There was plenty of good and bad to talk about, but the only thing on the minds of Panthers players tonight is “what in the Worilds hit me?!”, as linebackers Jason Worilds and Mortty Ivy combined for 12 tackles (2 for a loss), two sacks, two quarterback hits, and a pass deflection in the Steelers win.
With the good of several standout performances came the bad and even ugly moments for the Steelers as they head into their season opener on Sept. 11 against Baltimore.
Which brings us to the last preseason edition of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”
11 carries, 81 yards and a touchdown…
The stat line should be enough to say it all, but there is no stat for the type of toughness, desire and passion that Jonathan Dwyer ran with against the Panthers.
Dwyer’s 50-yard touchdown run waxed poetic, as he mixed pure power with the agility to reverse his field as he looked like the back everyone hoped he would be last year.
Whatever thoughts there were of seeing John Clay take his roster spot away have been settled.
Charlie Batch went 6-of-8 for 59 yards. The numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he did everything the Steelers asked of him, and may have had a touchdown pass had Mike Wallace managed to hold on to the ball on the goal line.
Batch was what he has always been under center: solid and consistent.
When a team has a top-tier quarterback on the roster it doesn’t need a game-changer as a No. 2 guy. It needs a guy who can come into the game, provide consistent leadership and manage the game.
Batch came into the game in Carolina, proved to be just that, and took a seat on the bench where he belongs.
My, what a difference a year can make. This time last year, Shaun Suisham was about unemployed. In 2011, he is firmly entrenched as the placekicker for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A model of consistency since joining the team last season, Suisham stayed true to form, going 2-for-2 from 52 and 31 yards, and adding two extra points before giving way to Swayze Waters in the third quarter.
Beyond his range and consistency, Suisham has the ability to provide a deep kickoff aspect to the Steelers’ special teams game, something Pittsburgh has lacked for years.
The Steelers pass defense as a whole was certainly not up to par against the Panthers.
While it’s tough to judge a first-team defense that played without the likes of Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, James Harrison and so on, the pass defense, led by the poor play of William Gay and Keenan Lewis, is hard to ignore.
With the exception of Curtis Brown, who played like he was worthy of a third-round pick, the rest of the Steelers top unit gave reasons for concern as they looked continuously slow to the ball while giving up 280 yards passing.
I wish I had counted the number of tackles the Steelers missed against the Panthers, but then again my head is still spinning from just watching it happen.
The Steelers looked extremely slow on defense, especially in the first half of the game against Carolina, and missed tackle after missed tackle put the Panthers in position to score their 17 points.
While the second-half performance improved with young guys trying to make the final cut, the players sure to make the squad are the ones that presented the concern.
The guy has all but demanded to start or be traded each of the last two seasons, and has done anything but earn it.
Dennis Dixon went 11-of-22 for 157 yards and a touchdown. Of the 11 completions, a majority of them were thanks to his receivers making a play on the ball.
While he is almost certainly going to make the team with Byron Leftwich on the rack having surgery, one has to wonder if the Steelers will confident enough in Dixon to put Leftwich on the IR.
Dixon’s inaccuracy has been an issue since he was drafted, but never more so than this preseason. While quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger are famous for using their feet to extend plays, they make their living on ball placement.
It’s one thing to be able to extend the play, it’s a completely different thing to finish the play with an accurate throw that puts a receiver in position to make a play after the catch, and Dixon simply does not.
The celebration penalties over the last few weeks have been ugly. Ugly because of the results, ugly because of the overzealous flag hand of the officials, and ugly because Antonio Brown can’t get with the program.
“The No Fun League” is certainly doing its part to keep the nickname alive. The rules concerning post-touchdown celebrations have made more than one player taking part in an end-zone celebration the definition of excessive.
Could it be that by definition, this rule is excessive?
The officials are clearly watchdogging the rule, and making an example of it early on. However, it becomes the player’s fault after the first infraction, and Antonio Brown clearly doesn’t seem to care.
This is the second week in a row that Brown has had his number called for the end-zone infraction, and after being called into the coach’s office to be given the do’s and don’ts this week, the fault falls directly on his shoulders.
When the fault carries a 15-yard penalty, it has to be a concern going into the regular season with the potential effect it could have on the game.
The Steelers ended the preseason with another win, and proved the fact that coaches have some very difficult decisions to make concerning the 53-man roster.
Jonathan Dwyer’s performance tonight should have solidified his position on the team, but numerous questions still remain.
Will the Steelers keep four quarterbacks? Grisham or Battle? Hoke or McClendon? Saunders or Gilmore? How do you keep Wes Lyons hidden until he can be signed to the practice squad?
We will certainly know over the next 48 hours.