Mike Tomlin doesn’t shy away from making decisions which are very obvious to even the untrained eye, especially in the preseason. One example of this was how he exclusively deployed Knile Davis with the first team offense against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
For the sake of the team, this move makes sense. You made the decision to acquire Davis, so you might as well get a feel for what he can bring to the team with the players who will be actually be playing in the regular season.
Things got off to a fantastic start, with Davis tallying 21 yards on the first drive, and that is when his production stopped. He ended with 21 yards on 7 carries, a very pedestrian 3.0 yards per carry, but did he do enough to actually secure a roster spot? Personally, I’m not a believer, but Davis convinced some in the media.
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The Steelers wanted to take a longer look at running back Knile Davis against the Indianapolis Colts. And, even though he has spent five years in the NFL, he was eager to show his new teammates what he can do with the first-team offense.
Each wasted little time doing so.
Davis touched the ball three times on the first four plays — rushing twice for 21 yards and catching a 9-yard pass — and was the intended target of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the other.
The Steelers got a quick assessment of what he might be able to provide as one of the backups for Le’Veon Bell. And it wasn’t bad, Davis said.
“You’re always working to make the 53, you’re always working to get better,” Davis said Saturday night after a 19-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
“You’re competing against yourself and you’re trying to fine-tune. I didn’t have perfect game, I had solid game, but all in all it was pretty good.”
While James Conner got to spend most of the game playing as planned on special teams, Davis got the immediate attention with the first-team offense.
On the first play of the game, he bounced around left end for an 11-yard gain. After an incompletion on a deep sideline pass from Roethlisberger, Davis went off left tackle for an 11-yard run. Then he caught a short pass from Roethlisberger that he turned into a 9-yard gain.
Three touches, 30 yards. A 10-yard average. That likely should suffice in his bid to bring some clarity to the running back position.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Thursday the amount of time the starters played Saturday night in the third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts was going to depend upon how well they played. With most of the offensive and defensive starters playing deep into the second quarter it’s safe to say Tomlin wasn’t thrilled with their performance.
The offense turned the ball over on their first series when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was hit from behind and stripped. The first-team defense then allowed the Colts to drive for a touchdown on their first drive of the game.
Pass defense proved to be the biggest problem for the defense again. Donte Moncrief caught a 55-yard pass from backup Scott Tolzein on their first play from scrimmage to set the Colts up at the Steelers 8. After a pass-interference penalty on Ross Cockrell in the end zone on third down, Frank Gore scored from 1 yard.
In three series, the Colts scored 10 points against the Steelers first-team defense. Tomlin kept all of his starters in the game until 7:40 remained in the second quarter.
The offense didn’t fare much better. Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, who were playing for the first time this preseason, played two series and were pulled after Chris Boswell booted a 36-yard field goal.
On a night when Ben Roethlisberger appeared for the first time in the preseason, Landry Jones also made his debut and ended any debate about his status as the Steelers' backup quarterback.
After an oblique injury sidelined him the first two weeks, Jones led the Steelers to 12 points and a second-half lead before throwing a costly fourth-quarter interception in a 19-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field.
Jones threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Grimble and directed two field-goal drives while playing the second and third quarters plus almost all of the fourth. He passed for 163 yards, completing 21 of 31 passes.
At one point, Jones was 15 of 19 for 94 yards.
“I thought he did a solid job in a lot of areas, particularly for a guy that's getting his first action, not only his first preseason action but he missed a lot of practice time,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “It's not Landry's first rodeo. … I wasn't surprised by that. We'll continue to push forward, but a solid start.”
Jones rallied the Steelers from a 13-3 deficit, with Chris Boswell's third field goal giving them a 15-13 lead late in the third quarter.
After the Colts went ahead, 19-15, Jones moved the Steelers 79 yards to the Colts 1. On a slant pass intended for rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, cornerback Chris Milton jumped the route and intercepted in the end zone.
The Steelers re-signed Jones to a two-year contract in March on the first day of free agency. But his oblique injury gave fourth-round draft pick Joshua Dobbs a chance to start against the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons, playing late into the third quarter each time.
While most fans have paid attention to T.J. Watt, Juju Smith-Schuster and James Conner, the Steelers have been missing their third-round pick, cornerback Cameron Sutton.
Sutton’s debut comes at an interesting time for the Steelers’ defense as they sort through which corners they want to depend on in the 2017 season.
The only obvious starter is the 2016 first-round pick, Artie Burns, while the rest of the team’s options seem to be playing musical chairs for who might play the other regular cornerback spots.
While Ross Cockrell did get the start for the Colts game, Coty Sensabaugh saw plenty of time in Cockrell’s spot while the first-team defense was still on the field.
Meanwhile, the undrafted free agent Mike Hilton got plenty of looks as the slot cornerback instead of William Gay, who played more of a safety role in many situations when he entered the game.
Sutton had missed most of camp due to injury, and had yet to see playing time in any of the preseason games.
But as soon as he saw the field, Sutton made his presence felt with solid pass defense on a third down, forcing a punt from the Colts: