The Pittsburgh Steelers are a work in progress, and they are progressing through the preseason after they notched their first victory with a 24-19 win over the Green Bay Packers Sunday at Heinz Field. After the victory, when the dust settled, there were takeaways from the game which fans can look back on and analyze as the team moves forward throughout the preseason.
Opening drive for Steelers' defense...yikes
Let's just take a second and make some assumptions. Let's assume the Steelers were not prepared for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense to go into the hurry-up offense to start the game. Let's assume the team hadn't game planned for such an attack. Let's assume the secondary was playing so cautiously they forgot the most basic theories of playing defense. And let's assume the team's pass rush was worn out from not being used to the strenuous physical exertion required to keep such a hurried pace.
Okay, with that out of the system, all fans can hope this was the case with the Steelers' starting defense as they were nearly paralyzed by Rodgers and Eddie Lacy as they moved their way with ease down the field. Before you knew it the Packers had moved 80 yards on 10 plays in 5:06 and were now leading 8-0. Luckily for fans, Jordan Berry's coffin corner punt pinned the Packers back on their one-yard line and resulted in a safety three plays later. The defense eventually settled down and was able to produce pressure the team had yet to witness this preseason.
Speaking of that safety...
What a beautiful defensive play. Sometimes people don't completely appreciate defensive plays if it isn't a big hit or an interception, but if you re-watch the play you will see more than James Harrison beating his man around the edge, but you see the rest of the Steelers' front 7 doing their job to a 'T'. Sean Spence blitzes off the left side, meeting Harrison at the quarterback, but the interior pressure by Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward flush Rodgers directly to Bud Dupree who looks like he was shot out of a cannon after first dropping into pass coverage.
The sack/safety was all possible due to quality coverage down field and forcing Rodgers into holding onto the ball. He had nowhere to go...a perfect, and beautiful, defensive play.
It won't always be perfect
The Pittsburgh Steelers offense dazzled in their lone drive against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their play left fans salivating for more, and they got more on Sunday as they watched the team's potent offense go to work again. It looked as if they were going to pick up where they left off when Ben Roethlisberger threw a beautiful pass to Antonio Brown for a touchdown, all before being called back for offensive pass interference. It was that stalled drive which lead to the Jordan Berry punt and the Steelers' safety mentioned above.
However, the Steelers re-grouped and were able to put together a 7 play, 51-yard drive which took up 3:04 and was capped off by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton. Were their mistakes? Sure. There were pre-snap and post-snap penalties, and missed assignments along the offensive line, but the team was still able to move the ball. A little adversity never hurt anyone, and could be a motivating factor for an offensive unit who was riding on Cloud Nine after the Jaguars game.
So many playmakers and only one pigskin
The Steelers have a ridiculous number of playmakers on their offense. So many it will be impossible to get them all the ball with any type of regularity. Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Heath Miller, Martavis Bryant, DeAngelo Williams...you get the picture. There was a point in the first half of the game Sunday when I asked myself, "Has Martavis Bryant had a pass even thrown his way?" The answer was no, and Bryant wasn't targeted until his "tip-drill" catch which should have been intercepted.
There will be games when some players won't get many touches. The true test of character for this offense will be that happening, and no one griping about it.
Shout out to the "little people"
Special teams don't get much love very often, but the Steelers special team superstars where just that on Sunday. New kicker Garrett Hartley was 1 for 1 with a 46-yard field goal and a 33-yard extra point to his resume...all at Heinz Field. Some might laugh at such a line, but that has to be big in terms of his confidence moving forward.
What might have been more impressive were the punters. Both Jordan Berry and Brad Wing had great outings. Berry 3 punts for an average of 47.3 yards a punt, a long punt of 57 yards and all three punts downed inside the 20. Wing also had 3 punts for a 49.7 average, a long punt of 57 yards and two of his three kicks downed inside the 20. A good night for the kickers out there.
The Steelers next preseason game is August 30th against the Buffalo Bills.