When coaches approach a meaningless preseason game, they likely want to see quality fundamentals, good situational football awareness and even some mistakes. No one benefits from a perfect performance in an exhibition, and the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly made their share of mistakes in their recent loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 1 of the 2016 preseason.
The Steelers, and their coaches, will have plenty of film to analyze and dissect between now and their next preseason game next Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field, and although the offense didn't look good, the defense certainly got the majority of the work in their first preseason game.
When all was said and done, the Lions dominated the offensive statistics. Just look at some of these numbers.
Lions 3rd Downs: 12-19
Steelers 3rd Downs: 2-12
Lions Time of Possession: 34:02
Steelers Time of Possession: 25:58
Lions Total Plays: 70
Steelers Total Plays: 50
Lions First Downs: 20
Steelers First Downs: 10
Lions Total Yards: 379
Steelers Total Yards: 187
I think you get the picture of what the game really resembled. This was a very dominant performance for Detroit's offense, especially on third downs. Long, time consuming drives were the theme for the night, but before Pittsburgh fans become depressed about the defensive performance, it isn't as bad as it may seem.
There were tackling issues, players out of position and there were plenty of bad angles to be had by many defenders. Nonetheless, no one thinks the Steelers offense will be the issue, even after the unit failed to gain 200 total yards throughout 4 quarters of football. The concern for the 2016 Steelers is on defense, and they got their work on Friday night.
When Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown return to the lineup there is a good chance the offense will pick up where they left off in 2015, but defensively they will need all the work they can get to rectify these issues.
Tackling will be an issue across the league in the first preseason game, and it is the first real competition for the defense with a re-worked secondary sporting 3 new starters in Robert Golden, Ross Cockrell and Sean Davis. In fact, the defense played their starters, those who dressed for the game, and some played significant snaps. Some even played deep into the second quarter, which is unheard of in the first preseason game in today's NFL.
So, while most fans look at the box score and feel depressed about the possibilities of the 2016 season, keep in mind there is still plenty of work to be done. The preseason is 4 weeks long for a reason, and the Steelers deficiencies are glaring. Look for improvement next Thursday and throughout the rest of the preseason, and if this improvement doesn't exist, then you may have cause for concern.
But for now, wait until the team steps on the field again, with some of their starters, before predicting the 2016 season based on one preseason game.