The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Saturday night when they traveled to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 of the NFL preseason. The Steelers were winners in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a good performance.
With it being the preseason, many of the players 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 the first game of the preseason...
Stat Line: 6/7, 76 yards, 10.9 average, 1 TD, 0 INT, 0 Sacks, 151.5 Rating
On a night where there weren’t many shining stars on offense, Pickett certainly was. We can talk about stat line all we want, but the eye test is what I want to discuss here. When Pickett entered the game the offensive line was the same, the defense was the same, yet the offense as a whole felt different. Pickett threw with great anticipation, got more people involved and was able to make plays when they presented themselves. For only two drives, Pickett has made a push to get playing time in the regular season.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit
Well, it didn’t take long for T.J. Watt to warm up. After Watt registered his sack of Trevor Lawrence, Mike Tomlin told him to go take his pads off and enjoy the rest of the game. Nonetheless, it was good to see Watt pick up where he left off after his Defensive Player of the Year season in 2021.
Stat Line: 2 rec., 35 yards, 17.5 average, 24 long, 2 targets
For Freiermuth, who didn’t play in Week 1 of the preseason, it took until Pickett was under center for him to even get a pass thrown his way. It was Pickett who hit Freiermuth twice, both passes were caught, on the only scoring drive of the first half. Freiermuth can be a crazy weapon, if utilized, and it was great to see him back on the field.
Stat Line: 2 rec., 33 yards, 16.5 average, 17 long, 4 targets
Like Freiermuth, Johnson hadn’t seen the playing field since inking his new two-year extension with the Steelers. While Johnson’s play wasn’t out-of-this-world amazing, he could have had at least one touchdown on his record. Johnson caught a pass from Pickett which everyone thought was the go-ahead score, but it was negated by a penalty. Likewise, Johnson almost took a 17-yard reception the distance if he wasn’t tripped up on the play. It was a good first step back for Johnson.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit
Leal had been close to getting a sack against the Seahawks in Week 1 of the preseason, but his hustle paid off in Week 2 when he was able to get his first professional sack. Leal continues to improve and has the look of a defensive lineman both with versatility and potential who could be with the team for a very long time.
Stat Line: Too many numbers to type them out...
Is it the 1.7 rushing yards per game? How about quarterbacks either taking hits or running for their lives? What about penalties? Free rushers unabated to the quarterback? Yeah, this offensive line did it all Saturday night, and very little of it was good. James Daniels might be the biggest disappointment thus far, and getting him right could start everyone else headed in that direction too.
Stat Line: 14 rushes, 24 yards, 1.7 average, 0 TD, 11 long
The Steelers gave up on the run early, and it was obvious why they did. Why bang your head against the wall repeatedly and expect a different result? That’s the definition of insanity. Nonetheless, the offensive line which opened up holes for every back last week failed to arrive in Florida for the Jaguars preseason game.
Stat Line: 30 rushes, 97 yards, 3.2 average, 1 TD, 12 long
The Steelers held the Jaguars to under 100 yards on the ground, but the early stages of the game saw the same lackluster run defense everyone witnessed in 2021. Can the Steelers rectify the run defense? I guess you could consider this game a step in the right direction, but it certainly still needs plenty of work.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 3-for-11
As I always say, the goal is .500 or better. 3 of 11 isn’t even close. It was as bad as those numbers indicate, if you missed the game and were wondering...
Stat Line: 6-for-48 yards
This game felt very one-sided when it came to penalties. Nonetheless, the Steelers doubled up the Jaguars, 3, penalty total with some really bone-headed calls. Sure, some were iffy at best, but you have to play a clean brand of football if you want to remain relevant in today’s NFL.
Stat Line: The delay sucks
I’m sure many of you reading this are like me and ponied up the money for one month of NFL+ to watch the Steelers preseason games. I was wondering if I enjoyed the experience if I’d keep going with NFL+ for the entire season. Yeah, that isn’t happening. Instead of advertising for live games, they should just call them delayed games. I’m okay if I’m a play behind, but five? That’s a bit much, and judging by Twitter, I’m not alone. The NFL would be wise to try and get the streams improved before they start pulling an ESPN and jacking up the price for even the basic NFL+ package.
For more on these Winners and Losers, check out the latest “Let’s Ride” podcast for that, and more! Click the player below: