The Steelers returned to Heinz Field for the second time this preseason and blew out the Panthers, 19-3. With the conclusion of this game, the preseason is finally over and the Steelers come away 3-1.
This was the last game for several players to show they have what it takes to make the team, and most didn't disappoint. Besides the few bone headed penalties and injuries, this was actually a pretty good game to watch.
As expected, Big Ben got to start for the third consecutive game. He didn't have a bad night going 4/6 for 39 yards. He got to run the no huddle a little bit and had limited success with it. This was the last time anyone will see Ben play until either week three or four.
Byron Leftwich completed 2/4 passes for 43 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury. It was later revealed to be a knee sprain and there is no word yet on how long he will be out. Depending on the seriousness of it, he could be out for four weeks or the whole year.
My biggest concern at the moment is what this means for the quarterback situation. Does this mean Dixon gets the start after all? We'll have to wait and see. Dixon was 1/1 today for 23 yards with a touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, the only touchdown of the game.
Charlie Batch sure made things interesting as he came in for the rest of the game. He finished the night 3/4 for 10 yards. He didn't get to do too much seeing as the Steelers practically ran the ball every play that Batch was under center.
The running backs came to play, especially Isaac Redman who had another breakout game with four carries for 32 yards. So far he's been the best looking running back this preseason, powering through the line, spinning out of tackles, and just refusing to go down.
Jonathan Dwyer got off to a slow start and didn't really break out until the fourth quarter. He had 20 carries for 86 yards, and a touchdown that was nullified by a holding penalty. I think he has earned a spot on the practice squad.
The offensive line struggled again this game, especially with run blocking. A couple of holding penalties killed a good drive in the redzone in the second quarter. However, they were all third-stringers so most of them will probably be cut.
Maurkice Pouncey stood out today, but not in a positive way as he had a high snap and a pre snap penalty. Besides that, he did great in his limited reps and looks to be our starting center .
Emmanuel Sanders had the best day out of all the receivers with three catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, his first of the preseason. I think he might have just locked up his roster spot.
Overall the offense gets a B+. The offensive line could have played a lot better than they did. Even though we finished the day with 168 yards rushing, I feel with better blocking, we could have gone over 200.
If this game is any indication of how the Steelers will perform defensively this year, we're in for a good season. It was easily the best performance put together by the defense this preseason. They were tough, they were physical, and flat out just played Steelers' defense.
The two biggest standouts on the night were Stevenson Sylvester and Crezdon Butler. Both players were always around the ball and played with the intensity needed to succeed in the Steelers defense. Sylvester also got his second sack of the preseason coming untouched off of the edge. I'm pretty sure both players have earned a spot on the roster.
Behind those two were Ryan Mundy and Patrick Bailey. Mundy put on his best imitation of Ryan Clark dishing out two big hits on the night. Bailey proved that he's going to be hard to cut as he constantly held contain on the outside forcing the running back to cut back inside. Unfortunately, it may be too little too late, as he's going to fall victim to the numbers game.
Keenan Lewis had an interception that was just barely batted out of his hands. Overall he had a good night and appears to have learned his lesson.
On the night the Steelers brought the heat, racking up four sacks and had a lot of quarterback pressure. They were much better against the run this game, only allowing 72 yards rushing, a total of 123 yards, and no touchdowns.
Overall the defense gets an A+. They didn't shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and they were able to contain the run which ultimately allowed them to hold the Panthers to three points.
Once again, the coverage units were terrible as they gave up too many decent returns, especially on punts.
Emmanuel Sanders got his chance to return punts and did a pretty decent job on the night. Brown finally broke off a big one that would have gone for a touchdown if he didn't have to wait for a block. Logan did nothing impressive and it looks like this will be his final game for Pittsburgh.
Reed was his old reliable self as he was a perfect 4/4 on the night in field goals. Both he and Sepulveda kicked off tonight and both did a great job. Sepulveda did a nice job preventing one going back for a touchdown. I swear that's like the third time he's done that this preseason.
I think Reed and Sepulveda will have to share kickoff duties as neither has stood out as the best at kicking off.
Overall Special Teams gets a B-. If it weren't for the lousy coverage, it would have gotten an A.
The next two days are going to be very important for the Steelers as Ben will be meeting with the commissioner and roster cuts go down to 53. It will surely be an interesting weekend for the Steelers.
The preseason is over and the Steelers come away at 3-1. Now we can all start looking forward to our first regular season game at home against the Atlanta Falcons on Sep 12.
Let's hope Leftwich gets better soon. Even though I didn't want him to start, I didn't want him to get hurt either. The best of luck to Dixon and Batch; they're going to need it.
Final grade: A-