The mantra "It's only the preseason" is resonating across Steeler Nation today, as the Steelers suffered injuries and fought through what seemed, at times, to be general malaise on the offensive side of the ball in a 24-23 loss at Philadelphia Thursday.
It wasn't all bad, but the bad stuck out a bit more than the good. Some decent performances from some starters, some bad performances from guys who didn't look like starters. All told, it's a starting place, and it's clear the team cannot walk away from that game thinking they're in a good position.
Daniel "Gangsta" Hrapmann - The Steelers trailed 21-20 with 2:28 left in the game, standing at Philadelphia's 18-yard line. The Eagles had two timeouts left, plus the two-minute warning, and it was a situation in which the Steelers could easily call a few running plays, burn out those timeouts, kick a high-percentage field goal and kick off to Philadelphia up 23-21 with about two minutes left.
Everything worked, except their three running plays, all to RB Baron Batch, went for 0, -4 and 2 yards, bringing the rookie Hrapmann out for his first field goal attempt of his NFL career, a 43-yarder.
He drilled it. Dead on. Big kick in a big moment. His competitor (even if there really isn't a competition), Shaun Suisham hit from 46 and 31 yards early in the game, and he deserves credit for that. Good on the rookie, though, for stepping up, even if it doesn't vault him over Suisham for a roster spot.
Ben Roethlisberger - With very little help in the early going, Roethlisberger was sharp in his delivery, clearly throwing more timing routes than he has in the past. His pass protection was sub-standard, getting pressured on every drop he took that was more than three steps. He delivered the ball cleanly, and made some great throws in 3rd-and-long situations, on a first drive that ended up averaging 3.25 yards per play (16 plays, 52 yards).
Chris Rainey - Rainey showed some serious high-end speed, but more than anything, he showed his lateral quickness is probably his most effective weapon. He made a great cut on the Steelers' biggest offensive play, a screen pass he took 57 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, giving the Steelers a 20-14 lead. In a game where the Steelers were dominated at the point of attack, Rainey's quickness led to really the only offense the Steelers had.
Mike Adams - Simply put, Adams looked awful, surrendering 2.5 sacks over a nine-play stretch in which the only real value he provided was the recovery of the two fumble his assignment caused. He left the game with a knee injury, and to be fair, LT Trai Essex didn't look much better, as Philadelphia showed they apparently have Lawrence Taylor, Deacon Jones and Reggie White playing behind their starting defensive ends.
Offensive Line - not to piggyback off the recurring theme of the game, but the offensive line looked worse than it has been in recent years. The absence of LG Willie Colon and the abysmal performances from every tackle (Adams, Essex and Marcus Gilbert) led to seven sacks and a boatload of pressure. Rookie RG David DeCastro had a nice kickout block to spring RB Jonathan Dwyer for a 33-yard gain down the left sideline on the team's second drive, and Rainey's screen pass was sprung by some nice blocking, but take those plays out, the Steelers averaged a miserable 2.2 yards per play (63 plays, 140 yards). Much of that was the result of an offensive line that surrendered more pressure than it prevented throughout the game.
Curtis Brown - It was said Brown's strength was coverage on the outside as opposed to in the slot, which is why it was felt he could compete for the nickel cornerback job this season. The Eagles scored 14 points on two passes to Brown's checks. He was burned on a double move by Mardy Gilyard and lost track of Jamel Hamler, both resulting in scores. He shares some blame with S Damon Cromartie-Smith for Gilyard's score, who didn't appear to drop deep enough to provide adequate help over the top (Brown had fallen down after the double-move), but he struggled to stay with his receivers - both of whom are deep on Philadelphia's depth chart.