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.