Which evidently some 8.9 million of you watched. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The Pittsburgh Steelers are America’s Team and so many of you can’t watch pre-season games because you live in other states. Add in the general public’s curiosity about Pey-Pey’s heir apparent Andrew Luck and I sorta understand why the game did bonzo ratings.
But, c’mon, it’s still a pre-season game!
Anyway, sorry for this update coming out a little late. Our pal Hennessy was supposed to present us with his take on Sunday’s meaningless action but he’s MIA so I figured I’ll jump in with what I saw. Which I have to admit wasn’t very much. To be honest, I only caught the second and part of the third quarters on Sunday because I was completely engrossed in the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ epic six hour 19 inning victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Screw you, Jerry Meals!
I did turn on the Steelers game in time to see Ike Taylor come down with a sweet interception. Clearly, they weren’t lying when they said Andrew Luck threw a really nice ball. If Ike was able to catch it, it must’ve been a perfect pass. A short time later, Cortez Allen came down with a ricochet INT which is a good sign for a D that didn’t force many turnovers last season.
The Steelers seem locked into Keenan Lewis being the starting corner opposite Ike while Allen plays the nickel role. I guess they figure Lewis’ size suits him better as a starter or something. He was pretty mediocre in the nickel role last year so it must be the Dilbert principal. In any case, I expect Allen will be in the starting line-up before year’s end because that kid has a really good nose for the ball.
The offensive line continued to look somewhat shaky. There are no doubt going to be some growing pains with David DeCastro and Mike Adams. They both do a great job run blocking but tend to get a little confused on passing plays. I can see where the rumor that DeCastro was struggling in camp came from as there were a few plays on Sunday where he clearly got confused. He physically seems fine, though, which is why I think he’ll start sooner than Adams.
Adams played a lot on Sunday as I think the team has figured out that he is indeed a bit raw. He still doesn’t look at all quick enough to handle outside speed rushers coming off the edge. That’s why I’m 99.9% certain at this point that Max Starks will be at LT on opening day. Adams isn’t ready, Gilbert started at LT Sunday but I don’t think they see him as a natural there, and Essex and Foster for damn sure aren’t starting unless Ben pisses off Mike Tomlin.
Speaking of Ben, he got to run a bit more of the Todd Haley offense this week. The Steelers went with a no-huddle for awhile which is a good sign because Ben always does well when the tempo is sped up. Chris Rainey got walloped early in the game but shook it off and came back to have a productive evening. It’s good to see he’s not as fragile as his slight frame suggested he might be. Antonio Brown had another big play catch-and-run TD which isn’t supposed to happen without Mike Wallace out there to “stretch the field.”
In the meantime, the Steelers also continue to stress their running game. Rookie FB Will Johnson made a couple nice blocks and both Heath Miller and Leonard Pope (who wasn’t supposed to be a blocking TE) brought their hard hats as well. Jon Dwyer continues to be the surprise of camp, looking fast, strong and explosive. If he can get and stay healthy, we may have a RB controversy because he’s looked tremendous in the two pre-season games.
The D wasn’t quite as lucky on the injury front. Yet another LB was lost when Stevenson Sylvester tore his MCL meaning he’ll be out about a month. Sly was the team’s top back-up at ILB so without him there’s a major depth issue with only starters Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote really capable of playing major minutes at the position. On a positive note, I liked what I saw from James Harrison‘s replacement, Chris Carter. Carter is smallish (he looked smaller than several of the team’s safeties) but really quick off the snap and he’s always around the ball. I’d certainly rather have the Deebo/Woodley combo at OLB but Carter might be okay for a week or two. He certainly seems to offer a bit more than Jason Worilds, who didn’t really show much of anything when given a shot last season.
Finally, Charlie Batch got some significant playing time. Watching him sprint away from defenders on some sort of designed roll-out play made me think Haley had to goofing on him. Chaz can still wing the ball down the field but he runs about as well as my grandpa. Still, I think it’s going to be him and Lefty as the back-ups when the season rolls around. Jerrod Johnson definitely has talented but is far too raw to be trusted as a back-up.