The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their 2022 preseason with a win over the Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers were missing a lot of their starters on offense and defense in this game, and still ended the game with a higher final score. In those players’ absence the Steelers reserves, and young players got the opportunity to impress the coaches.
Who stood out, and who missed out on the chance to make a good first impression for 2022.
Stock Up: Run Blocking
The Steelers run game did well, and while there were offensive line struggles, those struggles stayed away from the run game for the most part. The Steelers gained 185 yards on the ground, and while it is preseason, consider that in four preseason games in 2021 the Steelers ran for a total of 394 yards on 119 carries. They ran for close to half that amount Saturday night on 27 carries.
While the 2021 run game was largely Najee Harris making something out of nothing, the Steelers saw good gains from running backs running straight into their run lanes numerous times on Saturday night.
Stock Down: Pass Blocking
The Steeler quarterbacks were facing pressure often, and a couple of the most notable ones were miscommunication/confusion from James Daniels. That isn’t something that was a problem for him the last couple of seasons, so we’ll hope it’s just kinks learning a different scheme with new team mates and watch to see if it sorts itself out.
The big takeaway for me was the team’s focus being squarely on running better. They wanted a mobile quarterback, and one of the benefits we saw Saturday was the ability to escape the pocket if protection breaks down. That frees up the line to focus more on their run blocking and place a bit more of the burden on the quarterback to avoid pressure. Let’s hope it works out well.
Stock Up: Matt Canada
The Steelers were without their main offensive weapons, the pass protection was a bit spotty, and yet the Steelers quarterbacks all ended the game with a 100+ passer rating. Canada’s offense is built on mismatches, and he uses motion to create them a good bit. We saw that a lot against the Seahawks, and we saw it work out well for the Steelers numerous times. Kenny Pickett’s first drive of the game was a heavier dose of Matt Canada’s offense, and it didn’t require him to even do much to move the ball down the field.
It’s only preseason, Canada didn’t show much, and defenses run more vanilla schemes, so this has to be taken with a grain of salt, but for this week at least, the offense reflected well on its play-caller.
Stock Down: Run Defense
I know the Steelers starters were out, we all do. T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Alex Highsmith, Tyson Alualu and Larry Ogunjobi would have made a difference in the run defense. But they weren’t there, and as Mike Tomlin stated, the standard is the standard. The run defense did not live up to that standard.
Stock Up: Rookies
The Steelers rookies showed up in their first NFL action, and looked good. Kenny Pickett scored on his first drive, and again to win the game in the closing seconds. George Pickens took his highlight reel catch show seamlessly into the preseason from training camp. DeMarvin Leal anchored against double teams, played smart, and flashed some potential on a near sack when the Seahawks first team offensive line was still in. Connor Heyward played the entire game at tight end, on special teams, and he showed up frequently making good blocks and clutch catches. Mark Robinson recorded a strip sack to give the Steelers back the ball late in the fourth quarter to set up Kenny Pickett’s game winning touchdown.
It’s only one preseason game, but the Steelers draft class looks like it will be impacting the team a good bit this season.