The Pittsburgh Steelers are back and that means so is our winners and losers series! For those that are not familiar, here at BTSC we have a winners and losers column that runs after each Steelers game. The series serves as an initial observation on the individual performance of the Steelers' players.
Players dubbed as winners are those that showed up and either were stars that made big plays for their team in key situations or less reputable players that showed significant improvement or an impressive performance. Losers however are players that made key mistakes that led to a loss and did not make up for it at any time, or were players that were complete disappointments.
Darryl Richardson - In a battle for the third running back spot with Fitzgerald Toussaint, Richardson brought his A-game to the field with 44 yards on 11 carries. Richardson showed he still had the speed he has shown in his time with the St. Louis Rams and looked like he could be the scat back Todd Haley uses to give Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams a breather.
Ricardo Matthews - Though he only recorded one tackle, he often changed the line of scrimmage as a defensive end and brought the pressure that forced the Steelers' lone interception in the game. Matthews looked like he could be part of a solid rotation of defensive linemen that can keep the legs of Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. There's still a lot to see, but in the limited action available he looks like a good rotation player.
Doran Grant - Though Grant's biggest play of the game was his interception returned for a touchdown, he showed that he could run with receivers and make solid tackles on starting wide receivers in the NFL with his play. For a guy that was cut from the team last year, his first preseason look in 2016 made the case for him to have a decent shot for the roster.
James Harrison - Harrison playing in the first preseason game as a 38 year old veteran was already a Harrison thing to do; but then stopping a drive with a sack/fumble that became the game's first turnover was an even more Harrison thing to do.
L.J. Fort - For a linebacker trying to make the roster, Fort showed promise. He had a decent preseason in 2015, and started this year's preseason off with four solo tackles and a solid, well-timed hit that forced an incompletion on third down. If he continues to make plays like he did today, Fort could be the guy sitting right behind Vince Williams in the depth chart.
Alejandro Villanueva - The Steelers went out and got a left tackle in both free agency and the fourth round of the draft, which showed that Villanueva needed to prove his worth to keep his starting spot. For a first look at how he could do as a full time starter, he did not have a good performance. Look to see if Villanueva returns to his 2015 form as he gets more repetitions.
Backup Quarterbacks - When Ben Roethlisberger is not in the game, the Steelers' offense looks like it has no hope. Though Landry Jones did throw a touchdown pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey, he failed to convert any third downs or show any consistency in the offense. It looked like more of the same from the fourth year player out of Oklahoma, which is not a good thing. Bruce Gradkowski started to move the ball for the offense, but then got hurt, again, in his first series during the preseason. This is the same thing that happened last year when he played against the Green Bay Packers during the preseason. For these to be the primary backup options, there is a lot worry about should Roehtlisberger go down, as usual. One would hope that with three years and finally some NFL experience, Jones could show more improvement than he has.
Sammie Coates - For a player that has been receiving lots of praise in training camp, he sure had a letdown of a performance for an opening preseason game. In his three catches, he bobbled one screen pass that led to no gain, and he fumbled the ball in each of his other receptions. The first fumble looked a lot like bad luck and a good play by the defender to put their helmet on the ball, but the second looked like a clear mistake from Coates. He will have to show more if he wants to see more time over Darrius Heyward-Bey.