The Pittsburgh Steelers concluded their 2021 preseason Friday night with a 34–9 loss to the Carolina Panthers. While the ultimate goal of a preseason game is to be able to evaluate players rather than win the games, having a poor performance in a blowout does not help things. Despite an overall poor team showing, there were individuals who made the most of their final preseason opportunity to show the Steelers in what ways they can contribute.
For this exercise, I will be looking at one player from each phase of the game on offense, defense, and special teams. Both the statistics used and player scores are coming courtesy of Pro Football Focus. As I always have to say as the typical disclaimer, the scores by PFF and their reliability is completely up to you as to how much stock you put into them. Regardless, the data will be presented for you to make your own determination.
So here are the three players who stood out the most in each phase of the game in the Steelers loss in their preseason finale.
Offense: Rashaad Coward
Overall PFF score: 75.1
Pass Blocking score: 83.1
Run blocking score: 68.6
Snaps played: 15
It kind of shows the night the Steelers had on offense when the top PFF score for the game was a 75.1 by an offensive lineman. But Rashaad Coward needed to stake a claim in order to make the 53-man roster despite getting a lot of first-team reps early in the preseason. With the Steelers likely to keep nine players and at least ten realistically fighting for a spot, Coward showed again he may be the Steelers best option at guard beyond their starters. Unfortunately, position flexibility compared to other players might be his biggest downfall.
Defense: James Pierre
Overall PFF score: 90.0
Run defense: 73.4
Snaps played: 41
Pierre’s PFF score was not only the highest for the Steelers defense, it was the highest on the entire team. In his 41 snaps played, Pierre was targeted twice and gave up both receptions. The difference was the total yards surrendered by Pierre were -1 after a nice tackle for loss on a wide receiver screen. Pierre had four tackles in the game and was credited for three stops, which is PFF‘s measurement of making a tackle that constitutes as a “failure” for the offense. With the Steelers continuing to explore options at the slot cornerback position, Pierre putting up such a good showing on the outside helped his chances of being utilized in that situation in sub packages if not more.
Special Teams: Christian Kuntz
Overall PFF score: 79.9
Snaps played: 11
That’s right, we’re talking about the long snapper! It hasn’t been since the Colin Holba experiment back in 2017 have we cared so much about what was going on at the long snapper position. But with Coach Tomlin stating Kameron Canaday was held out of the game due to illness, Christian Kuntz made the most of his opportunity. Not only did he perform well snapping the ball, he also was credited with two tackles on punt coverage. Although Coach Tomlin dismissed the notion of the long snapper being a quality coverage person prior to the game, having one who is good at covering does not hurt his chances to win the job.
So there are the top three grades in each phase of the game according to Pro Football Focus from the Steelers preseason finale. With a number of players fighting for either a roster spot or their placement on the depth chart, these three players stood out the most within their respective duties.
So what do you think? Did they make enough of a case in the final game in improve their standing? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.