After two preseason games, the Steelers stand at a perfect 2-0. While this may be cause for celebration, by no means were either of these wins pretty.
I know it's just preseason, but there are still some problems left on this team that need to get corrected. Last night, we saw a resurgence of those problems as well as some positive things to go along with our 24-17 victory over the Giants.
Once again, the starting offensive line failed to get it together. The pass blocking showed slight improvement, but defenders still were able to get free to the quarterback. If it weren't for Ben doing what he does best by shaking off defenders, he would have been sacked at least three times.
The run blocking was below average and too many plays got blown up behind the line of scrimmage. One major example of this was when reliable Heath Miller allowed Justin Tuck to blow past him and tackle Randle El for a 13-yard loss on a reverse.
On the plus side, the backup linemen continued to impress me as they did an adequate job protecting Dixon and opening holes for Redman and Wright. The majority of our 161 rushing yards came in the second half.
Playing for the first time since January, Big Ben's night was a mixed bag. He was 6 for 8 for 76 yards, but also threw an interception on an underthrown deep pass to Mike Wallace.
Byron Leftwich played much better, going 3 for 6 for 95 yards and a touchdown on a 68-yard bomb to Mike Wallace. He also gained 11 yards rushing after fleeing the pocket, which surprised me.
He probably could have had another touchdown after he he hit Randle El at the one-yard line, but decided to sneak it in instead of spiking the ball like Tomlin wanted. As it was, he failed to convert, missed the fade pattern to Randle El, and Moore got stopped short of the goal-line to end the half 10-7 Steelers.
Dennis Dixon had another excellent performance, going 7 for 8 for 82 yards. He also added five rushes for 27 yards.
Last night, Dixon seemed to be more at ease in the pocket than he did against the Lions. This time when he ran it, it was either because he absolutely had to or the play called was a designed run for him.
The running backs performed a lot better rushing for a total of 161 yards. In my opinion, we ran better because we employed a fullback more often. I didn't see a lot of twin tight end sets and single back. Also, ball security was a lot better as neither running back fumbled.
Wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown put up decent numbers again combining for five catches for 63 yards. Both looked great running off of screens as well. This is the only part of the offense that has been great consistently. Keep up the good work.
I'm giving the offense a B- this week. The way they were moving the ball, they could have easily scored more points. The starting offensive line needs to get a grip and tighten up. We can not go into the season with the line playing as it is.
Was it just me or were the Steelers running on practically every first down? I thought so and the Giants were able to stop us for minimum yards on first down all night. I suggest more play action on first down as teams are obviously expecting us to run.
Things did not start out well for the defense. If you haven't heard already, Ike Taylor and Hakeem Nicks were ejected from the game after exchanging punches. It had to be the stupidest thing I've seen Taylor do. For one thing, why would you even try and punch another player when he has a helmet and pads on?
Keenan Lewis came into replace Taylor and did a relatively good job. Troy Polamalu got into the action with four tackles but whiffed on three. McFadden had a 45-yard pass play completed against him that set up Ahmad Bradshaw's nine-yard touchdown run.
Joe Burnett had an interception near the end of the second quarter, giving the offense the ball with about 45 seconds left on the clock. The drive ended after Moore failed to score from the one-yard line.
The second team defense came on in the second half and that's when the Giants got rolling. I'm not putting total blame on the defense because I feel they got screwed by the refs on the Giants second touchdown drive and the offense had consecutive three and outs.
On the other hand, they did get a lot of pressure, acquiring one sack. They could have had three more, but they over shot all three. I like the explosiveness, but it needs to be more controlled.
I'm giving the defense a B+ this week. Together, they accumulated two sacks and and had an interception. So far they have had a turnover in every game. This is something that was missing last year so lets hope the defense can keep it up.
When they go back to practice this week, they need to work on controlling their blitzes and shutting down the run. The Giants had a total of 129 rushing yards. That's too many, according to Steelers standards.
Things did not start off well for the special teams either. They had to re-kick after Patrick Bailey was offsides on the kickoff.
I don't know about you, but I'm still holding my breath on kickoffs and punts because I'm still afraid coverage is going to break with the result being a touchdown. It almost happened last night, but Daniel Sepulveda was able to tackle the returner out of bounds.
Speaking of Sepulveda, I thought he did a decent job kicking off. No touchbacks, but he put them all behind the 10-yard line, which is better than anything Reed has done.
Antonio Brown impressed me on kickoff and punt returns. He didn't break any big ones because he kept getting tripped up, but showed his blazing speed on his returns. I hope he gets more opportunities because I really want to see him break one.
Surprisingly, Logan came in on two kickoffs at the end of the game and he took each of them past the 30-yard line. His spot still isn't secure so he needs to continue with those big returns if he wants to play for the Steelers.
Overall I'm giving special teams a B-. The returns on kickoffs and punts were a little bigger and they almost had one taken back on them. On the other side, Brown and Logan had nice returns. I want to see more of those, but longer ones, and a touch down.
Maurkice Pouncey left the game with a thigh bruise but returned briefly. Redman left the game with a rib injury but returned to score a 12-yard touch down. Keenan Lewis suffered some kind of concussion.
Maurkice Pouncey has been taking all the first team center reps in practice and will start Sunday against the Broncos. Isaac Redman has been listed as questionable for Sunday(ribs). Keenan Lewis has resumed practicing and has not yet been ruled out for the game.
Overall Grade B-