The Pittsburgh Steelers improved to 3-0 in preseason play with their 26-20 victory over the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field. Nearly the entire Steelers roster was available for this game, and a lot of guys made their preseason debut against Detroit. It was a battle of two halves in this game with the Steelers looking nearly unstoppable in the first half, but struggled mightily down the stretch. Below we will grade the Steelers units and the team as a whole.
Let’s do this!
First, Ben Roethlisberger was dialed in. If Roethlisberger plays like how he did in the first quarter tonight all year round we will be talking about an undefeated Super Bowl champion on our hands. A perfect quarterback rating, a pair of touchdowns, and an 80% completion rate saw the Steelers dominate the field of play when Roethlisberger was leading the group. Pat Freiermuth scored both of the team’s touchdowns in the game and put on a show doing so. Fellow rookie Najee Harris looked great, especially taking a 5 yard dump off for 46 yards.
Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins were just okay tonight. I would also say Haskins looked shakier than he has in the other two preseason games. Perhaps it was home field jitters, but he wasn't as impressive on the field vs. Detroit.
Anthony McFarland and Kalen Ballage also looked good when they were on the field, and in all honesty are trending toward becoming the only backups behind Najee Harris on the roster. Both the receivers and offensive linemen played fine, still loads of growth are necessary for either group, but you can tell they are getting better with each game.
Much like the offense, the defense was much better in the first half than in the second. The Steelers shut out the Lions in the first half before giving up 20 in the final frame. The pass rush was noticeable, but that isn’t anything new. Plus, seeing Joe Schobert make his Steelers debut was a relief as he looked comfortable and played fast despite just picking up the playbook.
James Pierre and Justin Layne played well for themselves in this game. Layne may find himself as a special teamer for the Steelers while Pierre pushes for starting duties. Joe Haden almost came down with an interception, and Terrell Edmunds made a great read on a screen pass to rack up an impressive tackle for loss. Melvin Ingram continued his dominance by very nearly forcing a safety, while applying heat all game long. If the defense didn't get scored on nearly every drive to end of the game, this would be a better grade.
This was also an up and down game for special teams. On one hand, Pressley Harvin III was booming punts, Chris Boswell was perfect kicking field goals, and the coverage teams made great tackles. But on the other hand the Steelers concede an onside kick attempt which led to Detroit scoring points. Not good enough.
Matthew Sexton was again a bright star in the punt return game and could make a push to make the roster through special teams. Ray-Ray McCloud was the starting kick returner, but never got any ground to work with. If it wasn't for the onside gaffe, this would've been a much higher grade.
This was a solid all around win. The breaks fell off at the end of the game, but the Steelers starters were far superior to that of Detroit’s. Despite the score showing it was just a six-point margin, the Steelers won this game convincingly and will get an opportunity to sweep the preseason next week against the Carolina Panthers. If it wasn’t for the late game collapse, I would suggest the Steelers played a nearly perfect game. This tells me the potential is high, but they will have to work hard to achieve it.
Stars of the game were: Ben Roethlisberger, Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris. The veteran signal caller is clearly showing some good chemistry with both rookies and could be a good reason to be excited over this team.
But what do you think? How would you grade this team? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
To hear the recap of this preseason game, check out the post-game podcasts below:
Part 1 (Offense):
Part 2 (Defense/Special Teams):