The preseason is finally over and the Steelers come away at 3-1. Besides Byron Leftwich spraining his MCL, no major injuries occurred.
Many young players showed the potential to be the future stars in Pittsburgh, while some veterans showed they no longer have what it takes to be a Steeler. Overall, it was a pretty good preseason and I’m happy with the progress that has been made.
After every game, I wrote a review grading the performance of the offense, defense, and special teams. It's the end of the preseason and it's time for the team's final grades.
After only starting three preseason games, Big Ben looked to be in mid-season form going 14/20 for 182 yards and one interception. We know now that Ben will miss the first four weeks of the season so we all will look forward to seeing him at Heinz Field against Cleveland in week six.
Dennis Dixon got off to a hot start before faltering against the Broncos. His final numbers are 23/32 for 327 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has also rushed 14 times for 91 yards. Overall, Dixon has looked pretty solid this preseason and looks to get the start next Sunday against Atlanta.
Byron Leftwich didn't have a good preseason and it didn't help that he suffered a MCL sprain against the Panthers either.
For the preseason, Leftwich was 11/24 for 181 yards and one touchdown. For now it looks like he will be out for four weeks so Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch will get to start at quarterback.
The forgotten man in Pittsburgh, until recently, Charlie Batch looked sharp this preseason going 7/10 for 64 yards and a touchdown. Everyone assumed the Steelers would carry Batch on the roster until Ben returns, but now it looks like he could possibly be our opening day starter. We'll just have to wait and see.
The offensive line didn't show much improvement from last year, especially in run blocking. Defenders constantly broke through the line of scrimmage to tackle the running back in the backfield for a loss.
Pass protection was better, but you wouldn't have known it with the way Flozell Adams was playing at right tackle. I did notice that with each game he improved at the position and I hope he can continue to do so.
First round pick Maurkice Pouncey surprised everyone by dominating each game and eventually upseating Justin Hartwig for the center job. Pouncey looks to be the next great center in Steelers history and I wish nothing but success for him in Pittsburgh.
The running backs got off to a rocky start with all three fumbling in the opening game. They preceded to right the ship rushing for an average of 155.2 yards per game, good for first in the league.
I believe we were all impressed with how Isaac Redman broke out. He looked like a man possessed every time he got the ball in his hand. Redman also looked pretty good at full back and seemed to run well off of the fullback dive.
Dwyer got off to a very slow start with injuries but preceded to break out in the fourth quarter for the last two games. Those breakouts seemed to have paid off as he is now on the roster.
The receiving corps looks to be in good order as no receiver really had a bad preseason. Mike Wallace is already making people forget about Santonio Holmes. If it wasn't for Dixon wearing number 10, I sure would have by now.
The final grade for the offense is a C. The only reason why the grade is average is because of the offensive line. The line got better as the preseason wore on, but they still need to get better at run blocking. If the Steelers want to run better, it starts with the offensive line opening holes.
Overall, the Steelers finished eighth in total offense. That's not too bad, but I would love for the Steelers to at least be in the top five this year in offense.
Besides the game against the Broncos, I was thoroughly pleased with how the defense performed this preseason. They were aggressive, they were physical, and quite frankly, pleasant to watch.
It sure was good to see Troy running around as usual doing what he does best. He finished the preseason with nine tackles. Good thing he made it through the preseason in one piece. Now he just has to make it through the next 19 games.
Lawrence Timmons was another bright spot as he was easily the most dynamic player on the first team defense racking up 13 total tackles. Timmons is expected to have a breakout year and so far, he's on the right track.
James Harrison seems to have his edge back as he has had his name called a few times. His most noticeable moment was when he recovered a later overturned fumble in Denver and laid a big hit on Kyle Orton. Sorry Orton, but you should know better than to go for Harrison's knees.
Stevenson Sylvester looks to be one of the next great Steelers linebackers as he completely dominated this preseason leading the team with 18 tackles and two sacks. His efforts got him a spot on the roster crowded with linebackers.
The defensive line was dominant as usual. It was good to see Aaron Smith back in the middle of things. Casey Hampton was quietly stuffing the middle and Brett Kiesel looked good as well. I can't wait see these guys perform once the season starts.
The secondary looked a lot better than last year's. On the preseason, the secondary picked off six passes. That's almost more than the Steelers had together last year. Turnovers are exactly what we need this year if the Steelers want to take control of more ball games.
The overall grade for the defense is a B-. The meltdown in Denver really hurt their grade. Nevertheless they were the second ranked defense of the preseason so my congratulations to them. Now that the preseason is finally over, maybe now we can see the blitzes Dick Lebeau has in store for us this year.
The special teams got off to a good start, but seemed to falter toward the end of the preseason. No touchdowns, but with each passing game, it seemed the opponents would break off longer returns. We can only pray this isn't a sign of things to come.
Antonio Brown got his chance to return kicks and punts and did a pretty good job. He finally broke off a long one against the Panthers that would have gone for a touchdown if he didn't have to wait for a block.
Stefan Logan tried and failed to keep his spot on the roster with a mediocre performance. Even Emmanuel Sanders looked better than him. Logan was released and was signed by the Detroit Lions.
Daniel Sepulveda got to challenge Jeff Reed for the job to kick off. He performed slightly better than Reed did and managed to put a few in the endzone. He also managed to save a few returns from becoming touchdowns.
As of now, it looks like both men will share the job along with their other duties.
Overall grade for special teams is a B-. I know it's a high grade, but their grades from the first two games were high so it averaged out to a B-. The coverage units still have some holes to fix. Al Everest had better get them fixed because I'm getting tired of holding my breath every time we kickoff or punt.
The preseason is over and now we all look forward to opening the season at home against the Atlanta Falcons. We now know we will be without Big Ben for the first four weeks so it will be up to the defense and running game to keep the games in our grasp.
By no means will this season be easy, but I can assure you, we will get through it. Once we do, it's nonstop to Cowboys Stadium to claim our seventh Lombardi Trophy.
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