Redskins 16, Steelers 7: The Antonio Brown Show!

Can you believe the NFL gets people to pay full price for these games? It’s amazing. We were able to get our first look at the 2011 Steelers on Friday night, and they dropped their preseason opener by a 16-7 margin to the Washington Redskins. Some thoughts on the action…

– I hope you guys like touchbacks. I mean, if you get excited watching kickers drill the ball eight yards into the end zone, or completely through the end zone, you’re going to absolutely love this season. There were eight kickoffs in this game and seven of them went for touchbacks. The one return we did see was from Washington’s Brandon Banks — a 54-yard run-back — that started from about seven yards deep in his own end zone. How pissed off do you think a team like the Cleveland Browns are right now? The NFL essentially took away their best player (Josh Cribbs) by moving the kickoffs to the 35-yard line. Maybe he’ll just say the hell with it and run them all out anyway. Assuming the kickoff doesn’t go through the end zone.

– The Redskins played their first team offense, including quarterback Rex Grossman, for the entire first half. The Steelers first team defense looked rusty to say the least, and allowed Washington to start its first drive on its own one-yard line and move all the way inside the 15 until Shayne Graham honked what should have been a chip shot. The coaching staff was clearly not thrilled with how the defense looked (and it should be pointed out that Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Bryant McFadden didn’t play) and kept them out there longer than initially planned. We had a scare midway through the second quarter when starting middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons was on the wrong end of a three-way collision with Ryan Mundy and a Redskins receiver. He stayed down for a bit and looked to be in a great deal of pain, but appears to be OK.

In other injury news (and this is what we wanted to avoid), starting cornerback Ike Taylor broke his thumb and Ryan Clark went off with what appeared to be a stinger. Taylor’s thumb shouldn’t be much of an issue going forward, and, hey, it’s not like he had great hands to begin with.

– On offense the story of the night was Antonio Brown. He simply looked outstanding, and every time the play went to his side of the field, good things happened. He finished with four catches for 64 yards, including a 29-yard grab, drew a pass interference penalty and made a key block on an Isaac Redman touchdown run in the second quarter. He also smoked Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall on a deep route down the sidelines only to have Byron Leftwich overthrow him. That was the only ball thrown in his direction (not including the pass interference penalty, which he still almost caught) that he didn’t catch.

– Ben Roethlisberger played one series and completed two of his three passes for 22 yards. His only miss was on a deep ball for a wide open Mike Wallace that was overthrown. That’s not easy to do. I imagine in a few weeks, once these guys get their timing back, that play goes for a touchdown.

One thing is for sure: The Steelers wide receivers, particularly Wallace and Brown, are fast. Very, very fast.

– Isaac Redman ran hard and ended up scoring the Steelers’ only touchdown, an impressive 22-yard run late in the second quarter. I still want to see this guy get more carries this year.

– JJ is the offensive line expert around these parts so he would have a better idea as to what was going on than I will at this point, but Chris Scott did not have a strong game, whiffing on a couple of blocks in pass protection.

– Jonathan Dwyer’s night looked like his first three preseason games last year. He finished with seven yards on five carries. Mewelde Moore didn’t show much either, and dropped a pass he should have caught.

– I don’t know if Limas Sweed was inactive, or not available to play, but he did not see one snap. The following receivers did: Wes Lyons, Eric Greenwood, Tyler Grisham and Terrence McRae. I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret: I don’t think Limas is going to make the team this year.

I was going to keep track of how many times Grisham was compared to Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, and the final tally ended up being zero. Well, actually, I gave Bob Pompeani and Edmund Nelson a half of a reference because Nelson remarked at one time that Grisham reminds him of “one of those short, fast receivers in New England that nobody can keep up with.” Welker wasn’t mentioned by name, but he at least mentioned the Patriots. Close enough. And worthy of a half.

If you’re one of the folks that wants to see the Steelers find a tall wide receiver, you probably have dreams about Wes Lyons because they don’t get much taller than him at six-foot-eight. He wasn’t exactly a productive receiver at West Virginia, but damn is he big. He had one ball thrown in his direction, which he dropped, and then proceeded to hit his head off the field, forcing him to leave the game. Probably not the entrance he wanted to make

Perhaps this is an example as to how deep these early preseason rosters are, and how unlikely it is some of these guys make the team, but when Eric Greenwood caught a 29-yard pass late in the fourth quarter (and it was a nice grab on the sidelines) I found myself sitting on my couch and saying out loud, to no one in particular, “who the f$%!* is Eric Greenwood?”

– First-round pick Cam Heyward made his preseason debut and looked impressive. His best play came when he fought through a block and chased down Redskins running back Ray Helu from behind and managed to swing him around and slam him to the ground for a short loss.

– Dennis Dixon played the fourth quarter and looked … well, not good. Of course, he was playing behind a third-and-fourth string offensive line and wasn’t getting any help from his receivers, especially Arnaz Battle who had a rough night catching the football. He had at least three drops and only caught two of the six balls thrown his direction for a total of 22 yards.

– Daniel Sepulveda and Jeremy Kapinos both had strong nights punting. Sepulveda’s first punt went 61 yards and was downed at the one-yard line. He averaged 51 yards per punt (four of them), while Kapinos averaged 49.8 on his four punts.

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  • Hutch

    C. Scott is a tough dude to figure out on the field. He obviously blew a pass block to Bowens early (the result of which was Leftwich literally being clobbered) and blew a couple of blocks in the run game early on. On the other hand, he showed the ability to get upfield to block backers on a few running plays and ran all the way across the field to actually block a guy on the Antonio Brown WR screen early. He’s got visible upside (he’s obviously more mobile than Foster and more powerful at the point than Legursky) but the coaches are going to have to be patient and bring him up to NFL game speed – it’s been a while since he’s played real, live football. Or they could just put Foster in to begin the season and slide Scott in later.

     Legursky misread a blitz early and jumped over to help Scott only to have a ‘backer swarm in through the spot he vacated. There were a couple of moments of poor communication between Keith Williams and Gilbert as well. This is what you get with such a short offseason. 

  • Anonymous

    Glad to hear Timmons is okay. That’s really bad news about Clark, though. Isn’t a singer the injury that ended Max Starks’ career? What are the chances he plays this season?

    • http://twitter.com/walterflanagan walterflanagan

      According to Clark on his Twitter he is fine. “Sheesh! Gotta get better! I’m good though! A little banged up but ok! Getting to work immediately tomorrow! God bless guys!”

  • http://twitter.com/walterflanagan walterflanagan

    I expect great things from Brown nowadays. Ward-Wallace-Brown-Sanders (when healed)-Cotchery. I’d say we’ve got solid depth and good players down the line at WR.

    Player who surprised me the most last night? Ryan Mundy. Mundy had an absolute beast game. It was a shame the rest of the team wasn’t executing so well which forced Mundy to play as he did, but I’m glad he was up to the task.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      Upon first viewing I completely agree on Mundy. 

      And, yes, Dwyer looked like crap. Of course, he usually doesn’t warm up until Week 4 of the preseason, so that’s worth keeping in mind. Still too bad we don’t get to see Baron Batch.

      Gonna try to rewatch the game Sunday and have something up by Monday AM.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Cromartie-Smith made at least 5 hard hits in the game.  With all of Troy’s injuries, I could see him making the team as a 5th safety and special teams hitter.

  • Rob D

    Easy, I also really noticed Cromartie-Smith..He looked to me like he was always around the ball and delivered a few slobberknockers.

    Antonio Brown…holy cow..did we steal one there or what? Guy looks like he has learned a lot from Hines with regard to blocking plus he’s feisty and faster than a speeding bullet. Wonderful stuff..

    Heyward looks like a true No. 1 pick..athleticism wedded to instincts. Being a huge Aaron Smith fan but realizing Aaron is near the end, its great to have two up and comers  like Heyward and Hood on the roster.

    Mundy ..he looked involved and played much more aggresively than I have ever seen him. I think he got burned once but the utter lack of any pressure on the QB will make a secondary look bad. He made the tackles when called on.

    Redman looks bigger..and he’s running hard with some wiggle. Love that guy..he needs more carries this year.

    Agree with Hutch on C.Scott..I think he’s going to be a player for us but he needs work like many of them do.

    Not a lot of penalties (did we have more than one?) so that’s cool.

    Robo did his thing..stay healthy young man.

    I think we can safely say that the Limas Sweed “era” is over. Didn’t play and now has very few opportunities left to show he can play in the NFL. I think it was Dulac who said that the game is just too big for him and the Steelers know it. Too bad..I loved the pick when they made it but that’s life in the NFL..sometimes you gamble and lose.

  • Rob D

    Easy, I also really noticed Cromartie-Smith..He looked to me like he was always around the ball and delivered a few slobberknockers.

    Antonio Brown…holy cow..did we steal one there or what? Guy looks like he has learned a lot from Hines with regard to blocking plus he’s feisty and faster than a speeding bullet. Wonderful stuff..

    Heyward looks like a true No. 1 pick..athleticism wedded to instincts. Being a huge Aaron Smith fan but realizing Aaron is near the end, its great to have two up and comers  like Heyward and Hood on the roster.

    Mundy ..he looked involved and played much more aggresively than I have ever seen him. I think he got burned once but the utter lack of any pressure on the QB will make a secondary look bad. He made the tackles when called on.

    Redman looks bigger..and he’s running hard with some wiggle. Love that guy..he needs more carries this year.

    Agree with Hutch on C.Scott..I think he’s going to be a player for us but he needs work like many of them do.

    Not a lot of penalties (did we have more than one?) so that’s cool.

    Robo did his thing..stay healthy young man.

    I think we can safely say that the Limas Sweed “era” is over. Didn’t play and now has very few opportunities left to show he can play in the NFL. I think it was Dulac who said that the game is just too big for him and the Steelers know it. Too bad..I loved the pick when they made it but that’s life in the NFL..sometimes you gamble and lose.

  • Randy Steele

    Just noticed that former camp darling Sunny Harris was waived today. The Steelers F.O. must be feeling pretty good about the depth on the d-line.

    • Anonymous

      I would think so. They have 6 linemen who would start on most teams.

      • Randy Steele

        This from Bouchette’s chat today:
        Okiesteelerfan: ”Was the Ra’shon Harris cut due to the impressive rookie DE’s or was he hurt badly?”Ed Bouchette: ”Sunny has had many chances and made good on none of them.”

    • http://twitter.com/walterflanagan walterflanagan

      Perhaps I am mistaken, but didn’t Harris go off from the sidelines on the cart with what looked like an ankle injury? It may have been a different player, but I’m fairly certain it was Harris and I get the feeling that could be playing into it a little.