A Few More Thoughts on Steelers/Lions
Friday night as I wrote my post I didn’t really even use the quite detailed game notes I made, thus leading to attributing DHB’s touchdown catch to Xavier Grimble. I decided that despite my reluctance to relive that game, I should really go through and see if there is more to glean from the game. So here goes.
The two guys who lined up in the endzone to take kickoffs were Sammie Coates and Fitzgerald Toussaint for the first half and Levi Norwood and Daryl Richardson for the second half. Many of the kickoffs were not returnable, although a couple in the second half were rather short. Whether that was by design or because the rookie kicker was nervous, I don’t know.
But in no instance did any returner for the Steelers get the ball past the 22 yard line. Since a touchback is placed at the 25 yard line, it will be surprising if many teams opt for returns when the ball enters the end zone. UNLESS, that is, you have a guy like Detroit rookie seventh-round pick Dwayne Washington, who took it to the house last night. I feel fairly confident in stating at this juncture that the Steelers haven’t found someone like that yet.
Penalties were rampant on Friday night. There were 10 penalties in the first half alone, six of them on Detroit. Curiously, none of the Steelers penalties were incurred by a rookie except the one on Sean Davis, for a horsecollar tackle. Actually, it was a “collar” tackle, as he grabbed the back of the jersey of the guy he was tackling at the neck, but apparently they are calling those horsecollar tackles as well, and penalizing them. The rest of the Steelers penalties in the first half were called on Alejandro Villanueva (two) and Ross Cockrell (one.)
The second half was a different, and sadder, story, with seven penalties, five of which were on Steelers players. Two of the five were on newly signed one year vets, center Valerian Ume-Ezeoke and CB Al-Hajj Shabazz. These may sound like made-up names, but I assure you they are on the roster. For now, anyhow. One was on “old” one-year vet Xavier Grimble, one on third-year vet Chris Hubbard. The final one was the only rookie, OT Jerald Hawkins.
As far as the quarterbacks go, none of them threw a pick. That is something to build on. But none of them threw much of anything, either. Landry Jones had a total of 55 yards in his half of the game. He was 6/12, which was only partially his fault. As noted last night, there were a couple of well-thrown balls that were dropped by the receiver. There was also an incomplete which got a PI call for Heyward-Bey.
So considering how few passing attempts there were in the first half, you probably think there were a lot of running plays, and you would be wrong. There were only seven run plays in the first half. Most of the attempts were by Daryl Richardson, who had a couple of nice runs, one for 12 yards and one (on 2nd and 8) for eight yards. (He ended up with a 4.0 YPC, which was, strangely, exactly the same as Fitzgerald Toussaint average.) The total yardage the Steelers had accumulated by halftime was 81 big ones, 46 passing and 35 rushing. They had held the ball for only 9:15.
Things improved a bit in the second half, as a combination of Bruce Gradkowski and Dustin Vaughan threw for 72 yards. Be still my beating heart. The offense also managed 50 yards rushing in the second half. However, over a fifth of them (11) were by Bruce Gradkowski, including the one he pulled a hamstring on.
It was interesting that much has been made of the physical nature of the training camp practices. In fact, the announcers, Bob Pompieni and Charlie Batch, were chatting at the beginning of the game about how surprised the Lions players were to see so much hitting taking place in practice, as they mainly touched people down at their practices. For all the good the physicality at practices did the Steelers, if one were to judge by Friday’s game, you might as well keep everyone safe.
The big disappointment of the game was of course the offense. The starting offensive line was the same line that took the field for the Denver playoff game and did a good job with the vaunted Denver defense. I’m not sure what happened over the summer, but they sure didn’t look as good on Friday. I suppose it is possible that the difference was the quarterback. I don’t mean to rag on Landry Jones—he may not be Ben Roethlisberger, but then again hardly anyone else is either.
But special teams was nothing to write home about either. There were missed tackles in abundance. However, there were also no ST penalties whatsoever, at least until the very end of the game. So again perhaps that’s something to build on.
Keith Butler sure isn’t afraid to send pressure. Sometimes it worked. The defense allowed a lot of first downs but not a lot of scoring, at least until they had been on the field constantly. A pick-six is great, but it doesn’t give the defense a rest. Nor does a constant series of 3-and-outs from the offense.
There were a few hopeful signs in the defense. A couple of the young ‘uns had some nice plays, and the play of Doran Grant was especially heartening after losing Senquez Golson. I’m not sure anyone was expecting anything from Grant, so it’s sort of a bonus. The same could be said about Shamarko Thomas, who pretty much everyone has written off as anything but a special teams player. Unfortunately, despite some nice plays and solid tackling, he also had one of his patented bone-headed moves that allowed a receiver to catch the ball and run a long way untouched. Mind you, he wasn’t the only one who seemed confused on occasion. But the new guys at least have an excuse.
Well, this gam doesn’t count, and neither do the next three. And that’s about as positive a spin as I can put on what was a really discouraging game. If any of you have any more uplifting stuff to add, please do.