These are my preliminary thoughts after watching the game once last night. I’ll look at it more instensely this week.
I suppose every preseason game is ‘a bit troubling’ if you really thnink about it but that’s not what I’m getting at in this case. The Pittsburgh Steelers opened the 2013 season with an 18-13 loss at home to the New York Giants. The Men in Black were held without an offensive touchdown scoring their only TD of the night in the fourth quarter on a fumble recovery in the end zone by Adrian Robinson.
The loss was troubling for a couple of reasons. The special teams’ unit which was supposed to be better under new coach Danny Smith, was atrocious. A blocked punt in the first quarter should have led to a Giants’ touchdown but the defense held forcing a Giants’ field goal. Da’mon Cromartie-Smith whiffed so badly on a block that punter Drew Butler never had a chance.
Return man David Gilreath fumbled a punt return which does not bode well for him. He’s in a battle with several others including Reggie Dunn for the return job. There also a couple of penalties on special teams as well which haunted this team last year.
Another troubling trend was the ‘almost’ of big plays. Safety Robert Golden had a sure pick-six but couldn’t handle it and the offense had a couple of big play opportunities that were missed. It’s something we saw a lot of last year and it cannot continue in 2013.
The offense wasn’t overly exciting last night with a few exceptions. With rookie Le’Veon Bell sitting due to knee soreness, the bulk of the early running was done by LaRod Stephens-Howling who touched the ball way more than I ever would have imagined entering the game. LSH was one of the few bright spots as he rushed seven times for 40 yards. He looked extremely quick and elusive and often found room between the tackles.
He was clearly the highlight of the early offensive showings. Ben Roethlisberger threw several nice passes including a tremendous throw to Antonio Brown in the end zone. Brown made a great catch but couldn’t get the second foot down. Eventually they settled for a field goal. Roethlisberger also had some communication issues with Brown on another play.
The starting offenisve line was decent at times but had some lapses, especially Ramon Foster’s whiff which resulted in a sack of Roethlisberger. David DeCastro showed the promise we expected last year when he drove defenders down-field several times.
Defensively, the Steelers played well for the most part with the exception of the Eli Manning to Victor Cruz touchdown pass where William Gay was beaten and then Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu made poor efforts in trying to tackle Cruz.
Perhaps the brightest spot was the play of the young linebackers last night. Jarvis Jones recorded a fumble recovery and made a couple of very instinctive plays as well, one of which resulted in a tackle that saved a big play from happening. Inside backer Vince Williams had a sack and moved to the ball well. Marshall McFadden was all over the field as he has been through camp.
I’ll sit down today and focus on individual players a little more and will comment on those throughout the week. Overall, it’s a preseason game and you take what you can from it. What I take is that Todd Haley needs to drop the love affair with the middle screen and the special teams needs to get better in a damn hurry.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.