The Pittsburgh Steelers emerged victorious in comeback fashion on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles in the city of Brotherly Love. That's two preseason games down; both victories I might add, with two to go. That's great and all, because the objective is to win every game you participate in, but everybody knows that the final score isn't the most important result from a preseason game.
Some would say injuries, or lack thereof, is the most important outcome of these glorified scrimmages. Others might suggest that tangible improvement of execution and cohesiveness are the primary objectives. After all, training camp and the preseason is where roster building talent reveals itself, but also where many NFL dreams prove to be more fantasy than reality. Thursday night's contest provided the Steelers a little more roster clarity, but questions remain.
Steelers Stock trending up: Kevin Dotson
Once again the Steelers had numerous players on both sides of the ball deserving of recognition, but I will attempt to briefly mention a few.
QB Dwayne Haskins looked like exactly what he is, a former first round selection who has experience as a starting QB in the NFL. He has been a mixed bag of results in his NFL career, but there have been moments of success, however fleeting. The talent has always been there, that has never been questioned. The work ethic and maturity to capitalize on said talent was another story all together.
Haskins reportedly didn't have a particular good week of camp leading up to Thursday's tilt with the Eagles, making his outstanding performance all the more surprising. He was decisive with the ball, making quick decisions and delivering the ball accurately and on time for the most part. Easily the best Steelers QB in the game, it was one of the best stretches of sustained success in his career, and solidified his candidacy in the QB2 competition.
OLB Jamir Jones has been one of the biggest and brightest surprises at camp. Truthfully he was brought in as a "camp body" who few believed capable of making any noise at camp. Thankfully Jamir Jones didn't get the memo, or he did but ignored it all together.
Jones keeps popping up regularly on the daily camp reports. He rode that momentum to a exceptional performance against the Cowboys in the first preseason game. Just to show that performance wasn't a flash in the pan, he followed up another strong week of camp with an even better performance against the Eagles. All he does is make hustle plays all over the field, pressure the QB, and pick up a sack per game. He also has proven stout against the run, and even flashes regularly on special teams. He apparently has every intention of fighting for a roster spot.
Rookie tackle Dan Moore Jr. has been fighting and competing hard at camp to earn the respect of his teammates and coaches. He has utilize all that he has learned from his camp battles and struggles to have back to back strong preseason game performances. He has been ultra competitive in each game, displaying exceptional movement skills and aggressiveness. He definitely doesn't look like a overmatched rookie, more like a potentially reliable swing tackle at the least.
The player who's stock is trending the highest at the moment would have to be Kevin Dotson. Dotson came out against the Eagles, running with the second string line after only returning to practice a few days prior, and demonstrated what we all knew he was already; the best offensive lineman on the team. He was the best lineman on the team last season, a Steelers line that consisted of multiple former Pro Bowl players. He continues to be the best lineman in a revamped group of unproven rookies and career journeymen for the most part.
Dotson entered the game apparently aggravated and highly motivated. The Eagles defenders, mainly second and third string guys, never stood a chance. Dotson was dominant, as he easily moved other very large men against their wills. Already known as a powerful blocker as a rookie, he appears even more explosive with a quick and powerful punch. Mike Tomlin sent a not so subtle message about needing to see Dotson earning his future first string snaps. Thursday's performance was Dotson's emphatic response.
Steelers Stock trending down: A couple of guilty culprits
Last week I avoided this critique in the pursuit of fairness. Giving any potential recipient of this dubious distinction another week of camp to get up to speed so to speak. Now that the second preseason game has transpired, and with another week of camp practices under their belt, I feel better about attempting to answer this question.
While Dan Moore Jr. and Kevin Dotson shined against the Eagles, Trai Turner and Kendrick Green were on the other end of the spectrum. Reports from camp last week revealed that Turner has taken a mentorship role with Kendrick Green, earning the praises of Coach Tomlin. That's rather interesting, because they both struggled against the Eagles.
Turner struggling really wasn't that big of a surprise, after just recently returning to practice and lacking any cohesion with his fellow linemen after missing the first preseason game. He looked slow, off balanced, and tentative. He struggled to block effectively against moving targets in space. He has proven capable in the past, so no real worries at this point.
Kendrick Green received a big league lesson in humility against the Eagles. Green shares many similarities with former Steelers standout C Maurkice Pouncey. Highly athletic and explosive, Green currently struggles with larger defenders if he loses leverage at first contact. He may always struggle to anchor against the bull rush of larger defenders due to his smaller stature. Pouncey always did, and he was a larger man than Green.
After looking strong and quick for most of the game, Green had a particular disastrous result toward the end of his appearance. He gave up a sack of Mason Rudolph after being driven over six yards back into the QB by the bull rush of a career journeymen DT, a guy who's name I had never even heard of. Green is easily the most talented center on the roster, and appears to have the potential to be the next in a long line of great Steelers center, but he still has much to learn at the position. His explosive athleticism and functional strength will allow him to neutralize larger defenders with proper technique, but he remains very much a work in process.
Steelers Stock needing acknowledged: Chaz Green
During the HOF game against the Cowboys, I read a tweet from a fan asking why Kendrick Green was still in the game late into the fourth quarter. They were worried about him getting injured. I was shocked, because he had been out of the game for quite awhile as far as I knew. I quickly scanned the screen and realized what was causing the confusion. Kendrick Green #53 was out of the game, but Chaz Green #74 was in the game.
This was the reason I first started to pay attention to Chaz Green, a OT I honestly had forgotten was even in camp. The first thing that stood out to me was how much he reminded me of former Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon. The second being the fact that he actually was playing pretty good.
A former third round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 NFL Draft, he has been perpetually injured in his NFL career and has never lived up to his pedigree. He appears shorter and stockier than his listed dimensions. He has been putting his wide frame to good use in the first two preseason games.
He engaged and quickly turned the defenders in a direction of his choosing against the Eagles, even making an effective kick out block on a moving target on a running play as the Steelers offensive line dominated the second half of the game. Chaz Green played a role in that domination.
Chaz Green has been a practice squad member for multiple teams in his career. He is a 29 year old journeyman, having never lived up to the potential his talent would suggest. I have absolutely zero reason to believe that this situation will be any different than the ones before, but I want to give credit where credit is due. Going against other longshots and hopefuls, he has looked solid this preseason.