Football is back in Pittsburgh! I don't know about you guys, but I was thoroughly overjoyed at seeing the Steelers at Heinz Field again.
Despite torrential rainfall and lightning that delayed the game for 73 minutes, the 23-7 victory over the Detroit Lions was still thrilling to watch
Dennis Dixon had a heck of a night going 6-for-7 for 128 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed six times for 31 yards. Those rush yards paid off because they got Dixon away from pressure and converted a couple of third downs.
Though he didn't play with the starters, he looked more comfortable and poised in the pocket than I've ever seen. After the Lions fumbled inside of the Steelers 7-yard line, Dixon led an impressive 16-play, 9:09 drive that ended in a Jeff Reed field goal. So far, Dixon is more impressive than Bryon Leftwich.
The Steelers were 7-of-14 on third down. If I'm not mistaken, most of them came off of rushes, so that is a major improvement from last year. Dixon converted a few of them himself. Hopefully the Steelers can keep experiencing this type of success every week.
What a night Antonio Brown had. Brown had three catches for 84 yards and a TD with 68 of those yards coming off a crossing pattern from Dixon that he broke for a TD.
Another highlight was at the end of the game when he hauled in a low 10 yard pass from Charlie Batch. This should have been an incompletion, but Brown snagged the ball before it hit the ground.
So far Brown is turning out to be a perfect fit for the Steelers. Lets hope he continues to amaze with more athletic plays.
Maurkice Pouncey had an excellent night as well. He worked the majority of his time at center for both the starters and backups. From my eye, he didn't look like a rookie at all. He actually perfromed better than all the other linemen and that's saying something since he took on Ndamukong Suh for the first half.
He held on his blocks, had an excellent motor, and got to the second level quickly. If he keeps it up, Steelers fans can say goodbye to Justin Hartwig.
Issac Redman was a real head turner last night. He had 15 carries for 60 yards and a 1 yard TD. Redman played like a man possessed. He constantly kept his legs churning, refusing to go down.
His best moment was when he took a draw play that Leftwich barely got off, and burst up field, spinning out of three tackles for a 33-yard gain. He also took a screen pass that Leftwich also barely got off for a 13-yard gain.
So far Redman is off to a great start. If he keeps it up, he might unseat Moore as the No. 2 running back.
On the not so happy side, the starting offense, with the exception of Redman, flat out stunk. Get this, 16-plays for 12 yards. That is freaking ridiculous, especially against the Lions.
First off, the offensive line looked like it got worse as the Lions front four were constantly penetrating the line for negative yardage, especially when we ran the ball. The pass and run blocking was so terrible, it made their performance against the Browns last year look good.
Byron Leftwich was under constant pressure and was 6-for-10 for 43 yards. He didn't have a good game either as he failed to get out of the pocket on several plays which resulted in incompletions and a sack.
Not only that, all three RB's (Mendenhall, Moore, Redman) fumbled the ball, but thankfully all were recovered by the Steelers.
Another problem that has lingered over into this year is scoring in the redzone. The Steelers got to the redzone four times and only scored a TD. The rest were field goals.
If things couldn't get worse, the Steelers didn't use a fullback enough. Legursky and Frank the Tank both got snaps at full back, but neither were used enough for me. Once again, I had to witness a lot of twin tight end sets and the RB's trying to break tackles in the backfield before they could get yards.
Overall I'm giving the offense a C. I'd give them an F if it wasn't for the turnaround once Dixon took over. Also on Leftwich's third drive, I heard many fans saying "We want Ben. We want Ben." Trust me, I wanted Ben too, but unfortunately Tomlin chose to sit him.
It's clear the offense still has a lot of work to do. If they plan to play like this during Ben's suspension, we might as well call it quits now. Mike Tomlin, I'm calling you out. Get this offense ready and soon if you want to go back to the Superbowl.
After a year of blown fourth quarter leads, everyone was looking to see how the Steelers' defense would rebound this year. They haven't disappointed.
The starters played two series that resulted in a three and out, no points, and a tipped interception by Ryan Clark. Aaron Smith made his presence known by shutting down the run early. Timmons had a nice stop on RB Jahvid Best that resulted in a loss.
Polamalu (great to see him back on the field and healthy) had a quiet night with no tackles and basically freelanced the whole time.
Once the backups came in, Stafford marched the Lions downfield and scored a 2 yard TD to Calvin Johnson. However, Burnett could have had an interception in the endzone if it wasn't for Calvin Johnson pushing him, who by the way wasn't called for pass interference.
Lewis and Burnett seemed to have grasped the defense and played relatively well. However, Sylvester and Cromartie Smith made their presence known all night long combining for 12 tackles. Both of them seemed to have a great nose for the ball and were constantly around it.
Hood was disruptive but wasn't really an eye-opener unless you watched him the whole time. Gibson could have had a sack if he could have wrapped up the QB better. Regardless, he still had a good night and came close to having a few others.
The front seven looked a little slow on the pass rush, but I know this is because they are still learning the defense so I'll cut them some slack. Still, they caused the Lions QB's to rush a few throws so great performance by them.
Overall I'm giving the defense an A. I would've given them an A+ but they had no sacks, and missed their chance for a shutout when they couldn't wrap up Jahvid Best for a loss on third and short on the Lions scoring drive.
On the otherhand, they didn't give up the lead after the Lions only score so that counts for something. Plus, they caused two turnovers, one fumble and one pick.
The Steelers special teams seems to have made major improvements from last year.
There were no returns for TD's, tackling was better, and long returns were kept to a minimun. On the otherside, nothing spectacular happened. Only Logan returned kickoffs and punts.
Jeff Reed was 3-for-3 on the night from inside the 30. Oh and guess what? Jeff Reed got a touchback! It went all the way into the back of the endzone and out of bounds. He also put a few others inside the 10 yard line as well.
Sepulveda did an excellent job punting, averaging 43 yards per punt.
Overall, I'm giving special teams an A+. New coordinator Al Everest has so far put this group back on the right track so that can only mean good things for the Steelers.
After the first week of the preseason, the Steelers are 1-0. The Steelers next game is against the Giants in their new stadium next Saturday at 7 PM.
Lets hope the defense can bring their dominance on the road to the Meadowlands and the offense can fix its problems and get its swagger back.
OVERALL GRADE B