The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they hosted the Detroit Lions in Week 3 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 final game of the preseason...
Stat Line: 0 points surrendered, 48 yards rushing allowed, 75 yards passing allowed
The Steelers’ starting defense played a half of football, and they were dominant when they were all on the field. They weren’t playing Jared Goff. Who cares? The Lions aren’t world-beaters this season. Who cares? Fans love to complain about the team playing down to competition, but this is exactly what the defense should do against lesser competition. They didn’t give up a point, and stopped both the run and the pass. Not sure what else they could do any better. Kudos to the group, and it was good seeing the gang back together again.
Stat Line: 1-for-1, 1 TD
The first half offense was pretty putrid, outside of the two minute drill to end the half. For some reason, regardless of who is at quarterback, the Steelers just move the ball better when they are in the hurry-up. I’m not suggesting the Steelers turn into a hurry-up offense, but it will be interesting to see if Matt Canada does more up-tempo style offensive schemes to get the team in a rhythm. It clearly works as they look totally different when they are working this style of offense.
Stat Line: 3 catches, 41 yards, 13.7 average, 29 long, 3 targets
There are players on the roster bubble every season who need to play big in the final preseason game. I’d lump Boykin into that mix, and he played extremely well in this game. 3 catches on 3 targets for 41 yards was a great showing, and a reason why he finds himself on the winners list. Also, his play gives him an outstanding chance at making the roster. A good day for a guy who needed a good day.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 2 solo, 1 pass defense, 1 INT
There is a rumor circulating the Steelers might try to lock up Cam Sutton with a new contract before the season begins. If I’m being honest, I think it would be a smart decision. Mike Tomlin called Sutton the smartest player he’s ever coached. Think about that, but he also played well on Sunday with his interception setting up the offense with a golden opportunity. The defense needs a playmaker in the secondary not named Fitzpatrick, and maybe Sutton is that guy.
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 pass defense, 1 QB Hit
Fitzpatrick was his usual self in this game, but what amazed me the most was how the defense utilized his skill set. Minkah wasn’t roaming the deep secondary trying to bait quarterbacks into ill-advised throws. He was back breaking up passes, but was also playing a pseudo linebacker role as well, and even had a sack in this game. Look for Fitzpatrick to be more of a playmaker this season, and not just a deep safety. I’m here for this new Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 1 solo, 2 pass defenses
It was good to see big Cam back on the field and batting balls at the line of scrimmage. The defensive front looked completely different with No. 97 back on the field for the first time this preseason. I’ve said it a million times, but Heyward is the MVP of this team...and it showed by how the rest of the defense responded Sunday.
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 2 solo, 1 pass defense
Riley was the player signed earlier last week when the team released Donovan Stiner with an injury designation. Riley got into Pittsburgh Wednesday, and went straight to practice. A cool story, but a story doesn’t land you on the winners list. What lands you on the winners list is showing up on film, and he did just that. With the injury to Kazee, the Steelers have to be wondering if Riley can fill in and get the job done. It was a small sample size, and the New York Jets waived him, but I liked what I saw from the newest member of the secondary.
Stat Line: 11 penalties for 95 yards
I might be alone here, but it felt like the refs were flagging everything in this game, but the Steelers didn’t help their cause either. What’s crazy is there were 11 accepted penalties, those don’t count the penalties which were declined. There were 21 total accepted penalties by both teams. Just ugly on all fronts.
Stat Line: Diontae Johnson, T.J. Watt, Damontae Kazee
Losing players to injury always stinks. Losing players to injury in a preseason game is even worse. Thankfully, the injuries to Johnson and Watt are not deemed serious; however, the injury to Kazee is thought to be more of the serious variety. It’s a shame considering how great a camp and preseason Kazee was having. The hope is he isn’t lost for the season with his wrist injury.
Stat Line: 0-for-3
Rudolph didn’t play poorly. He didn’t technically deserve to be put on the loser list, but I felt it appropriate when I think about how he simply never really got the chance to compete for the quarterback job. Sure, he played well the first week of camp, but this was never really a gig for Mason to win. It’s a shame, and it stinks for his future with the Steelers and in the NFL.
Stat Line: 1-for-4
The Steelers’ four trips into the red-zone were all quarterbacked by Mitch Trubisky. Two of those three visits were gift wrapped by the defense, one on a turnover on downs and another on Sutton’s interception. Converting in the red-zone is a critical part of the game, and it was obviously a bad part of the Steelers’ game Sunday. Just think how the feeling around the game would be if they finished 3-of-4, instead of just scoring one touchdown? That’s the difference between success and failure in the NFL.
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 4-for-13
If you read this article regularly, you know the goal is .500. That is far from this goal, hence why the unit finds themselves on the loser list.
For more on the Winners and Losers from Sunday’s game, check out the most recent Let’s Ride podcast: