For the die hard fans, you might read the headline and wonder how you can possibly have any ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ after a Week 1 preseason game. For those who think that, you underestimate me!
While these games’ outcome is truly meaningless, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t meaning in the contest for players fighting for a roster spot! Players put it all on the field, and while some played well, others left a lot to be desired.
Considering it was the Steelers’ first live game action of the 2018 season, I decided to take it easy and pick 3 winners and 3 losers from their 31-14 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia. Some might say this is nit-picking, but so be it.
Here we go...
My goodness, you hear reports from training camp, but rarely do they translate to the games, but Patterson sure did put on a show. His 6 catches, on 10 targets, for 77 yards and a touchdown led the Steelers, but how he scored that touchdown was hands-down the play of the game. Patterson is making a case for himself to make the 53-man roster as a potential 5th or 6th receiver. He got off to a hot start, the key now is to stay that way.
The Steelers’ defense set a new franchise record for sacks in 2017, but lacked in the takeaway department. While not facing Nick Foles or Carson Wentz, the Pittsburgh defense did their job when presented with an opportunity. The Steelers racked up three turnovers on the day, two interceptions and one fumble recovery, and it was a very good sight to see when comparing to last season.
When the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant before the season, there were skeptics wondering if Smith-Schuster would be able to take the top off a defense like Bryant did in his time with the Steelers. If Smith-Schusters 71-yard touchdown reception should have done anything, it would have been to silence some, if not all, of those skeptics. Looks like JuJu picked up right where he left off.
Now, I will admit the tackling improved as the game went on, and there is a chance the poor tackling in the first half were players still getting used to the speed of the game again. With that said, there was some really bad tackling by the starting defense, and this is a trend everyone wants to see stay in 2017. Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler have hammered tackling home plenty in training camp, and now it is time for the Steelers to put that onto the field. Sure, not all the starters were in, but even the backups should be able to bring down the ball carrier.
It was only one play, but sometimes just one play seems to leave an impression more than others. When Phillips was toasted for a big touchdown, it brought back horrible memories of 2017. Phillips, who is battling for a spot on the 53-man roster, can’t afford to put those kind of plays on tape. He ended the day with two tackles, but his most memorable play is the one he would most like to forget.
The new NFL rules will take some time for players to get accustomed to, and I know this is the preseason for the officiating crews...but come on! This isn’t even about the penalties themselves, but the quantity. It seemed as if every play there as a flag thrown. There were a whopping 19 penalties accepted (11 - PHI / 8 - PIT). I realize the backups might be a bit sloppier than the starters, but it doesn’t mean every infraction needs to be called. They say you can call holding on every play in the NFL, and it seemed as if this crew was bound-and-determined to throw a flag on every play. I’m sure this will subside, but it was a loser for me.