For the first time this preseason, the Steelers have lost a game. The worst thing about the loss is that we lost in the worst way possible.
We had two throws returned for touchdowns, our offense failed to execute anything, our defense couldn't stop the run, and our special teams gave up another big return. Overall it was not a good night for the Steelers.
As expected, Big Ben got the start and did relatively well. He was immediately booed once he took the field, but quickly silenced them with a 47-yard catch and run to Mike Wallace. Santonio who?
Overall Ben had the best night going 4/6 for 67 yards.
For the first time this preseason, Dixon got his first extensive look with the first team offense. Needless to say, I was disappointed with his performance. He could have taken the starting job and ran with it. Instead, he bombs it.
Dixon was 9/16 for 94 yards and two costly interceptions. The first one should have never occurred. Since he was flushed from the pocket, he should have just thrown it away.
Instead, he tries to hit Matt Spaeth in the back of the endzone, but is intercepted. The second one I'll give him some leeway because Sanders could have run the curl route better and caught the ball.
Overall his performance wasn't too bad, but it most certainly could have been better.
If any of the QB's could have played worse it was definitely Byron Leftwich. Even with somewhat suprising adequate protection, he failed to complete a single pass going 0/4 on the night.
The offensive line gave him up to 3-4 seconds every play to get the ball off. Instead he chose to just sit in the pocket like the statue he is and as a result he got sacked twice.
I seriously can't understand why he would just sit back in the pocket and take a sack when he can move out of it. Honestly Leftwich, there's no rule saying you have to stay in the pocket.
Eventually he was pulled for Charlie Batch who directed a touchdown drive on his first try. On the night he was 3/4 for 44 yards with a touchdown and a pick six. Judging by his performance, I don't think we can rule Charlie out for the starting job quite yet.
On the bright side of the offense, the running game was dominant again combining for 175 yards. Jonathan Dwyer had a breakout game with 13 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown.
40 of the yards came off of a big run in the fourth quarter. On the play prior to that, Dwyer carried at least ten people on his back for fifteen yards and a first down.
Maurkice Pouncey got the start at center and had another dominating performance. Tomlin hasn't officially announced it yet, but I know Pouncey has won the starting center job.
He wasn't the only lineman who performed well. The whole first team offensive line played a lot better than they have previously. I think the biggest reason for their success is because they played against a 3-4 team which they always seem to perform better against.
Overall the offense gets a D-. Only the two touchdown drives by Batch keeps the offense from getting an F. I actually think this is a generous grade considering we were 2/9 on third downs and 2/6 in the redzone.
Emmanuel Sanders surely didn't help matters as he didn't exactly live up to expectations in the flanker position. Brown was better in the slot, but not by much.
Even though Dixon had a poor game, I'm still rooting for him to be our starter. I'm sure he can shake this loss off and keep trying.
Things didn't start off well for the defense. Keenan Lewis and James Harrrison were both called for personal fouls which ultimately gave Denver the ball around the 3 yard line. On the day, the defense committed six personal fouls.
Then Farrior suffers a Eli Manning when his helmet gets popped off and he cuts his head. It surely didn't help that he's bald. On the bright side, he finished the day with three tackles all on an eight play drive.
The second stringers couldn't stop the run to save their lives and ultimately it was their downfall. Everyone knows that our defense strives on stopping the run so teams can become one dimensional. That didn't happen and we suffered for it.
Keenan Lewis was benched in favor of William Gay for committing two personal fouls. I could tell Tomlin was pissed off because he yanked Lewis by his jersey and started yelling at him.
Tebow came in the third quarter and picked our second string defense apart for a touchdown.
However, things weren't all bad for the defense. William Gay and Crezdon Butler both had interceptions. Timmons and Polamalu were flying all over the field racking up a combined nine tackles.
James Harrison recovered a fumble, that was later overturned, and ran it back 33 yards and laid a vicious hit on Kyle Orton. Orton tried to take Harrison's legs out, but Harrison went low as well and popped him right in his shoulder. Orton sat out the next drive.
He was replaced by Brady Quinn and was sacked by Ike Taylor a couple plays later. In the third quarter, Renauld Williams sacked Brady Quinn. Nice play, but he still won't make the roster.
Overall the defense gets a C-. The defense was a mixture of good and bad Sunday night. They had two interceptions but six personal fouls. That's Steelers beating Steelers and I know Mike Tomlin cannot be happy.
The good news is the defense has had an interception every game this preseason with a total of four. That's encouraging news and I hope they can keep it up.
The bad news is, they're not stopping the run as well as they should and we're not getting enough sacks. I hope it's because LeBeau is saving his plays for the regular season because this is a problem.
Whoever put the special in special teams, it certainly wasn't the Steelers. Their was nothing special about the special teams play Sunday night.
Once again on the opening play we had another mishap with Sepulveda kicking the ball out of bounds. Besides that, he didn't do a bad job kicking off.
Jeff Reed was his old self going 2/2 on field goals. He kicked off twice and put both between the 5 and 10 yard line.
Brown and Logan did a terrible job returning punts. On his first punt, instead of letting the ball roll into the endzone, Brown caught it at the 10 yard line. He tried to run with it, but got nowhere.
Logan did the same thing only this time he wasn't near the endzone. He should have called a fair catch. So far, Brown still has the edge in the return game, but just barely. Neither really got a chance to return kicks as the ball went deep into the endzone everytime.
Overall special teams gets a D+. There was poor tackling on the punt returns and they gave up a big one in the closing minutes of the game. While they haven't given up a touchdown yet, this group still needs a lot of improvement if they want to be successful this coming season.
What Have We learned?
If I've learned anything from this game, it's that this team needs Big Ben to be the quarterback. Defense and the running game can't do it all. Ben is supposed to meet with Goodell after Thursday's game about his suspension. Hopefully he can get it reduced to four games.
The defense needs to stop shooting itself in the foot with penalties, get more sacks, and stop the run. If they plan to lead the team the first four weeks, these things need to get corrected and fast.
Special teams needs to get it together on coverage. We can't afford for teams to be breaking big returns off of us.
Overall Grade D