Aaron Rodgers' TD to Jimmy Graham Highlights Packers' Blowout Win vs. Steelers

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2018

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 16:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a touchdown pass during the first quarter of a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on August 16, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers trounced the Pittsburgh Steelers 51-34 in preseason action at Lambeau Field on Thursday night. 

Aaron Rodgers made his preseason debut and played a single series, but he made the most of that brief opportunity and completed two of his four passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. 

The Steelers, meanwhile, started rookie Mason Rudolph in place of Ben Roethlisberger after the 36-year-old was briefly placed in the concussion protocol earlier this week. 

Rudolph finished 5 of 12 for 47 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 


Jimmy Graham Gives Packers Offense Another Dynamic Dimension

The Packers offense was scary enough with Rodgers under center, Randall Cobb in the slot and Davante Adams dancing around defensive backs along the boundary. 

Now that group includes the 6'7'' Jimmy Graham—who is one of two tight ends with at least 65 touchdowns since 2010. 

And on Thursday, Graham showed just how he'll be able to transform Green Bay's red-zone offense when he hauled in an eight-yard touchdown on Green Bay's first drive of the game: 

"You guys have been here a long time, as have I," Rodgers told reporters Monday. "It's hard to remember the consistency and athleticism from a guy that size. We haven't had that in a while."

Not only does Graham figure to make an impact thanks to his ability to box out smaller defenders, but he's sure to attract plenty of attention inside the 20-yard line that could open up some more single-coverage opportunities for Adams, Cobb and the rest of Green Bay's wideouts. 


James Conner Proves He Deserves More Touches in Regular Season

With Le'Veon Bell holding out, James Conner has had every opportunity throughout training camp to prove he's deserving of a few more touches when the regular season rolls around. 

Against the Packers, he capitalized. 

Following a 25-yard showing against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Conner broke out and posted five carries for 57 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that featured a handful of broken tackles: 

The question moving forward is if the Steelers coaching staff will be inclined to carve out a role for Conner once Bell rejoins the team prior to Week 1 of the regular season. 

"L-Bell will be the first to say I don’t want to come out, but he's the first to also say he knows it can be beneficial to him too, and the team," Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette. “"gain, it’s going to be about what's best for the team. We'll evaluate his conditioning when he comes back and where that is. The assumption by me and just knowing him is he probably worked his tail off."

Bell's contract-year status and league-leading 406 touches a season ago suggest the Steelers will run him early and often, of course. However, Conner's development thus far has shown he can safely be trusted with a slightly larger share of the backfield workload in 2018. 


Packers RB Situation Remains a Major Question Mark

Aaron Jones is suspended for the first two games of the regular season because he violated the NFL's substance abuse policy, and last season proved Ty Montgomery is best suited as a passing-down specialist. 

That left Jamaal Williams as the most logical candidate to serve as a featured ball-carrier in Jones' absence. 

However, Williams limped off the field with an ankle injury in the second quarter Thursday—and the severity of the knock remains unclear. 

Even if it's not particularly serious, the Packers can't feel all that comfortable with what they've seen.  

Williams rushed five times for 16 yards in Green Bay's preseason opener, and he followed up with two yards on as many carries against Pittsburgh. For a guy who averaged 3.6 yards a carry as a rookie and logged just six runs of at least 10 yards, those figures are hardly inspiring. 

Given the uncertainty that's permeated Green Bay's backfield, it won't be a surprise to see Rodgers airing it out early and often against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings before Jones returns in Week 3. 


What's Next? 

The Packers will return to the field Aug. 24 against the Oakland Raiders, while the Steelers are scheduled to clash with the Tennessee Titans on Aug. 25. 


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