Pittsburgh Steelers: 6 Winners and Losers from Preseason Week 1
With one week of the preseason in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers have likely learned a few things about themselves. As they prepare for Thursday's game at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, it's time to take a last look back at the first game they've played since losing Super Bowl XLV.
The Steelers don't place a ton of emphasis on preseason results, but there are winners and losers in every game.
Here's a look at three of each from Friday's game in Washington.
Winner 1: Isaac Redman, RB
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Redman scored the lone touchdown for Pittsburgh in Washington, so he has to be among the winners if just for providing the team's only points. But he looked very good in his opportunities to impress and has certainly served notice that he'll be the primary back behind Rashard Mendenhall.
The Steelers need a back who can get the tough yards at the goal line and a back who can give Mendenhall a rest. On Friday night, Redman looked like that guy.
Redman had a productive 2010 season and looks poised to take his game up a notch this year. Time will tell, but he's certainly off to a great start.
Loser 1: Ike Taylor, CB
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Taylor was certainly the biggest loser on the team. He didn't play poorly, however. In fact, he barely played at all. Two snaps into his season, he broke his left thumb and will now be out at least two weeks while he rehabs and heals.
The injury is a blow to Taylor's season. After signing a four-year deal to remain in Pittsburgh, he was hoping to have a great season. But the injury is also a potential blow for the defense, which needs its best corner back on the field every down.
The Steelers lack depth at corner. They basically have Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, William Gay and a bunch of question marks. They got torched in the Super Bowl, something they are trying to rectify. For that to happen, Taylor needs to be healthy and effective.
Winner 2: Antonio Brown, WR
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With Hines Ward and Emmanuel Sanders sidelined and new addition Jerricho Cotchery not suiting up yet, Brown had a chance to shine and seized that opportunity (and the ball) with both hands. He recorded four catches for a team-high 64 yards on Friday. He helped set up the team's scoring drive as well.
Brown has some competition to remain the No. 4 receiver. Cotchery has a ton of experience with the New York Jets and was a starter there for a while. The team is taking a long look at Wes Lyons and Tyler Grisham as well.
Brown has the inside track because of his clutch performance last season, but performances like Friday night's will push everyone else to the side. He figures to continue to get a lot of time until Ward and Sanders resume game activities, so he's got to keep the pressure on everyone else.
Loser 2: Dennis Dixon, QB
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Dixon is fighting for several things this year. First, he's fighting to show that he can be a viable option for a team looking to get a starter or a project that they might build into a starter. He's also trying to beat out Charlie Batch as the team's third quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich.
But Dixon did nothing to help either cause on Friday night. He completed one of his 10 pass attempts and looked shaky at best. After attempting to hold off on signing his tender while he looked for a team that would let him start, that's not the best way to advertise your skills.
Dixon is on the fringe of making the roster in Pittsburgh, so he needs to use his opportunities to remind Pittsburgh of his youth, athleticism and skill. If nothing else, a good preseason could set up him for success somewhere else.
Winner 3: Daniel Sepulveda, P
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Sepulveda is coming off of an ACL tear and has developed a nasty history of major injuries, so his hold on a roster spot is tenuous at best. The Steelers have Jeremy Kapinos in camp as well just in case, so the pressure is on.
But on Friday night, Sepulveda performed like a healthy man, as he averaged 46.3 yards on four punts, placing three inside the 20 and also booting a mammoth 62-yarder that put the defense in excellent field position.
Punting is all about helping out the defense by putting offenses in the shadow of their own end zone. For Sepulveda, a healthy preseason will allay a lot of fears about his ability to return from another knee injury. More games like the one he had against Washington will push Kapinos back off the roster.
Loser 3: The Whole Defense
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It's only one game. The Redskins wanted to win it, and the needed to win it, so that they could sell their quarterback-starved team to their fans. The Steelers don't place much emphasis on these preseason games, but their defense looked awful against some poor competition.
The Steelers surrendered 452 yards, including 312 passing, to a team with backup-level quarterbacks and no clear running back. They seemed to get torched pretty regularly as all but three receivers had catches of 10 yards or more.
For a team that got exposed in the Super Bowl, this was not a good way to start things off. It doesn't mean that this is a trend, but if you're looking at one game's positive and negative pieces, this is one of the biggest downers.