clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Grading out the Steelers new starters in Week 2

Kion Wilson and Jarvis Jones got their first starts of the season in Monday's loss to the Cincinnati Begnals. A first-reaction analysis suggests it looked like they were starting for the first time. Fernando Velasco, on the other hand, played a solid game.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Steelers rookie OLB Jarvis Jones has brought with him a lot of hype - and perhaps deservedly so. In many ways, he's exceeded expectations to this point in his very young career.

The spotlight shines a bit brighter on him now, having made his first start of the season. And magnified in that spotlight is a player who provided a marginal-at-best pass rush in the Steelers' Week 2 loss to the Bengals.

The Steelers have one sack this season - coming from LaMarr Woodley in Week 1. They've gotten pressure as a group, but the right outside linebacker position, as manned by Jones and Jason Worilds, has not been creating much pressure.

The Bengals tested the rookie early and often with their ground atatck, and had success running at and right around him. He didn't always appear to recognize the play and gave up a step or two because of that.

Such things are expected of a younger player, and Worilds, who has considerably more experience than Jones, was guilty of much of the same.

Kion Wilson's first start told a similar, but worse, story. He looked overwhelmed and overmatched at times, most likely because he is. He was put into an extremely difficult position, and even trying to use both Wilson and Vince Williams (who looked lost in pass coverage) in an effort to minimize their exposure didn't help. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau did what he could to help the young linebackers out, as Troy Polamalu was, for all intents and purposes, an inside linebacker in this game.

There are no moral victories, but considering the circumstances, holding the Bengals to 7-for-17 on third down and 5.2 yards per play can be considered positive statistics. The fact they ran an astounding 79 plays (to Pittsburgh's 55) speaks as much to defensive shortcomings than to offensive inefficiency.

That said, center Fernando Velasco looked far superior to in-game replacement Kelvin Beachum in his time against the Tennessee Titans. In turn, David DeCastro played a decent game, particularly considering the challenges they faced. Geno Atkins and Domata Peko make up probably the best pair of interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Peko had half a sack (along with defensive end Carlos Dunlap) and Atkins had a sack on a play in which Roethlisberger held onto the ball well beyond any reasonable expectations for pressure.

Their pass protection was decent enough in this game, but they again struggled to open up consistent lanes for their running game. They rushed 16 times for 44 yards with a long of 14 and a short of -5.

The addition of Velasco suggested a step in the right direction, with the qualifying statement of comparing their performance to Week 1. There's still plenty of work to be done, particularly at their abysmal tight end position, in which David Paulson showed again he's largely incapable of blocking in-line. The Steelers used him in motion often enough, even even then he was unable to hold the point of attack. After a while, the Steelers just sent him in patterns.

The return of Heath Miller will help the team in the run game from the outside in, and, frankly, it'd be a surprise if Miller is not activated against Chicago in Week 3.

More from Behind the Steel Curtain: