For the second time in less than a week, and the sixth time in seven games, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost in the preseason, this time falling 17-0 to the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on Thursday.
Todd Haley, now entering his fifth season as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator, seems like an all-around straight shooter. The kind of coach who probably doesn't take too kindly to a deplorable preseason showing.
Consider the following statistics:
- Pittsburgh averaged 3.1 yards per carry in the first half of Thursday's loss to the Eagles
- Steelers QB Landry Jones threw four interceptions in the first half of Thursday's game
- Jones was not sacked in the first half, and he was hurried just twice
- Xavier Grimble, Cobi Hamilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey all had a drop (fortunately for Hamilton, he made up for his drop later by making a miraculous one-handed catch along the sideline)
Needless to say, Haley probably had some choice words for his "starting" unit. However, Haley was probably fairly civil when addressing...
WR Eli Rogers - Stock up
The following statement is probably going to border on libel, but whatever, you guys aren't cops: If Eli Rogers was wearing "84" on Thursday, I bet some of you would have briefly mistaken him for Antonio Brown. Rogers was one of the only bright spots in Pittsburgh's otherwise stagnant offense against the Eagles, as the second-year year receiver caught four passes for 39 yards and had a nifty 17-yard punt return in the first half. Rogers looks like he could be a solid contributor out of the slot this very season. Brown had 1,100 receiving yards in his second NFL season. Just saying.
QB Landry Jones - Stable
Okay, yeah, the box score looks appalling, but can you really blame all four of those interceptions on Jones? One interception was the result of Jones' arm getting hit as he was set to release the ball, while another occurred because Eagles CB Aaron Grymes made a tremendous play in the end zone. Aside from those interceptions, Jones was anything but dreadful, and he made some legitimate NFL throws. It's not like Dustin Vaughn inspired much confidence with his performance, and it is highly unlikely that Bruce Gradkowski returns from his hamstring injury anytime soon. I can't see the Steelers signing another quarterback, so like it or not, Landry is the No. 2 for the foreseeable future.
The guys who you forgot about - Stock up
Shamarko Thomas is going to make the final roster. This didn't look like a safe bet two months ago, but after two preseason games and a decent camp, Thomas has proven that he is worth keeping around. Lawrence Timmons, meanwhile, defended a pass on third down. Third down! Granted, the play in question occurred on 3rd-and-one, but the fact that Timmons made a play in coverage is a good sign, especially when considering that his third-down availability has been a central topic of debate. Brent Celek isn't exactly Gronk, but the dude can still motor. Timmons did well to shut him down.
Offensive line - Stable
The starters didn't allow a single sack, and the hurry that forced Jones' fourth interception appears to have been the result of TE Jesse James missing his assignment. The Steelers were among the best units in the NFL last season; expect much of the same this year. Additionally, Alejandro Villanueva had a solid game after making two terrible plays last week against Detroit.
Most of the rookie class - Stock down
This isn't surprising, particularly since Steelers rookies rarely make meaningful contributions in their inaugural NFL seasons. As much as we have collectively hoped that this year would somehow be different, it doesn't look good. Artie Burns, Pittsburgh's first-round pick, still hasn't suited up, while Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave, two players who were expected to win starting jobs this season, haven't done much to distinguish themselves from their veteran counterparts. Fourth-round pick Jerald Hawkins is injured, and as much as everyone loves Travis Feeney and Tyler Matakevich, the odds of either one of them securing a roster spot are extremely long. Demarcus Ayers looks like a decent returner, but so do Rogers and Brown.
Mike Tomlin - Stock up
Tomlin kept 7, 84, 26, 34 and a bunch of other starters on the sidelines. The only suggestion I would offer to Tomlin is to lock Brown and Ben Roethlisberger in a padded room until Week 1.
The Secondary - Stock down
Five or six cornerbacks are going to make the team. You have a better chance of correctly guessing the entire field for the 2017 NCAA Tournament and subsequently filling out a perfect bracket than you do of guessing who makes this roster.
Overall - Stable
A 17-0 shutout is never a great sign, but the fact that so many starters watched Thursday's game from the bench makes it impossible to judge Pittsburgh's overall performance. With the notable exception of the secondary, there shouldn't be too many surprises when it comes to trimming the roster from 90 to 75 and, ultimately, to 53. The Steelers are 2-9 in their last 11 preseason games. In 32 regular season games since 2014, however, Pittsburgh is 21-11, so no worries.