What is the worst nightmare for coaches and fans alike during the preseason? In a word, injuries. Pittsburgh encountered such a dilemma on Saturday night, as the Steelers visited western New York to do battle with the Bills.
On the second offensive drive of the first quarter, rookie offensive right guard David DeCastro got pushed backwards and awkward had his knee twisted beneath him, causing the Stanford alumnus and Steeler first round pick (selected #24 overall) to go down in a heap. He pounded the turf and attempted to walk off the field, but could not put any weight on his right leg. The cart was needed to take a disconsolate DeCastro off the field. Sunday’s MRI confirmed that DeCastro has an MCL tear in his right knee, which may cause him to miss the majority, if not all of the 2012 season.
In my opinion, DeCastro was one of the top five Steelers who could not afford to suffer an injury in the preseason, behind perhaps only Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Maurkice Pouncey, and Antonio Brown. DeCastro was meant to be a solidifying force for the offensive line, who (let’s face it) has been a liability for several years now. No offense to Ramon Foster, the backup right guard, but this was a crippling blow to an already suspect unit. The offensive philosophy constructed by new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, relies on a clean pocket and rhythm passing. I would not expect the Steelers to make any significant trades or signings to address the loss of DeCastro.
Other Game Notes
Ben Roethlisberger took nearly two quarters to look comfortable behind center, but the introduction of the no huddle offense yielded a 98-yard touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter. Big Ben used five different receivers to methodically march down the field in just 93 seconds.
Each running back showed some spark at various points throughout the game, despite running behind a pedestrian offensive line. Isaac Redman bullied his way into the red zone on a 3rd and goal opportunity halfway through the second quarter. He got his pad level lower than the opposing linebacker and, with the help of Ramon Foster pushing him forward, hit paydirt and lived up to his nickname “Red Zone” Redman. Jonathan Dwyer looked like a very adept pass receiver out of the backfield with a 33-yard sideline grab, which jumpstarted the Steelers offense on the scoring drive just before halftime. Chris Rainey made an electric run late in the fourth quarter by sticking his foot in the ground before cutting upfield on an off tackle run to baffle the Bills would-be defender, going untouched on a 41-yard touchdown run. Baron Batch even managed to squirt through a few holes to notch a few solid runs against backups.
The first team offensive line fared poorly, especially against the interior pass rush of the stellar Bills defensive line, most notably Marcell Dareus. Even with some quicker patterns, Big Ben was under duress for the majority of the first half.
Byron Leftwich made a strong case for himself as the #2 QB. The question now becomes – Charlie Batch or Jerrod Johnson as the #3 signal-caller.
The Dick LeBeau defense desires to bring pressure to the opposing quarterback. Although the first unit did not reach Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, they were in his face and forcing the ball out early. It was a preseason game, so the blitz was not as well disguised as it will be come September 9th.
It was a rather uneven performance by the Steelers defense.
Lawrence Timmons jolted the ball out of Bills RB C.J. Spiller’s arms in the second quarter. Steelers DE Ziggy Hood got the fortuitous bounce of the ball, as it landed directly in his arms. This gave Pittsburgh a short field in which to operate before evening the score at 7-7 in the second quarter.
Cortez Allen showcased excellent stride-for-stride coverage on Bills receivers.
Troy Polamalu exhibited his impeccable instincts by cutting in front of an underthrown Vince Young deep out pattern to intercept the first pass of the second half.
Linebacker Chris Carter played the majority of the game, but did not make any “splash” plays aside from a shoestring sack after being driven to the turf. He was in for the better part of three quarters, often facing Bills backup linemen. Carter will likely start at right outside linebacker until James Harrison recovers from knee surgery.
Fred Jackson was able to find open grass off tackle on a few different plays as the Steelers were unable to properly cut off the edge with outside linebackers (LaMarr Woodley) and defensive backs (Troy Polamalu).
One more preseason game to go. Steeler Nation is hoping that its team can avoid any further injuries before the regular season begins in two weeks in Denver.
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.