Pittsburgh Steelers: Who Were the Studs and Duds in Preseason Opener?
Do not overreact to anything that you see in a preseason game.
That should be the motto for every preseason game as all teams really need to do is work on timing, get experience for the young players and most importantly—stay healthy.
While there are some injury concerns for several Steelers who left the game—including David Johnson and Mike Adams—there was some good that came out of the game.
There were a number of players—both rookies and veterans—who made positive impressions on Thursday night, while others had forgettable performances.
Here’s a look at the studs and duds against the Eagles.
Dud: Mike Adams
The much-anticipated debut of David DeCastro and Mike Adams on the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was one of the highlights of the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
While DeCastro played well, the same could not be said for Adams, who allowed at least two sacks and a forced fumble before leaving the game with an injury.
However, former Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke said via Twitter that the first sack was not Adams’ fault.
Just turned on game late... Very impressed with Mike Adams on 1st drive... Sack wasn't his fault...
So I asked Hoke to break down the play and he said that Adams “pushed his man 10 yards deep.”
No matter if it was or wasn't Adams' fault, it wasn't the best showing for the second-round draft pick.
On the bright side, Adams did show some dominance in run blocking, but not getting his hands on a defender in pass protection is not the way to keep the starting job at left tackle.
Adams will have to look over his shoulder when Max Starks returns.
Stud: Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger had to run around a little more than we would have hoped for, but he was also very efficient.
He led the Steelers on a 16-play, 52-yard drive which resulted in a field goal.
The offense controlled the ball and deliberately moved the ball with several safe passes to the running backs, including two to David Johnson.
Roethlisberger did overthrow one deep pass to Emmanuel Sanders, but other than that he was perfect.
For the night, Roethlisberger completed 7-of-8 passes for 49 yards and a rating of 92.2. More importantly, he looked very comfortable in the new—albeit vanilla—offense and executed what had been worked on in camp.
If you’re going to have a quarterback stand out in the first week of the preseason, it might as well be the starter.
Duds: Backup Receivers
The Steelers are begging for one of the young receivers to come out and earn a roster spot.
But the inconsistencies that we’ve seen throughout camp did not disappear against Philadelphia.
While there were only 11 passes thrown after Roethlisberger left the game, no one was able to make an impact.
Only Tyler Beiler made a reception, though, it was a rather nice play.
Beiler adjusted his route to come back to the ball for a 30-yard reception.
It was a great opportunity for players such as Derrick Williams, Toney Clemons and Marquis Maze, but all were held without a reception.
Stud: Chris Rainey
Chris Rainey was one of the stars of the game.
While he did not offer much on the ground with only one yard on four carries, Rainey showcased his game-breaking ability with a touchdown.
Rainey took a short pass and broke it open for a 57-yard touchdown, getting past several defenders on his way to the end zone.
Rainey had one other reception for five yards.
The coaches clearly have confidence in Rainey as he worked with Roethlisberger and the rest of the first team. He lined up as the back in the shotgun on the first drive and had plays designed to go his way throughout the night.
Rainey had a chance to break open a return, but was tripped up just enough to allow an Eagles player to make a tackle.
There will be plenty of plays where Rainey gets shut down, but it is the big-play ability that will make him a threat and get him on the field.
It was a very good start for Rainey.
Dud: Baron Batch
Baron Batch has received a lot of hype for never playing a down in the NFL.
The hype goes back to camp last year when he had one outstanding block against James Harrison during the backs-on-backers drill. That one block equated into a stud running back.
After his first preseason game, I’m still waiting to see that stud.
While Batch didn’t have much room to run, he didn’t make any space for himself either.
Batch had 19 carries for only 41 yards and a very underwhelming 2.2 yards per carry.
There is plenty of time for Batch to make an impression, but it was not a very good start to his preseason.
Stud: Steve McLendon
No Casey Hampton? No problem.
Steve McLendon has had a monster training camp and he was in beast mode against the Eagles.
Sacking Michael Vick is no easy task, especially for a nose tackle, but McLendon achieved that.
McLendon was dominant when he was at his very best and good at his worst. He provided us with some very encouraging signs.
There was no doubt that McLendon was the best player on the Steelers defense for this game. He was credited with three tackles—including two for a loss—and a sack.
Dud: Curtis Brown
Whatever chance Curtis Brown had at competing for the starting cornerback job may have disappeared against Philadelphia.
Brown did not have a great showing and much more was expected of him, especially when he was playing against third- and fourth-stringers.
The worst play for Brown was when he was beaten by Mardy Gilyard for a 44-yard touchdown.
Brown will really need to step up his play with Keenan Lewis continuing to play solid at cornerback and Cortez Allen continuing to flash his high upside.
Stud: Brandon Johnson
As a whole, the linebackers were very good against the Eagles.
Sean Spence flashed some of his coverage abilities and made a couple of nice tackles, but missed a stop on a running back.
Chris Carter showed a very good first step and got plenty of pressure with his speed rush, but just wasn’t able to finish plays.
Brandon Johnson, though, really stood out and made a push to be the top backup at inside linebacker.
Johnson had three tackles—one for a loss—and a pass defense.
The previous experience that Johnson has had with the Cincinnati Bengals helped his cause as he looked very comfortable on the field.
With so many young linebackers behind the starters, Johnson would provide a nice veteran presence who could be a dependable backup.
Super Stud: Al Woods
Who knew Al Woods was such an athlete?
Not only did Woods plow over an offensive lineman, but he read a pass play and demonstrated that he had better hands than Ike Taylor to intercept Mike Kafka.
Woods returned the ball 53 yards, but would come up just a few yards short of the end zone.
Any time a defensive lineman can make that type of play and big return, they definitely get to be the super stud of the game.