After a game, even a meaningless preseason game, there are players who impress, and some who disappoint. This is where our weekly “Winners and Losers” column was born. Sometimes being labeled a loser is a bit harsh, but ultimately there are players every game who simply aren’t up to “the standard”.
Landry Jones — The red-zone interception was bad, but otherwise Jones looked as if he made some serious strides in the right direction Saturday night. Without playing any this preseason, due to an abdominal injury, Jones went 21/31 for 163, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The numbers might not impress, but how he moved in the pocket, and stood under pressure, were positives for me.
Cameron Sutton — Since the Steelers picked Sutton in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, I have wanted to watch him on the field. A lower body injury has kept him off the field for all of training camp and the preseason, until now. Sutton wasted little time making plays as he had a big third down pass break up, and a tackle for a loss in the first half. It is a small sample size, but Sutton has the look of a player the Steelers desperately need in their defensive secondary.
James Conner — Like Sutton, the sample size was small, but Conner looked like a different back in Week 3, compared to Week 2. He was decisive, ran the ball hard and was abusing defensive backs. All traits which had Conner rated as a late Day 1, or an early Day 2 pick, before his knee injury and cancer diagnosis. What matters most? Conner looks like he belongs. A good sight to see for black and gold faithful.
Terrell Watson — Speaking of running backs, I am mesmerized by Terrell Watson. He is a big, bruising back who is tough to take down. He rushed for 40 yards on 8 carries, and I would love to see him get some run with the starters. To be honest, if the Steelers’ Week 1 RB Depth chart looked like this, I would be completely find with it:
Some view him as a good practice squad guy, but I see him as a back with a boat load of potential.
Defensive Secondary — At a moment when a rookie was the only bright spot, there was plenty of blame to go around in this one. Ross Cockrell got burned, again, Artie Burns could be more physical at the point of attack and Coty Sensabaugh didn’t ‘wow’ anyone with his play. Overall a bad outing by the secondary, who did very little to silence the critics on Saturday night.
Knile Davis — Davis was given every opportunity to prove himself on Saturday. He saw all the time with the starters, and after a very promising opening drive where he rushed for 21 yards, he left the game with...21 yards. A 3.0 yards per rush average isn’t all that great, and Davis simply didn’t look like a back who is capable of backing up Le’Veon Bell in 2017, nor does he warrant a roster spot based solely on special teams either.
Pass Rush — The secondary wasn’t good, but what helps a bad secondary? A good pass rush, and the Steelers didn’t have it Saturday...at least not with the starters. Bud Dupree was in the lineup for the first time in 2017, and T.J. Watt continued his development, but no one was getting to Scott Tolzien when it counted. They got some pressure, but only Stephon Tuitt was charted with a quarterback hit when the starters were on the field. Chalk it up to rust for players like Shazier and Dupree, but this defense will only go as far as the pass rush takes them.