I don’t want to make too big a deal about this because, well, we’re one game into the preseason, and guys have been practicing a grand total of two weeks after no OTAs or minicamps. It shouldn’t be a surprise that last Friday’s effort was somewhere south of mediocre. It’s just hard to reconcile the Steelers’ no-show performance with Rex Grossman playing like a competent NFL quarterback.
Next up: the Steelers host the Eagles. The last time these two met in a meaningful game it was early in the 2008 season and Philly’s defense absolutely dominated Pittsburgh’s offensive line and sacked Ben eight times before Tomlin took mercy on him and pulled him. This time, the Eagles come to town as the Dream Team, and if their Week 1 first-team effort against the Ravens is any indication, their defense is as tenacious as ever.
Hopefully, the Steelers decide to actually block defenders this time around. Which brings us to Tony Hills, seemingly on the coaches’ shit list his entire career only to suddenly emerge as a possible starting right guard candidate. Very weird. But, hey, if he’s the best guy for the gig, more power to him, and credit to Tomlin and Kugler for giving it a try. Hills is also the backup left tackle, although it sounds like rookie second-rounder Marcus Gilbert could assume that role in the near future.
JJ’s mentioned it previously, but Pittsburgh’s legitimate depth along the interior line borders on the absurd. I joked that the Steelers should regularly feature an unbalanced line made up of Pouncey and guards, and take it from there.
On the other side of the ball — and with nowhere near the depth — are the cornerbacks. Ike broke his thumb against the Skins and he’s expected to miss the rest of the preseason. That’s not a problem because we all know what Ike can do (cover and tackle) and what he can’t (catch). No amount of pretend games will change that.
For everybody else, though, questions remain. Chief among them: who can, you know, play cornerback well enough to earn some playing time? B-Mac will miss another game with a tight hammy. Going forward, I’m going to assume that B-Mac is hurt until I hear otherwise. He had six months off, and after a week of practice, he pulled up lame. Maybe this is a blessing — at the very least, we’ll get to see if anybody else can play, because at this point I don’t expect B-Mac to play more than four games all season. (Yes, I’m sorta frustrated.)
Also out against the Eagles: Crezdon Butler and Cortez Allen. I’m less concerned about Allen since this is a redshirt season for him anyway, but Crezdon needs reps. On the other hand, Keenan Lewis and Curtis Brown should be available. It’s something.
Perhaps I’m overreacting. DrObvious made a good point in the comments regarding William Gay — “I think you are a little too hard on Gay, suggesting that he should be moved to dime. When he plays over the middle as the 3rd CB, he’s done very well. It’s only when he’s been on the outside (or playing against NE…) that’s he’s really struggled.”
I don’t disagree with that — and, truthfully, my animosity was probably displaced after watching Lewis and Butler do little against the Skins and not watching B-Mac at all.
Here’s the bottom line: the Steelers need two CBs to step up over the next three weeks. Ike’s job is set, Gay’s nickel back job is set, but there’s a need for a No. 2 starter and a dime back. I know Juan sometimes assumes the dime roll, but when teams spread the Steelers out (and they will), it would be nice if, say, Butler or Brown, or, hell, Lewis, could contribute.
That’s all I’m saying.