Steelers vs. Colts: Breaking Down Pittsburgh's Offense in 26-24 Win over Indy
Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
The Pittsburgh Steelers emerged victorious in their second preseason game of the year, defeating the Indianapolis Colts 26-24 and weathering the storm that was another prodigious outing by No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck.
The preseason is purely an evaluative time—it's for honing the play-calling, taking stock of players on the margins of the roster and seeing what works and what needs more work. So it's hard to examine this contest in the context one would a regular season game, with its attendant game-planning and starters playing full-speed for four full quarters.
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To little surprise, the Steelers were run-heavy yet again. With Isaac Redman on the sideline with a hip injury, Rashard Mendenhall likely more than a month away from returning to the field and John Clay done for the year, the team had to test out Plan C when it came to the running game.
That meant Jonathan Dwyer got the start, and we also received an extended look at Baron Batch, who was disappointing in last week's game.
Both Dwyer and Batch had eight carries apiece. Dwyer continued his yearly impressive preseason streak, putting up 43 yards and averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Batch, on the other hand, was again subpar, rushing for just 19 yards for an average of 2.4 yards per carry.
It's quickly becoming clear that Batch's best asset is his blocking. However, we have yet to see him much with the first-team offense. With a starting offensive line in front of him, he could be more successful, but it appears that the Steelers are most comfortable with Dwyer while Redman and Mendenhall continue their recoveries.
Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE
The Steelers nearly had to move to Plan D in the run game when speedy fifth-round pick Chris Rainey reportedly injured his knee and head in the first quarter. Rainey did return to the field, however, and was spotted in all four quarters of the game. He rushed six times for 20 yards and caught two passes for a total of three yards.
What stood out the most about the first-team offense is that it yet again featured a lot of speed, a lot of running and primarily short, quick passing. Ben Roethlisberger operated out of the no-huddle almost exclusively in their second and third offensive possessions of the night. He ended his day completing five of his nine passes, good for 81 yards, a touchdown and an extremely disappointing interception.
The first time any Steelers quarterback threw deep was an incomplete throw by Charlie Batch near the end of the second quarter. Batch later connected with receiver David Gilreath on a 41-yard pass play.
Gilreath's seemingly breakout performance may help head coach Mike Tomlin make a decision on which of the team's young receivers have earned the No. 5 receiver spot. None were all that consistent in training camp, but against the Colts, Gilreath pulled down all four passes thrown his way, worth 78 total yards.
The starting offensive line looked more stable this week, with Roethlisberger under far less pressure and taking no sacks. The same couldn't be said for the second-team offensive line, however, with rookie Mike Adams at left tackle. Batch was sacked twice during his time under center.
With the Steelers' run game still in flux and receiver Mike Wallace yet to report to the team, we cannot yet get a complete picture of what we can expect the offense to look like come the regular season, other than that it's going to be faster. It seems this preseason has featured a number of teams trying to incorporate more hurry-up into their games, and the Steelers are most certainly one of them.
As long as the protection holds up and the run game can at least be efficient, the Steelers' no-huddle approach could pay off major dividends. As of now, however, let's hope that they don't have to turn to their second-team offensive line at the start of the year; that's one area that still needs some major work.
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