The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Friday night when they hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of NFL preseason action. The Steelers were 30-28 winners in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a good performance.
With it being the preseason, many of the player who are being criticized are not even going to be employed by the Steelers organization come September, but the judgement process must go on. Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left a lot to be desired can be called ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it is the crux of this exercise.
Let’s check in to see who fell on which side of the ledger after Week 1 of the preseason...
Stat Line: 10 Total Tackles, 7 Solo
If you have working eyes in your head, and watched the game, there was no way you missed Devin Bush on the playing field. He was all over the place, and an absolute tackling machine. It is just one preseason game, but if this is just the start for the young linebacker, the sky is literally the limit for him as he will only get better from here.
Stat Line: 5/8, 85 yards / 2 carries, 44 yards
A lot of fans are down on Dobbs after his performance, but I look at it differently than most. Dobbs wasn’t helped at all by a patchwork backup offensive line, and showed playmaking skills nonetheless. Want to be picky about his big pass play where he slightly under threw James Washington? Sure, but his two big runs sparked the offense and showed off his playmaking ability. Not the best performance, but not the worst either. Playing with backups I thought Dobbs represented himself well.
Stat Line: 5/8, 91 yards, 2 TDs
When Rudolph entered the game, the offensive dynamic changed. I don’t know why, but the play calling and style of play was altered dramatically. With just over 5 minutes left in the half, Rudolph wasted no time taking the Steelers down the field and putting up the team’s first touchdown, a nice back shoulder throw to Washington. But what really impressed me about Rudolph was his poise, and escapability, in the pocket. Rudolph was labeled as slow coming out of Oklahoma State, but he has shown improvement in this area. His patience on the touchdown pass to Zach Gentry was great sign of maturation for the second year quarterback. The hope is Rudolph is the first quarterback up in Week 2 if Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t play, to see what he can do with the ‘ones’.
Stat Line: 4 receptions, 84 yards, 1 TD
On our podcasts the past two years I have been touting how I feel James Washington is due for a breakout. That breakout didn’t happen in 2018, but if the performance on Friday night was any indication, it certainly could come in 2019. Washington looked strong in and out of his breaks, and had tremendous poise with the ball in the air. He was plucking the ball out of the air, and looked like a more confident player in his second season. While everyone said Donte Moncrief is guaranteed the WR2 spot, maybe Washington will have something to say about that.
Stat Line: 2 rushes, 21 yards / 1 reception, 9 yards
Samuels didn’t light up the stat sheet, but what he did do was show some improvement front Year 1 to Year 2. He looked faster, more elusive and improved lateral quickness. Samuels, with a year under his belt, understands what the Steelers are requiring from him, and his conditioning shows he has come into 2019 prepared to be the backup the Steelers need behind James Conner.
Ulysees Gilbert III
Stat Line: 3 tackles, 2 solo, 1.5 sacks, 4 QB hits
Yes, it was against 3rd and 4th string players, but the former Akron product showed what he is capable of against the Buccaneers on Friday night. Registering 1.5 sacks, 4 QB hits and an interception on a two-point conversion, Gilbert put his name in the hat for a spot on the 53-man roster. If he can continue to flash that type of play on special teams, he has a legitimate shot of making the roster.
Backup Offensive Line
Stat Line: 2 sacks allowed, 108 rushing yards
Don’t let the stats fool you, the backup offensive line was not very good on Friday night. Sure, they settled in as Tampa Bay started to empty their bench, but they did Dobbs absolutely no favors when he started the game. The 108 rushing yards were padded by Dobbs being the team’s leading rusher with 44 yards scrambling. Don’t get too upset about this unit’s performance, as a collective they weren’t very good, but their backup depth is still strong behind the starters.
Benny Snell Jr.
Stat Line: 13 carries, 26 yards, 2.0 yards per carry
I don’t want to be too harsh on this young man, and maybe this is all our faults anyways. Maybe we all bought into “Benny Snell Football” way too much. Maybe we all watched those Kentucky highlights too often and got excited about the prospects of Snell doing that in Pittsburgh. I’m not about to say his career is over and he is a bust, but this was a dud of a performance from Snell. For as dynamic as Devin Bush was, Snell left a lot of be desired. He looked slow, indecisive and ineffective. I hope this is just a blip on the radar, and not a sign of things to come for the young running back.
Stat Line: 8 tackles, 5 solo
Just like Snell, Layne didn’t put his best foot forward in the game Friday night. He played almost the entire game, and was ineffective for most of it. Going against Jameis Winston and some of the Buccaneers starters, Layne played soft coverage and was beaten underneath multiple times. Like Snell, the sky isn’t falling with Layne, but the team has to be hoping to see more from their third round draft pick when the Chiefs come to town on Saturday.
So many flags
Stat Line: 25 accepted penalties
Goodness gracious this game was long. It was painfully long, and largely because the officials were unbelievably flag happy. I know there is holding on every play, but that doesn’t mean you have to call it...especially in the preseason. Oh, and the roughing the passer call on Tyson Alualu to negate Devin Bush’s pass break up was soft, just like the hitting a defenseless player call with 45 seconds left in the game. But then again, this is just my opinion.