Steelers Report Card: Champs Are Able, Willing, Ready

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IIJanuary 15, 2017

Even some football people will tell you not to take the preseason too seriously. For the majority of teams, that may be true. Not so much if you're the Steelers, though.

Three years ago, the defending champs were down this same road, and we know what happened. They started the season with too many injuries, too many distractions, and before you knew it, they were a motorcyle wreck.

Here's what tells me that won't happen again: In the eight quarters that counted in the preseason—the first halves in the first two games, the first three in the third game and the first in the finale versus the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night—the Steelers outscored their opponents by a 44-6 margin.

Yeah, I know, it's only the preseason, but it's hard be unimpressed by the results.

Except for the offensive line—and you may hear those five words a lot in the next few months—what was there not to like about the preseason?

The first-team defense allowed two measly field goals. That’s it. Zippo touchdowns. Even with feature back Willie Parker and wide receiver Santonio Holmes in limited roles, the first-team offense moved the ball consistently even if it didn't translate into a lot of points. The special teams were special.

Heck, the Steelers even may have found a new star in Stefan Logan, all 5-foot-6 of him. The 28-year-old rookie is a threat every time he returns a kick, and in the victory against the Panthers, he even carried the ball on two reverses.

Hey, who says o-coordinator Bruce Arians hasn't entered the 1990's yet?

Best of all, with the possible exception of linebacker Lawrence Timmons (sprained ankle), there were no significant injuries to speak of. When the Steelers open the season against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night, their go-to guys should be good to go.

Give head man Mike Tomlin some credit here. Bill Cowher didn’t like to push his guys in the preseason. As a result, not all of them were ready to answer the ball. Tomlin didn’t floor it exactly, but he made sure to keep his foot on the accelerator at all times.

I don’t know how this season will turn out, but I am certain of this much: If the Steelers don’t get ‘er done, then it won’t because they had a Supersized hangover from the previous season. This time somebody is gonna have to beat them.


The grades:


Offensive starters

QB Ben Roethlisberger: C

Completed only pass attempt...Stayed upright...Is he ready for his best season yet?


RB Rashard Mendenhall: D

Two carries, one yard...Took small step forward in preseason...Has yet to prove that he can carry load.


FB Frank Summers: B

Injury-plagued rookie may have done enough to earn roster spot...Executed solid block on first possession...Gained four yards, first down in only carry.


WR Shaun McDonald: B

Three catches, 43 yards...Fifth receiver with experience of No. 2 guy...Roster spot appears secure.


WR Dallas Baker: C

Steelers' career may have ended with hip injury...Seventh-rounder never developed into big receiver that was needed here.


TE David Johnson: F

May have played his way onto practice squad...Guilty of false start, hold and personal foul penalties...Lack of discipline negated ability as physical blocker.


C A.Q. Shipley: C

Failed to make needed impression...Physical attributes come up shot at this level...Spot on practice squad is possible.


G Doug Legursky: B

Among the surprises of this preseason...Lack of size showed in pass protection, but agility played well in run game...Ability to play center puts him over top.


G Jeremy Parquet: C

Has size of tackle, strength of guard...Career backup at best...Could earn roster spot on basis of experience alone.


T Ramon Foster: B

Free-agent find all but assured roster spot...Has size, agility but lacks mean streak...Ability to play guard is plus...Possible future starter.


T Tony Hills: D

Continued to struggle in pass protection...Failed to show progress in preseason...Roster spot is in jeopardy.


PK Jeff Reed: B

Converted both extra-point attempts...Had no field-goal tries...Has to walk straight, narrow in final year of contract.


KR Mike Wallace: B


Defensive starters


NT: Chris Hoke: C

Had one tackle...Whistled for illegal hold...Adequate at point of attack. 


DE Ra’Shon Harris: B

Rookie continued to hold his own...Had one sack...Can sixth-rounder be hidden on practice squad?


DE Ziggy Hood: C

Closed with two tackles...Showed he could contribute off the bench immediately...Has motor, athleticism to be effective pass-rusher for years.


LB James Farrior: B

One of few regulars to see action...Was on field long enough to make one tackle...Appears to be in best physical condition in years.


LB Keyaron Fox: B

Finished impressive preseason with one sack, two tackles...Play on specials teams cannot be overlooked...Would start for several teams in league.


LB Arnold Harrison: A

One sack, one forced fumble may be enough to claim roster spot...Stuffed ball-carrier on 4th-and-1...Deserves to stay on perseverance alone.


LB Donovan Woods: B

Recovered fumble, returned it 27 yards...How was this guy not drafted?...Certainly will be claimed if released.


CB Joe Burnett: C

Made six tackles...Athleticism can be effective in right matchups...Could be gone if placed on practice squad.


CB Keenan Lewis: C

Often beaten on short-to-medium routes...Made 10 tackles as a result...Physical style appears to be best suited for nickel or dime role in future.


S Tyrone Carter: D

Continued to be liability in pass coverage...Often out of position in middle of field...Roster spot isn’t a given anymore.


S Ryan Mundy: A

May have played his way onto roster with best performance of preseason...Carted back interception for 31-yard touchdown...Also had one sack, one monster hit.


P Daniel Sepulveda: B

Five kicks, 41.4-yard average, one inside 20-yard line...He appears to have a future in league.


PR Stefan Logan: A

One return, 80 yards, six points...How long before we see "Logan’s Heroes" in  the stands at Heinz Field?


Selected reserves

LB Patrick Bailey: B

Totaled one tackle, two assists...Continued to be special on special teams...Almost certain to make final cut on that fact alone.


QB Mike Reilly: C

Pocket passer displayed impressive arm strength...Lack of agility, experience shows, but he deserves chance to develop elsewhere.


LB Bruce Davis: B

Had three tackles in one of the better performances of preseason...Was it too little, too late?...Third-rounder appears destined for practice squad.


CB Anthony Madison: D

Confirmed that he’s not cover guy...Can he make roster on special teams ability alone? 


RB Isaac Redman: A

Twelve carries, 79 yards, one touchdown...Lower-body strength was apparent on several broken tackles...Free agent improved chances for roster, but could be victim of numbers game.


G Kraig Urbik: C                                                                                             

He is what we thought he was...Third-rounder is mauler in run game, moveable object in pass protection...If he helps solves short-yard problems, nobody will mind.


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