Pittsburgh Steelers 20 – New York Giants 12
If this were a regular season game, the pregame hype would have been enormous, as some of the most game-breaking talents reside on each roster respectively. However, as often is the case, the stars were not on the field for any game snaps in the first week of preseason. Notable Steelers Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger along with the Giants’ Eli Manning and Odell Beckham watched from the sidelines. The Steelers gave the start to 2017 4th-round pick Josh Dobbs, and the Giants opted to go with Josh Johnson, whom is in a open competition with Geno Smith for the team’s backup quarterback job.
Both teams forced multiple turnovers that provided their offenses with good field position, but PIT turned a NYG special teams fumble into a touchdown at the end of the first half, and an interception into a field goal in the 3rd quarter for a total of 10 points. NYG turned their two turnovers into 6 points, having to settle for field goals both times. NYG did have a possession late in the game down 8 points, leaving them with a chance to tie the game. Davis Webb led the offense into PIT territory with 2 minutes left, but didn’t make it past the 39-yard line.
- Josh Johnson went 5/10 for 31 yards. He struggled to smoothly go through progressions after his initial target was covered. He was sacked three times in the 1st quarter, 2 of which he had more than enough time to get rid of the ball. He failed to locate the receivers that were open.
- Geno Smith had the better night of the two, going 10/16 for 114 yards, although he did throw an interception (and had another one called back because of a PIT penalty). Smith showed off his strong arm and hit targets on the move. He also did a much better job of keeping his eyes downfield while scrambling.
- Rookie Davis Webb looked solid-enough for a pro debut. He was getting the ball out fast but was wild-high a couple times. Webb also rushed a throw when he didn’t need to, showing a lack of awareness in the pocket. He looked comfortable with his footwork and working under center, two of his holes coming out of college.
- Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen didn’t see a lot of action, combining 6 attempts for 8 yards. Neither made any catches or were given the opportunity to really get into a groove.
- Rookies Wayne Gallman and Khalid Abdullah combined for 21 yards on 9 carries. Gallman had a nice blitz pickup in pass protection and a 4-yard catch while Abdullah missed his blocking assignment on a play late in the game. He also had a drop and showed slow/delayed decision making with the ball in his hands.
- FB Shane Smith had the better night of the two fullbacks competing for a roster spot. He created running room on the few plays he played in the backfield and added a nice catch and run in the flat for a 9-yard gain. Jacob Huesman had a very blatant missed block on a 3rd-down running attempt.
- The position as a whole didn’t stand out. They had a hard time getting open, forcing NYG into some cover sacks. Darius Powe showed excellent hands and ball skills on his 15-yard reception, with his easy catch-and-run ability. Undrafted rookies Jerome Lane and Keeon Johnson flashed in limited opportunities, showing physical yards-after-the-catch and toughness in traffic.
- Roger Lewis got a lot of playing time early, but failed to capitalize on two separate end zone opportunities. The first one he came down with the ball but it was after he ran out of the end zone, making him an ineligible receiver on a play where he was the primary target. The second attempt, he had CB Ross Cockrell attached to his outside hip, but still had a clear, uninterrupted attempt to catch the ball on his inside shoulder. He did not make the most of his opportunities.
- Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris saw a very limited amount of snaps.
- Rookie Travis Rudolph got into the game early in the 2nd quarter. This coaching staff wants to give him every opportunity to make an impression. He made a nice catch up and away from his body in the 4th quarter. His lack of long speed and strength against defensive backs stood out, however.
- Rhett Ellison, Evan Engram, Jerell Adams, and Matt LaCosse all saw snaps where they lined up in the backfield. I think there is still a strong chance this team avoids the fullbacks on the roster and leaves it up to this position to fill the role when needed.
- Ellison’s role as a receiver will be more this season than it has ever been for him. He averaged 10 catches per season over his first 5 years in the NFL and if Friday night was any indication, he may be at 10 catches within the first 2 weeks in 2017.
- Engram’s first pro catch went for 11 yards on a play-action pass where he showed explosive turn and run ability. He also graded out positively as a blocker.
- Jerell Adams had a night, leading the team with both 3 catches and 28 yards. He made catches away from his body, showing off his enormous wing span. Athletically he played fast, twitchy, and without hesitation. It looks like things are clicking for him and if he reaches the upside I discussed he had after NYG drafted him, watch out. His blocking was also top tier, a strength we already knew he had.
- The group did not play well early. NYG QB’s were sacked 7 times, although they were not all at the hands of the line.
- LT Ereck Flowers looked powerful and aggressive. His footwork was very solid, although his knee bend and hand placement were inconsistent. He did allow a sack to rookie T.J. Watt, but it was mainly a result of pressure up the middle allowed by C Weston Richburg that made Josh Johnson run into Watt.
- LG Justin Pugh played a solid game, getting movement in the run game and sticking to his man in pass protection.
- RG John Jerry played terrible. Steelers DE Cameron Heyward was tossing him around like a 220-pound tight end. Javon Hargrave also out-quicked him on a play to Jerry’s inside shoulder, forcing a TFL.
- The rookie tackles struggled mightily. Welcome to the NFL, I suppose. LT Chad Wheeler allowed two sacks to veteran pass rusher Arthur Moats. He had a hard time sealing the edge. Wheeler also got his exposure to the PIT defensive style when Heyward bull-rushed him onto his back. In addition to a false start, RT Adam Bisnowaty was having a hard time locking onto his man.
- LG Adam Gettis doesn’t look sexy out there, but he did a solid job of sticking to his man and getting some movement in the run game. OC Brett Jones showed a lack of awareness, failing to see the play clock on a couple plays and also threw a grounder to Josh Johnson on a shotgun snap in the red zone.
- This night was mostly about the backups getting snaps and the competition for the starting spot next to DT Damon Harrison. DTs Jay Bromley and rookie Dalvin Tomlinson both played well with their respective styles. Bromley made an early TFL, showing power and burst out of his stance, beating well-respected Ramon Foster. Tomlinson was showing outstanding athletic ability in pursuit. He is much more twitchy, agile, and athletic than I anticipated. He still struggled to maintain his ground against the double team, being pushed back 3+ yards on a few occasions.
- DE Devin Taylor had one of the biggest plays of the night, intercepting a Dobbs pass in the 2nd quarter on a zone blitz. It was an easy play, as Dobbs literally threw it right to him unaware that Taylor had dropped into coverage, but still it was a big play for Taylor and his chances of making the team.
- Third year DE Owa Odighizuwa was in the game early, as I think he is a guy on the bubble who this coaching staff wants to see play a lot throughout preseason. At the very least, he showed a strong presence against the run. He is a powerful player.
- DE Kerry Wynn made 3 tackles and recorded a sack in addition to his special teams prowess. He has developed nicely since making this team as an UDFA 2 years ago. I think he has an inside track at making the roster because of his versatility, which was in full display in this game. Athletic, rangy, and aggressive at all times.
- DE Jordan Williams stood out athletically and also recorded a sack along with 3 tackles. His sack was a blown assignment by the PIT offensive line where he was untouched to the QB.
- Roster hopefuls Deontae Skinner and Calvin Munson got plenty of snaps. Skinner showed range to the sidelines and good athleticism in coverage, while Munson was confident in his calls at the line and played physical. He did show some poor angles in pursuit, proving he may not be ready for the speed of the NFL just yet.
- B.J. Goodson played physical and fast. He was a tad late on decision making and reads, however. A half-second late and that could be the difference on a lot of running plays. His quickness in a phone booth showed up on a 2nd quarter sack. Goodson was an excellent and productive blitzer in college.
- Valentino Blake saw a lot of playing time, starting off high and ending low. His 1st quarter interception put NYG in position to take the early lead. It was, however, a terrible throw by the rookie Dobbs that was nowhere near any PIT receiver. Blake later allowed the lone passing TD to Cobi Hamilton and fortunately had another one called back by a PIT penalty. Overall he struggled.
- Donte Deayon got the early look as the team’s starting nickel corner with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie sitting out for the night. He showed quality movement but a lack of instincts. His lack of physical presence is obvious.
- Michael Hunter had a solid game, showing good coverage on a NYG sack. He also showed off his long speed, sticking to Darius Heyward-Bey’s hip pocket on a deep fly route. Heyward-Bey is one of the fastest WRs in the game (don’t worry, we didn’t see the slight hold of his jersey you had in your hand).
- Landon Collins appears to be in mid-season form, and I’m not surprised. He didn’t play much but still led the team with 5 tackles including a few hits you could hear from the last row.
- Nat Berhe had a rough night. After making a physical downhill take-down of PIT TE Jesse James, he missed two tackles. One was QB Josh Dobbs in space that resulted in a few extra yards. Dobbs was a solid but far from spectacular runner in college. His next missed tackle was on a 3rd-and-10 play where he went high on the receiver, missed, and it resulted in a PIT first down. He also lost his footing a couple times in coverage and the question needs to be asked, is he too aggressive for his own good?
- Second-year safety Darian Thompson only played in 2 games last season, thus 2017 can be considered an extension of his rookie year. He played a lot. He showed good movement but there isn’t a lot of presence about him when he comes in contact with ball carriers and blockers. He does have quality range in deep coverage, though.
- Eric Pinkins got some playing time late, showing off exactly what we have discussed. Physical play and straight-line ability but lateral stiffness and overall hesitation. He is still trying to figure the game out mentally.
- K Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent both went 2-for-2, respectively. Rosas hit one from 52 yards out with about 6-7 yards to spare, while Nugent’s longest was from 45 yards. Rosas showed more distance on his kickoffs.
- Brad Wing punted 4 times with a long of 52 and pinned PIT inside the 20 once.
- CB Donte Deayon muffed a punt late in the 2nd quarter that led to a PIT TD. Not good for him, as he will need the special teams box checked off if he intends on making the team.
- WR Travis Rudolph also fumbled after being popped on a kick return, but NYG fortunately fell on it. He did return a kick for 31 yards later on, the longest of the night for both sides.
- TE Jerell Adams, S Landon Collins, K Aldrick Rosas
- RG John Jerry, RB Kahlid Abdullah, DB Donte Deayon
3 TAKEAWAYS FOR PIT
- Rookie OLB T.J. Watt is going to be a player in that system, he fits like a glove. He plays hard, physical, and mechanically sound. PIT knows what to do with those guys.
- Tip of the cap to QB Josh Dobbs in his first NFL game experience. He started off poorly but maintained his composure and finished strong. With the PIT backup Landry Jones possibly in line to take over starting duties if the Big Ben retirement is coming soon like he says, Dobbs needs to impress over the next 2 years to secure a long-term spot on this team.
- RB Le’veon Bell may very well be the most important player on that team now. The RB talent behind him is scary bad. PIT may have taken for granted what DeAngelo Williams provided.