Thankfully the preseason schedule has come and gone, and NFL fans can now turn their attention to the start of the 2011 regular season, which begins Thursday night when the defending champion Green Bay Packers host the 2009 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the new year begins three days later in Baltimroe where they'll square off against the rival Ravens for early-season positioning in the AFC North.
The Steelers finished their-four game preseason schedule with a33-17 win over the Carolina Panthers. The game featured some good and some bad, but the best news came in the form of an injury-free 60 minutes of action for the Steelers. Jason Worilds, starting in the place of the not-quite-right James Harrison, looks like he's not cut out to maintain the standard of excellence at outside linebacker, particularly against the run. It's not clear how concerned we should be, but the entire Steelers defense looked unimpressive on Carolina's opening series, a nine-play 71-yard scoring drive engineered by rookie Cam Newton.
Jonathan Dwyer answered with a 50-yard touchdown scamper, an encouraging sign from the '10 sixth round draft pick who'd reported to training camp heavy. Shaun Suisham and Swayze Waters then successfully converted on four field goals in the second and third quarter, before rookie Weslye Saunders finished off the preseason scoring with a 15-yard TD reception from Dennis Dixon.
Here are a few interesting team and individual stats for the Steelers 2011 preseason:
- +10 turnover differential. If the Steelers can replicate that type of success in the regular season, they'll be awfully tough to beat. Of course, the Steelers were superb in this department last season, so one might expect that they regress a bit towards the mean. I sure hope not though.
- 6 sacks vs. 9 sacks allowed. Were the Steelers to allow just a shade over 2 sacks per game over the course of the '11 season, they'll be in great shape. However, if the Steelers fail to pressure the quarterback like they have in recent years, the pass defense will be in a dangerously challenging position.
- Ben Roethlisberger's stats: 21-of-31 (67.7%), 361 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 146.6 QB Rating.
- Antonio Brown's stats: 9 receptions, 230 yards, 25.6 ypc, 3 TDs. 4 kickoff returns, 109 yards, 27.3 ypr, Long 50.
- Isaac Redman stats: 22 carries, 117 yards, 5.3 ypc, 1 TD.