat City Buffet in Monroeville. Between Worilds, Shazier, and Timmons, the Steelers look to have one of their best linebacking corps in years.
The rest of the defense still worries me, though. It appears Dick LeBeau is leaning towards Cam Heyward, Steve McClendon, and Stephon Tuitt as his starting front three. McClendon still isn’t stout at the point of attack – a must for a 3-4 nose tackle – and Tuitt has trouble staying in his lane. Teams are going to gash us on the ground unless those guys improve dramatically. Free agent Cam Thomas looked decent when he was in there so I can see him getting more of a look while sixth rounder Daniel McCullers is probably too raw to start but looks like he has quite a bit of potential.
One area I’m perfectly fine with is the offense. Miraculously, it appears the Steelers have lucked into finally patching together a fairly solid offensive line. Ben ran a ton of No Huddle which bodes well for the regular season. The receiving corps looks okay with Antonio Brown getting loose for a 76 yard score while Markus Wheaton caught a beautiful 16 yard TD in the back of the end zone. Fantasy Alert: I think Wheaton is going to put up some nice numbers starting opposite AB, certainly better than what useless Manny Sanders did last year. Lance Moore seems like a downgrade from the Cotch Rocket and I haven’t really been impressed with any of the “big receivers” – Justin Brown and Derek Moye define mediocre while 4th rounder Martavis Bryant only catches one out of every three thrown his way. It might not matter though because Dri Archer looks like he’ll be an awesome weapon as RB whose used primarily as a receiver. Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount can more than take care of toting the rock.
Making predictions based on the preseason is always a fool’s errand. However, before watching Saturday’s game, I thought the Steelers improved their roster a little but not enough to bump them above maybe 9-7 this year. After seeing the new look Black and Gold in action, though, I’m cautiously optimistic about this team. It still has areas that have potential to be disasters – I’m looking at you secondary – but overall I think they’ve plugged up quite a few holes.
Now if we can just get through the next two games with this roster intact…