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”.
Time to diagnose who falls into which category after the team’s Week 1 preseason win over the New York Giants Friday night.
Mike Hilton — Is there anything this guy can’t do? The former Ole Miss cornerback had one heck of a debut as he had a sack of Geno Smith, a fumble recovery which led to Dobbs’ touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton and was all over the place with pass breakups and causing confusion.
How good was Mike Hilton? Dale Lolley of the Beaver County-Times had this to say on Twitter:
I believe Mike Hilton will be piloting the #Steelers plane home tonight. Why not? He's done everything else in this game.— Dale Lolley (@dlolleyor) August 12, 2017
T.J. Watt — All eyes were on the Steelers’ top rookie, and he didn’t disappoint. Watt was responsible for two sacks, on back-to-back plays, 1 pass defense, three quarterback hits, 5 total tackles. Not a bad day at the office for the rookie.
Cobi Hamilton — All through training camp Cobi Hamilton has been written off for dead. The loaded wide receiver depth chart has most thinking he will be the odd man out, but Hamilton had himself a fine day Friday night. He tied the team-high receptions with two, but his two catches went for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Red-Zone Defense — Early in the game, thanks to two Josh Dobbs interceptions, the Pittsburgh red-zone defense was put to the test. And they picked up where they left off in 2016. Last year they ranked 5th in the league in red-zone defense, and held the Giants scoreless in the red-zone. Quality work, regardless of it being the preseason or second string players being in the lineup.
Arthur Moats — Mike Tomlin called Moats “the 11th grader in the JV game” referring to him playing so late into the game, but he dominated the man opposite him. Moats finished with three sacks, an interception, one pass defense and six total tackles. For a man who is competing with Anthony Chickillo, who didn’t play due to a hip flexor strain, Moats certainly popped on tape when it mattered.
Pass Rush — Kudos to the Steelers pass rush, from a variety of players. Watt, Moats, Farrington Huguenin and Mike Hilton all registered sacks, but the defense also had nine quarterback hits to accompany their seven sacks. A good step in the right direction for the pass rushers.
Jerald Hawkins — In the second half, Dobbs started to settle in, but Hawkins certainly didn’t help. Hawkins looked bad on several occasions, and reportedly has been sub-par throughout training camp as well. The man who was supposed to be the heir apparent to the left tackle position, and possibly push Alejandro Villanueva, made “Big Al’s” job look as safe as any in just one night. The good news for Hawkins? He can’t play much worse, so improvement should follow.
NFL Network — There are many reading this who live either in the New York or Pittsburgh local viewing area who got to see all four quarters. For those of us who don’t live in those areas, we had to suffer through constant cut-outs to the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers preseason game. This was reminiscent of 2016 when the Steelers and Eagles game was underway, but DirecTV customers were forced to watch the overtime thriller between the Browns and Dolphins. As it turns out, no one wanted to see the Steelers-Eagles game, but at least Pittsburgh won this preseason game. Pro tip for the NFL Network — if you advertise you are covering a live game, and a double-header at that, stick to the plan!
JuJu Smith-Schuster — Simple...he got hurt. It isn’t his fault, but I was so excited to see him play, especially after his nice stiff-arm I was disappointed to hear he wouldn’t be returning. Hopefully Smith-Schuster gets back on the field soon and is making plays!