Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason: Firsthand Account Vs New York Giants
I attended Saturday’s preseason game against the Giants and tried to watch the team as closely as I could from my vantage point.
I got a lot of good pictures from the game and actually wrote some notes on a few things that I saw from certain players.
It was a great experience to get to see the Steelers in person, and Troy Polamalu said hi to my girlfriend and me as he was leaving the locker room, which was awesome.
As for the game, the Steelers overall looked pretty good in the win, and this is just a list of 10 observations that I made from what I witnessed firsthand.
Ben Will Be Fine When He Returns
Ben Roethlisberger made his season debut for the Steelers when he started the game against the Giants, and it was great to get to see him behind center.
It would have been nice to see him lead the Steelers into the endzone. He did throw an interception, however, that was more a product of poor blocking than anything, in my opinion.
Ben ensued to regroup and lead the Steelers to a field goal on a drive, which included him staying in the pocket, pumping a few times while stepping away from the rush, and then throwing a strike to Matt Spaeth.
Even with only this small sampling, I believe and have always believed that Ben will be just fine when he returns from suspension and will lead the Steelers to the playoffs this season.
We Need to Start Maurkice Pouncey at Center Day One
It has been becoming increasingly clear to everyone that rookie Maurkice Pouncey does not need to start his career off at guard and should be the starting center week one for the Steelers.
Justin Hartwig has not been impressive in camp or in either preseason game, although he was not terrible against the Giants.
Pouncey has been impressing so much that it is very possible that Hartwig actually gets cut and the Steelers keep Doug Legursky as a backup at center.
More with the offensive line, Flozell Adams looks lost at times at right tackle and didn’t look at all improved against the Giants. The way things are going, Adams will find himself cut from the roster in favor of Jonathan Scott, who hasn’t exactly looked dominant, either.
The best I saw the line look was with Pouncey at center, Legursky at right guard, and Scott at right tackle.
Stefan Logan’s Time on the Roster is Dwindling
Stefan Logan dazzled fans last preseason by looking explosive and actually returning a punt for a touchdown to seal his spot on the 2009 roster.
However, in comes rookie Antonio Brown, who was not expected by many to make an impact on the Steelers this season and looks to unseat Logan as both the punt and kickoff returner.
After an impressive performance last week against Detroit, Brown was given the opportunity to return kicks this week and, in my opinion, did not disappoint.
For one, he actually caught the ball, which Logan was criticized for last week, and even though his blocking was terrible, he showed good quickness and the ability to make people miss.
Logan did not have a horrible night and had a good return late in the game, however, again, let a punt bounce in front of him and almost fumbled it away.
I believe that Logan’s days are numbered on the team, and if Brown can keep improving this preseason, Logan will definitely be cut in favor of the rookie.
Sepulveda Kicks Off
After a very subpar season kicking off for Jeff Reed, Mike Tomlin decided to finally let punter Daniel Sepulveda try his hand at it this offseason and debut against the Giants.
In my opinion, Sepulveda did an OK job and looked like he averaged about the same distance as Reed, other than making the endzone once.
Overall, I think Sepulveda did fine, considering this was the first time he had kicked off in a game, and I believe he could be a definite upgrade to Jeff Reed as the kickoff guy over a season.
Jeff Reed is still one of the best kickers in the league and is great at Heinz Field for the Steelers, however, Sepulveda just has a stronger leg and is definitely a better tackler, which is good, since the Steelers need all the help they can get after last season’s special teams play
Isaac Redman is a Lock to Make the Team
Isaac Redman has looked great in preseason, and every time he has touched the ball, you can see how hard he is running. Additionally, he has an aptitude to get into the endzone, which the Steelers need.
There was a scary moment when he appeared to be injured and gingerly walked off the field and then came back in the same drive to have a hard-fought 12-yard touchdown run.
I thought it was very interesting to see the Steelers use both Redman and Mendenhall in the same backfield, and Redman showed that he is a capable blocker and also got some good reps running with the first team.
The Steelers, as a whole, ran the ball very well against the Giants and racked up 161 rushing yards although most of those yards were accumulated with the second team offense.
The first team offense ran it a little, however, and there were many negative plays that they needed to eliminate and with Jonathan Dwyer injured, two other running backs in Justin Vincent and Dwayne Wright were given chances and they ran pretty well.
Neither has a chance to make the team, however, and Dwyer will be the one to make the practice squad.
The Young Corners are Stepping Up
We all have been watching to see if second year corners Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett were going to step up this season, and it looks like both have done just that.
With Ike Taylor being ejected within the first couple of plays, that gave Keenan Lewis the opportunity to show what he could do against the Giants' first team receivers.
I thought he looked very good in coverage and was disappointed to hear that he sustained some sort of concussion during the game.
I also thought that Joe Burnett had a good game, although his interception was more about him being in good position than just a play he made. However, the Steelers could use more of that from anywhere.
The other guys I kept an eye on were Crezdon Butler and William Gay, who I thought both did decent jobs in the game.
Gay could have had an interception and looks poised to take that nickel spot, and Butler looked decent in coverage, however, it looks like he is a year away from making the team.
The Steelers are Set at Linebacker for Years to Come
I was really excited to get to see how the rookie linebackers looked in person, and they did not disappoint.
First up was Jason Worilds, who finally was healthy enough to play and showed me a burst and quickness to put pressure on the quarterback. Now he just has to work on getting better against the run. Also, it seemed that Worilds got a little gassed after a few plays, but his wind will come with more playing time.
If Thaddeus Gibson would learn how to wrap up the quarterback, he could have had two sacks in two preseason games. He almost had Giants quarterback Rhett Bomar in the endzone for a safety but let him slip away for a four-yard scramble.
My favorite rookie linebacker by far from camp has been Stevenson Sylvester, who definitely carried that over into the first preseason game with six tackles.
He didn’t have as many tackles against the Giants, though he was always around the ball and had a nice diving sack on Bomar for a loss of eight yards.
All three of these guys make the team, and it’s great to see this great young talent at the linebacker position on the Steelers.
Troy Polamalu is Back
One of the best parts of being at the game was having Troy say hi to us even though it was only in passing on the way out of the locker room.
As for seeing Troy on the field, I thought he looked good and seemed to be running well and close to 100 percent.
He flew around the ball while he was in the game and missed a couple of tackles, yet he was still second on the team and will be fully back to himself by the time the regular season comes around.
It was good to see Troy running around and running around well on the field, because the Steelers need him to be the great player that we all know he is during the season.
The Defense Will Be Better
The Steelers defense looked lost at times last season, but with everyone healthy, they could have the number one defense this year.
The Steelers have great depth on every level of the defense, along with young players waiting in the wings while they develop.
Aside from a drive early the Steelers defense looked back to form against the Giants and put constant pressure on quarterback Rhett Bomar.
The Giants would not have had anything in the first half if not for Steve Smith going up and making a catch and Ahmad Bradshaw making a cut for the touchdown.
Obviously, the Giants moved the ball a little better in second half, however, the defense still forced an interception and if not for terrible ref calls, would not have given up a touchdown.
Byron Leftwich Will Be the Starter Week One
Byron Leftwich came into the game with about seven minutes left in the first half and immediately went three and out on his first drive.
Leftwich rebounded for a moment to throw a 68 yard bomb to Mike Wallace for a touchdown but later messed up at the end of the half leaving the Steelers with no points.
I put some of the blame on Bruce Arians' horrible play calling, however, there is still no way that we can allow ourselves to get to the one-yard line and come away with nothing.
Dennis Dixon came into the game in the second half and picked up where he left off last week by continuing to look sharp.
He looks to have good chemistry with rookie Emmanuel Sanders, who looked really good again, and scrambled around for 27 yards.
I believe that Dixon should be given the chance to start for the Steelers, but it looks like the coaches have more confidence in Byron at this point.
My girlfriend and I had a great time at the game, and even though it was only preseason, we were glad to see the Steelers win.
On both offense and defense, there are young players to get excited about, and I will continue to say that I expect to see the Steelers in the Super Bowl this season.