In the preseason, I am far more intrigued by how a team plays than the end result of the game. As such, this week’s review focuses on different facets of the game. Though it hardly matters, the Pittsburgh Steelers won 26-24 over the Indianapolis Colts.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a terrible read as the Colts safety, Antoine Bethea, undercut a WR out route to intercept a pass on the opening drive.
Ben showed some good pocket presence on multiple occasions, although it didn’t amount to more than a few long incompletions. His escapeability is so unique.
The short passing game was used again almost exclusively this week. Don’t be surprised to see some deep passes once the regular season rolls around.
Jerrod Johnson was surprisingly poised in mop-up duty. He managed the game well, hit open passes, and showed some athleticism. Could he steal a roster spot from either Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich? Hmm….
Rookie running back, Chris Rainey, took a shoulder to the head, which forced him to fumble early in the game. It initially appeared that he might have suffered a mild concussion, but that apparently was not the case because Rainey returned to the game before the 1st half expired.
Jonathan Dwyer broke off a big run on what looked more like a zone blocking scheme showing off some of his versatility. He got to the outside using decent quickness and had a strong run upfield in the 1st quarter.
I have to give credit to the NBC commentators to compare recently signed RB, Jason Ford, to Jerome Bettis. He looked to be roughly the same size with similar quick feet. Now, no one is Jerome, but the style similarity was apt.
Antonio Brown is absolutely electric in the open field (think Santonio Holmes without the attitude). Get him the ball in space and let him do the rest.
David Gilreath made some fantastic catches on various patterns (fly, crossing, and out routes) from Charlie Batch and Jerrod Johnson in the second half. Gilreath could be a fringe practice squad player, maybe threatening to make the team if Mike Wallace continues to hold out.
Emphasis on protection was evident with Colts DEs being double-teamed on some of the more obvious passing downs.
Did you notice #7 taking any unnecessary shots? For once, I didn’t. I’ll take that as a positive from this game for the O-line. Is it just me, or does Charlie Batch almost always take big hits?
First year fullback, Will Johnson, had a solid one-on-one block on Colts pass-rushing DE Robert Mathis.
What was nice to see on the screen pass for a 57-yard TD was so many people heading downfield to offer open field blocks (including rookie OG David DeCastro).
Rookie left tackle, Mike Adams returned to action after last week’s injury. But, don’t expect him to be awarded an opening day starting spot. He was beat one-on-one in the 2nd quarter to allow a QB pressure. In the 3rd quarter, he missed an assignment, which caused Charlie Batch to take a huge hit, too. To top it off, he got burnt badly by a backup defensive end that resulted in a 4th quarter sack of Jerrod Johnson.
Kelvin Beachum might get cut tomorrow – too many penalties and missed assignments.
The emphasis was on the running attack early in the game.
The Steelers went to a little no-huddle offense on the second drive. But, no huddle doesn’t mean they didn’t run the ball on 1st and 2nd down…
It is inexcusable to have too many men on the field following a time out. But, that’s just what happened at the end of the first half for the Steelers defense.
LaMarr Woodley stayed at home nicely to sack a bootlegging Andrew Luck with a little help from impressive NT, Steve McLendon.
Luck’s ability to move out of the pocket provided some difficult for the blitz when he rolled out and was still able to find receivers. He threw into several windows, sometimes whizzing passes to receivers, other times showing a bit more finesse on his passes over the outstretched arms of a linebacker. Andrew Luck’s release reminds me of Philip Rivers. Does anyone else see that?
The defense showed great gap responsibility while utilizing run blitzes. Ryan Clark even got to lay a little lumber on one occasion.
Something you don’t often see is a nice off tackle run against the Steelers, but that’s precisely what happened on the first play of the 2nd quarter. Woodley pushed too far upfield and the other defensive linemen were collapsed inward to allow a big gain.
On the Donald Brown goal line TD run in the 2nd quarter, it looked like the Steelers were almost expecting pass. In the regular season, I think they’ll dial up the intensity a bit better on a play like this.
Ryan Baker made Vick Ballard do a 180 with a huge hit in an attempted goal line stand.
The Steelers offered tight coverage early on Indy’s receivers, allowing some more exotic looks for blitzers coming from different angles. Andrew Luck smartly threw shorter, but the defense forced a solid three-and-out on the Colts’ opening drive despite being in poor field position due to Bethea’s interception.
Cornerback Cortez Allen intercepted Andrew Luck after T.Y. Hilton had found a gap in the zone behind Troy Polamalu and Taylor and appeared to haul in long completion. But, Hilton bobbled the ball right to Allen. Let’s call it “the right place at the right time.” Allen later showed great instincts on a WR screen, but didn’t quite get up for the pass to deflect or intercept. I think he has the inside track on the #2 CB job.
Outside linebacker, Chris Carter and Allen had some tight press coverage that could have been defensive pass interference on plays on the Colts’ second drive. Keenan Lewis always appears to have decent coverage on receivers, but appears a split second too late and ends up making tackles instead of pass breakups.
Here’s something you never see – Ike Taylor got two hands on a ball and intercepted the out pattern intended for Reggie Wayne. It helped that Luck stared down Reggie Wayne the entire time the pattern was developing. Taylor went up the sideline untouched for a defensive TD.
The backup cornerbacks in the 3rd quarter (Walter McFadden, Curtis Brown) missed open field tackles after offering several yards of space in man coverage. The fundamentals of this defense won’t allow this pattern to continue.
Steelers Special Teams
Mortty Ivy bullrushed Pat McAfee to block a second-half punt. He showed good strength on an inept blocker to put the Steelers in excellent field position.
Danny Hrapmann made four field goals, including the deflected 22-yard game-winner, and looked very solid in doing so.
The officials had some interesting calls at the end of the first half. They overturned Vick Ballard’s possible TD based on piecing together multiple views to show that the ballcarrier was short of the goal line. It’s difficult to accurately use the aggregate data to overturn the call on the field, but Ballard probably didn’t get to paydirt.
On the very next play (4th and goal), Andrew Luck obviously started to slide before he crossed the goal line. The ruling on the field was a touchdown, and the replay officials must have gone to the concession stand early or been sleeping because Luck was at least a foot shy of crossing the plain.
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.