Detroit Lions second overall pick Ndamukong Suh got his first taste of preseason action. Lions fans have been waiting to see him on the field so that they may get their first look at this phenomenal athlete.
In order to get a good handle of how well Suh did in his debut, what follows is a breakdown of each play and who had the edge, Suh or the Pittsburgh offensive line.
Unfortunately the television coverage from my provider did not start until some plays had already been completed, so I missed the first two snaps of the Steelers’ initial drive.
First and 10, Steelers’ 37-yard line
Suh is double teamed as the handoff is to Rashard Mendenhall running to Suh’s side of the field. Suh holds his ground as the line shifts to the right. Mendenhall cuts back and is met by Jordon Dizon who makes the tackle at just about the line of scrimmage.
Second and 10, Steelers’ 37-yard line
Suh is doubled once again. Justin Hartwig is able to get on Suh’s outside shoulder to shield him from the play. Avril overruns the play and Mendenhall breaks it for a long gain. Defense is bailed out by safety C.C. Brown as he strips Mendenhall. The Ball is recovered by the Steelers for only a one-yard gain.
Third and 9, Steelers’ 38-yard line
Suh and Corey Williams are able to collapse the pocket just enough to allow Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril to get to Leftwich. The quarterback is forced to let go the ball a split second before he wants which causes an incomplete pass.
First and 10, Steelers’ 47-yard line
Suh’s quickness and strength were on display here. He got off the ball very quickly and was able to push Steelers’ starting right guard Trai Essex into the back field before center Justin Hartwig even had a chance to double him.
As he got to the quarterback, he discarded Essex with a powerful slap of his right arm. Had Cliff Avril not blown away the right tackle and gotten to Leftwich for a sack, there is a very good chance Suh would have sacked Leftwich.
Edge: Suh, big time.
Second and 18, Steelers' 39-yard line
Suh followed up a great play with a dud. He was pushed out of the way by a double team and Flozell Adams got on Suh’s outside shoulder and turned him away from the run. The running play went to that side as Avril was occupied by Heath Miller.
Jordan Dizon took on the pulling left guard Chris Kemoeatu and that allowed corner Eric king to attack running back Mewelde Moore. King got his helmet on the ball and popped it loose but the Steelers were able to recover it for a small gain.
Third and 15, Steelers 42 yard line
Suh was double-teamed again and was held up at the line. Corey Williams and KVB pulled a beautiful stunt as Williams attacked left tackle Max Starks and KVB came around to the inside with a head full of steam.
Kemoeatu had no chance on the play, held KVB which the refs missed, and was blown away. Leftwich was able to throw the ball just as KVB got in on him. The ball went into the ground and Suh pounced on it but it was ruled an incomplete pass.
Edge: Suh. He may not have gotten there but if he didn’t need to be double-teamed, the lane would not have been there for KVB.
First and 10, Lions’ 17-yard line
Suh was double-teamed yet again and this time Adams and Essex got the best of him as they knocked him of his feet. Corey Williams made the tackle as KVB forced Mendenhall back inside.
Second and 9, Lions’ 16-yard line
Suh slid off his block and established the outside edge here, forcing Mendenhall to turn it back inside. Rookie safety Ryan Phillips came flying in to record the tackle.
Edge: Suh. When the play turns out this well for the Lions, all players get a plus.
Third and 14, Lions’ 21-yard line
Suh, as usual, was double-teamed. The offensive line as a whole gave Leftwich a nice pocket. Coverage downfield was good and the quarterback was forced to check it down to Heath Miller. Eric King made a nice open field tackle on Miller to force the field goal attempt.
For those of you keeping score, in the three series they played against each other, Detroit’s starting defense held Pittsburgh’s No. 1 offense to a grand total of 12 net yards. Two things to keep in mind are that Ben Roethlisberger did not play and the teams did not scheme for each other.
Cliff Avril showed once again that if he can shore up his run defense he can be a force.
That said, it was really nice to see Detroit getting pressure from its front four the way it did. If this is any indication of things to come the Lions might just surprise some teams this year.
Update: Detroit did suffer a blow to their linebacker unit as Jordon Dizon suffered a serious knee injury and was lost for the year.