Some Thoughts on a Rather Uninspiring Preseason Game 1
Steelers/Lions is in the books, and the usual stuff happened.
Bruce Gradkowski got injured (hamstring) after a three-and-out and a drive featuring two first downs. He played a total of ten snaps. Hopefully it’s not a big deal, but I wrote “out for the season” in my notes. We’ll see.
An offensive lineman got injured, and although he walked off the field by himself it didn’t look great. It was Brian Mihalik, AKA Alejandro Villanueva 2. He is another defensive lineman cut by the Eagles, signed by Pittsburgh, and converted to an offensive lineman. As it happens, he’s also 6’9″. Weird.
Ross Ventrone left with a hamstring injury, the same thing that got him cut last season.
It was that kind of night.
The Steelers offense didn’t manage a first down under Landry Jones until well into the second quarter. In fact, the defense put the first points on the board. Doran Grant, who was cut last year after a poor showing at camp, is back and made some big plays in the game, none bigger than his pick six. Mind you, it was practically gift-wrapped by Dan Orlovsky, who made a very poor decision as to where to throw the ball away as he was trying to avoid a sack.
And Grant, and the rest of the defense, had plenty of chances to demonstrate what they could do, as the Steelers had held the ball less than five minutes, 23 minutes into the game. However, the offense finally woke up, getting three first downs in a row, and Jones found Darius Heyward-Bey in the corner of the endzone for what would prove to be the only offensive touchdown for the Steelers all night.
The second half began with the Steelers holding onto a tenuous 1 point lead (13-14). The defense did force the Lions to punt, and Gradkowski was in. After his three-and-out the Lions got a field goal, and the next promising Steelers drive did end in a field goal, despite No. 5 having to leave the game. But then things went south. Or at least the Lions’ kick returner did, taking the kick from the 4-yard line all the way to the opposite end zone. Dang.
The next Steelers series was a three-and-out orchestrated by Dustin Vaughan, who was the quarterback of record for the rest of the night. From that point on the Steelers got two first downs. Not in succession.
Thank heavens it is the preseason. If Mike Tomlin was looking for things to work on, he got a boatload of them tonight. Here are a few observations:
I thought it was curious that the Steelers’ kickoffs were always returnable whereas the Lions mainly kicked them through the end zone. I don’t think it is for a lack of ability for Boswell—I’m assuming that MT (and Danny Smith) wanted a good look at the coverage units. Makes sense to me. But I wonder why the Lions wouldn’t feel the same.
Jordan Berry made some great punts. Will Monday has a long way to go. As noted in Wednesday’s Camp Diary, Berry is in no danger of losing the job.
I wish someone would tell Chris Boswell that Steeler Nation can’t take another series of bad kickers. One year in Kicker Hell is enough. Therefore, he should NOT BE TRYING TO TACKLE THE RETURNER IN A MEANINGLESS PRESEASON GAME. And probably not in a meaningful regular season game either. Not only was he not successful, he took a knee to the head, although it didn’t appear to faze him.
James Harrison is still the man. The coaching staff planned to hold him out, but he insisted on playing and ended a promising Lions drive, quarterbacked by Matthew Stafford, with a strip sack that Arthur Moats recovered at the PIT 37. This gift went unappreciated by an ungrateful offense, who went three-and-out.
Daryl Richardson had a great game, with some impressive runs, admittedly against the Lions’ second team. He was one of the few offensive bright spots. Alejandro Villanueva was responsible for a couple of sacks. Sammie Coates, alas, had a dreadful game. He dropped a couple of passes, fumbled twice, and was generally not a success. Darius Heyward-Bey caught the touchdown pass, with former Steeler Crezdon Butler defending, but he also had a big drop.
I could go on for quite a while. There were highlights, of course. Demarcus Ayres had one of them, on a sweep. Jesse James blocked for him, and he picked up a lot of yards. Doran Grant, as already mentioned, had a great game. Jordan Zumwalt and Tyler Matakevich made some nice plays. Daniel McCullers collapsed the pocket a few times. There were several pass defenses and deflections by the defense.
Overall I would say we’d better hope the starters stay healthy. Keeping them out of tonight’s game was a good start. Ben, AB, DWill, Le’Veon Bell, and Maurkice Pouncey all sat on the sidelines. As they should have. But boy were they missed…