The format for this article is inspired by Steelers Digest writer Jim Wexell.
From the notebook (literally) of a fan who spend an entire game sitting in the stands of Heinz Field taking notes on the game.
Favorite Moment: The preseason crowd exploded after Daniel Sepulveda’s first punt. Only Steelers fans would show so much appreciation for a punter. You can thank Paul Ernster and Mitch Burger for the gross amount of punting excitement.
Favorite Play: Joe Burnett’s early jump on a deep curl route that lead to an interception of a Brian St. Pierre throw.
Favorite Stat: 32 runs, 27 throws for the Steelers offense. The run game is still the focus and balance is still the key.
Favorite No Name Player: Donovan Woods who had three tackles and one tipped pass in one drive.
- The Steelers looked generally sharp in their first preseason game and seem to be continuing their efforts of pulling talented young players out of nowhere.
- The first player who stood out was ROLB, Dovovan Woods, who showed a great ability to hunt down the ball career in the run game and find the ball in the passing game. Is he the next undrafted wonder?
- The other two unexpected standouts were running backs Justin Vincent and Isaac Redman.
- The first surprise was Vincent getting time with the first time offense. The next surprise was his performance. Despite some unimpressive stats Jackson looked like the best running back wearing black and gold. He hit any hole no matter how small with confidence, showed quick moves and cuts once in the hole, and the ability to drive forward after contact.
- Redman only ran with the third team so his performance must be kept in perspective but the last runner to look like the clear best player on field with the third team was Willie Parker.
- I was very pleased with the play of the second and third team offensive lines. They protected the passers well and also opened up holes in the run game, a possible explanation for Vincent and Redman.
- The starting squad, however, really worried me. They forced Big Ben to do even more scrambling. Max Starks got beat off the edge on the second play of the game and the line never created a good push in the run game.
- The starting five on the o-line was missing usual starters Jeff Hartwig and Darnell Stapleton so hopefully the blocking woes will dissolve when they return.
- My next biggest concern was the play of Lawrence Timmons. During their two defensive drives, Timmons missed two tackles in two attempts in the run game. On both plays he over pursued, got off balance, and could only try to make and arm tackle. His weakness in the run game could create a hole in an otherwise flawless defense.
- Some people thing even if Timmons isn’t quite as good in the run game that his blitzing ability will make up for it. On Timmon’s only blitz of the day he was blocked handily by Arizona running back Tim Hightower.
- The best backup defender on the field was sixth year veteran Keiwan Ratliff. He led the team with six tackles and one sack. So far my money is on Ratliff filling the nickel spot at CB by the start of the season.
- William Gay also played good coverage as a starter, making a great read on a curl route by Anquan Boldin on the Cardinals first offensive play.
- All the headlines are talking about Limas Sweed and plenty of noise should be made about his two spectacular catches, just as much should be made about his drop. One drop every three passes is by no means ideal and consistency is the name of the game in the NFL.
- Shaun McDonald, on the other hand, was a man among boys while playing with the third string. What a receiver who was on the verge of a 1,000 yard season two years ago was doing playing with a bunch of undrafted free agents is beyond me. He looks like a poor man’s Hines Ward to me.
- The man throwing to McDonald was the much improved Dennis Dixon. Dixon showed the ability to properly read the field and proved he is accurate in the intermediate to short range passes. If he can learn to throw an accurate deep ball he could very well become a start worthy NFL passer.