The NFL preseason is perfect for caveats. You know, finding a way to talk yourself out of what you are seeing on the field. And through the first two weeks of the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is not immune to this same line of thinking.
In the Week 1 matchup against the New York Giants, the offense sputtered at times, and the defense provided their usual bend-don’t-break style which has been the bedrock of the unit under Keith Butler.
BUT, there was no Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey and Martavis Bryant on offense, and the defense was without Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree and Mike Mitchell.
In Sunday’s Week 2 game against the Atlanta Falcons, the starting defense couldn’t get off the field on third down, and the offense sputtered against the Atlanta starters.
BUT, the offense was hardly at full strength, and the defense was without the same cast of characters as Week 1.
These caveats are 100-percent legitimate, and the main reason why the preseason leaves these gaping loopholes when trying to evaluate the product which is put on the field every week. However, it doesn’t completely eliminate the fact there are some very clear concerns with the team at the halfway point of the preseason.
Before going any further, in Week 3 of the preseason, when most of the missing starters will likely be back on the field, the team could silence critics in many ways, but until that happens, those concerns will continue to fester in the belly of every black and gold fan around the globe.
Anyone who is concerned about the offense should stop right there. Trying to draw any conclusions between Ben Roethlisberger, a future Hall of Fame quarterback, and rookie Joshua Dobbs might need their head examined. No. 7 being in the lineup will dramatically change the offense, for the better. His ability to read defenses, go through his progressions and put the football in places where only his receivers can catch the football will make the offense one of the best in the league.
Now for the defense, I’m not ready to say the return of Shazier, Dupree, Mitchell and James Harrison will be the cure for what is ailing them, but it certainly can’t hurt.
Mike Mitchell has long be overlooked for his ability to be the field general in the defensive secondary, and with Robert Golden in for Mitchell, it leaves Sean Davis and Golden as the primary safety tandem. Doesn’t really scream experience and play making ability.
Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats have shared the spotlight with T.J. Watt this preseason, but Dupree is the man who is supposed to alter the defense. It is Dupree, whose work this offseason had people talking about Defensive Player of the Year possibilities, who should finally start to take the reigns as the next great Steelers pass rusher. Yet he has yet to see the field this preseason.
Along with Dupree, Ryan Shazier’s absence is more than notable. With Shazier on the field, it doesn’t require Vince Williams to do as much, and Shazier will always cover a tremendous amount of ground with his speed and athleticism. Tyler Matakevich is a great story, but he is no Ryan Shazier.
You see where I’m going with this. Are there excuses for the poor play we’ve all witnessed from the Steelers? Absolutely, but “caveat season” is quickly coming to a close. Time for the Steelers to put it all together for the regular season, and that is just a few short weeks away.
A great place to start is to finally get all the players back on the field, eliminating such caveats and loopholes.