Despite losing the preseason opener last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line gave us some reason for hope. They looked aggressive and seemed to have adapted well to new line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr.’s zone blocking scheme.
Then last night happened.
The Steelers dropped to 0-2 in the preseason with a 24-13 loss to Washington. The first team offense again failed to get into the end zone for the second straight week and was hindered by turnovers, penalties and mistakes.
Mike Adams had two holding penalties while David DeCastro had one. Maurkice Pouncey was abused by an average nose tackle and Marcus Gilbert spent as much time in the backfield as the running backs did. Left guard Ramon Foster was the only starting lineman who appeared competent on the evening.
When the offense did get going with the first team it was victimized by penalties. Rookie Le’Veon Bell carried four times for nine yards but left with a foot sprain. An MRI is scheduled for today. In his absence, Jonathan Dwyer (14 carries for 68 yards) ran very hard and well for the most part but also fumbled the ball away once.
The three big areas I was watching heading into the game were the tight ends, the special teams and the inside backers. I’ll have more on the backers this week.
The tight end position sans Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth is for lack of a better term, “brutal.” As we have said and other credible blogs have said as well, Paulson cannot handle a man straight up. He had some decent moments when he was put in motion but he struggled at times there as well. In fact, Paulson nearly had his own ‘butt-fumble’ moment was he was driven back into Dwyer causing a fumble.
Fellow tight end Jamie McCoy had a couple of very nice catch and runs but struggled in blocking.
The special teams unit was slightly better but still has huge issues. They escaped a huge blunder when a kicked ball touched a Steelers’ player which was recovered by the Redskins. The officials correctly said the ball hit a Washington player first giving the ball to Pittsburgh. Markus Wheaton handled punt return duties in the first half and spent most of his attempts waving for fair catches.
Reggie Dunn handled most of the kickoffs and the punt returns in the second half and at times looked very electric. If there is a leader in the clubhouse for punt returner at the halfway point I’d say Dunn has a slight advantage.
The Steelers lone touchdown came on a pass from Landry Jones to Derek Moye in the second half. Jones struggled for much of the night however but thankfully was not sacked for a safety.
There were some positives last night and they came in the form of a few rookies. Jarvis Jones, Markus Wheaton and Shamarko Thomas all had big plays and/or big hits. One of Thomas’ hits caused a fumble while Jones broke through to disrupt a pitch where the Steelers recovered. Emmanuel Sanders also had a good night catching the ball and blocked well downfield too.
The Steelers will have a short turn around heading to the third and most important preseason game Saturday night at home against Kansas City.
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.