The Panthers Strike, The Steelers Punt

John Heller/Post-Gazette

It was another minimally inspiring preseason game. The backup quarterback for Carolina, Joe Webb, played the whole game.

The Steelers sent out an assortment of back-ups as well. DeAngelo Williams made it on the field only once, for the coin toss, as the Steelers made him the sole captain for this game. He spent most of the time hugging his former teammates.

Landry Jones played three series, resulting in a three and out, a six and out (if there is such a thing) and a three and out.

Just about the only many busier than Jordan Berry last night was the Panther’s kicker Graham Gano, who was six for seven on the night.

Andy Lee, now the Carolina punter, did a nice job pinning the Steelers deep when he punted. If I may be allowed to digress, the fact that he is in Carolina is rather odd. He was signed by the Browns, but he didn’t attempt to tackle a returner (during, hem hem, a preseason game) and Hue Jackson was reportedly furious, and traded him. If I were 32 years old, weighed 182 pounds dripping wet, and was playing in a meaningless presseason game, I think I would let discretion be the better part of valor. But Hue Jackson chewed him out.

Jackson claims the non-tackle had nothing to do with the trade with Carolina. You know, the cast of characters is constantly changing, but the Browns always manage to keep things interesting…

Back to the game. Quite honestly, there wasn’t much of interest as far as the offense went. Bryn Renner, who one presumes is the lame-duck inhabitant of the QB3 position, played all of the game except the first three series, as Zack Mettenberger isn’t in town yet. There were a lot of rushing plays—22, to be precise, as opposed to 16 pass attempts. Total. The entire evening. This game was really all about the defense, and the coaching staff certainly had an opportunity to get a good look at them.

But before I leave the offense, I will just note that Daryl Richardson had a much or impressive evening than Fitzgerald Toussaint in terms of rushing—he had 45 yards on nine attempts, with a touchdown. He also had two receptions for 13 yards. Toussaint, however, made a couple of key special teams tackles to offset his 11 yards on seven carries.

The offense also coughed up the ball when Cameron Stingley had his sole carry. Carolina recovered.

As they also did on a disastrous punt to Demarcus Ayres. Ayres signaled for a fair catch, decided in the end to let the ball go, and didn’t warn Steven Johnson, who was blocking nearby, to get out of the way. The ball hit Johnson’s leg and Carolina recovered. Johnson got dinged for a fumble, which seems patently unfair.

This wan’t Ayres’ sole poor decision either. Earlier in the game he decided to let a ball go, much as he did the week before, and just as happened the week before, this pinned the Steelers deep in their own territory. This young man needs some lessons from AB on how to make those decisions. Ayres also had a fumble on a carry which he recovered. So I wouldn’t say his stock had risen in this game…

On to the defense. We saw the most of them—they were on the field for almost 39 minutes. Arthur Moats continues to be the sackmeister—he had one and a half (with Hargrave getting the other half) and almost had another one. The only other sack was by Anthony Chickillo, who made a lot of nice plays in this game. Unfortunately he left with an injury, apparently. As did Travis Feeney (concussion protocol). Otherwise there didn’t seem to be a lot of Steeler injuries.

Artie Burns was out there for the first time, and he was up and down. He should have had at least one interception, perhaps two, but seems, at least so far, to have attended the Ike Taylor School of Receiving. (I almost said ball handling, but that would have been a mistake…) He was responsible for at least one blown run coverage. But overall I think he did well, and had a couple of pass defenses.

The duo of Steven Johnson and Tyler Matakevich continued to be impressive. Near the end of the game Charlie Batch was asked by Bob Pompieani whether he thought Matakevich would clear waivers, and Batch said, without hesitation, no. They felt he has to make the roster. We’ll see whether the coaching staff agrees. Jordan Dangerfield put together another good effort in this game. Whether it’s enough to win him a roster spot remains to be seen.

Big Dan (McCullers) had a couple of nice plays in the run game, including a tackle for a one-yard loss. Caushaud Lyons had a couple of great plays, including a tackle for a four-yard loss.

Overall, though, it was rather disconcerting just how much yardage the Steelers gave up on the ground. Admittedly, though, they held Carolina to all field goals, and 18 points doesn’t go that far if the Steelers offense is scoring the way we expect they will.

I’ll be writing a bit more about some of the bubble players, but this will suffice for now.

 

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