The players that will be cut by the Eagles in three weeks are better than the players that will be cut by the Steelers in three weeks.
That’s what we learned on Thursday night as the Eagles backups overcame an early 13-point deficit to beat the Steelers, 24-23, thanks to a 51-yard field goal from Alex Henery with 12 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
But you don’t care about any of that. You care about the individual players, who stood out, who didn’t, and which players broke rule No. 1 of preseason football and had to leave the game with an injury. So let’s get right into it.
The real winners in this game for the Steelers were Steve McClendon, David Decastro, Chris Rainey and Max Starks, and the latter didn’t even play in the game. He was a winner for the night because we had our first look at the Steelers young offensive line, and the rookie Adams had a rather sluggish start to his career at left tackle. He seemed to handle himself OK in the running game, but pass protection was a mess, which isn’t exactly what you want from your left tackle (though, we’re kind of used to it by now).
If nothing else Adams proved to be excellent at recovering fumbles, falling on two of them (fellow rookie David DeCastro, however, looked very solid), one of them was the direct result of him acting as a human turnstile as Byron Leftwich was hit from behind as he attempted to deliver a pass.
After all of that, Adams left the game with a right leg injury. And oh the injuries.
Along with Adams, the Steelers also lost early camp standout David Johnson to (what appeared to be) a nasty leg injury when right tackle Marcus Gilbert fell on his leg at the end of a play. Mike Tomlin called it “severe” after the game, while also adding that the injury to Adams does not appear to be as serious.
Jonathan Dwyer had a big run in the first quarter but he too had to leave the game after suffering an apparent shoulder injury. According to Tomlin it’s an AC sprain.
Rainey was also shaken up on one play in the first half but not only returned to the game, but also made one of the plays of the night scoring on a 57-yard screen pass from fourth-string quarterback Jerrod Johnson, weaving in and out of tacklers and displaying plenty of the speed we’ve heard so much about so far. He touched the ball quite a bit and even though it didn’t always result in a huge play, it always seemed to be exciting.
After one preseason game the Todd Haley offense seemed to deliver on a lot of its promises, at least as it relates to a lot of short, quick, high percentage passes. Antonio Brown made a few plays, as did Emmanuel Sanders as he scored one of their two touchdowns, hauling in a rocket of a pass from Leftwich on a third-and-goal play inside the five-yard line.
Defensively, Steve McClendon had an opportunity to start at nose tackle and let’s just begin with this: there is no way that guy is only 280 pounds like the Steelers are trying to convince us with their official roster. That man is huge, and on Thursday night he was absolutely crushing people. He was perhaps the best player on the first team defense (which played well, completely shutting down the Eagles offense).
One player that didn’t seem to do any favors for himself defensively was Curtis Brown.
The play of the night, however, has to go to defensive tackle Al Woods as he perfectly read a screen pass, stepped in front of the receiver, and picked off a Mike Kafka pass and rumbled down the field. It was the only moment of the night that caused me to raise my voice above a conversational tone as I pleaded with the big man to run. He was caught from behind inside the five and the Steelers had to eventually settle for a field goal. If you don’t smile when a lineman gets an opportunity to run with the football, well, then I’m not sure what to say to you.
One preseason game is in the books and the Steelers will play their first home game next Sunday night against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
Let’s hear you thoughts on Game 1…