Perhaps it is a bit of a misnomer to call the highlights from the Steelers loss to the Redskins in preseason “lowlights” as some individual players did have good moments. But any sober Steelers fan has got to admit that the negatives outweighed the positives.
What can we take from this? Is it too early to panic? Or is this “just preseason?”
- Steel Curtain Rising’s golden rule of preseason is that the preseason is good for evaluating individual players and individual units.
Once upon a time the Pittsburgh Steelers played an America Bowl game in Montreal against the New England Patriots. The Steelers triumphed 30-14 and a strong running game masked a the chaotic debut of Joe Walton’s offense.
Their next game was in Washington, vs. the Redskins which happened to the first pro football experience of yours truly. The Steelers offense was in total disarray. Warren Williams and Merril Hoge looked good, but Bubby Brister, when not running for his life, was throwing to Louis Lipps on the strong side when Lipps was cutting towards the weak side.
- Those two games began what was an ominous trend that lasted for two seasons, as Joe Walton’s offense ultimately drove Chuck Noll into retirement.
Where does that leave us today? Well, Vs. the Redskins Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked once, but was hit numerous times and pressured into a pick six. Marcus Gilbert was completely overwhelmed and Maurkice Pouncey was manhandled. Mike Adams and David DeCastro got hit with penalties.
- And then there were the injuries.
Second round pick Le’Veon Bell’s debut lasted all of four carries. Issac Redman didn’t play. Neither did Rod Stephens–Howling. Baron Batch suffered a stinger. Full back Will Johnson injured a rib. Jonathan Dwyer looked strong at times but, surprise, put the ball on the ground.
The Steelers defense put in a stronger showing, with first round Jarvis Jones forcing a fumble, LaMarr Woodley registering a sack, and Lawrence Timmons playing like he was on a tear. Shamarko Thomas also hit everything in sight.
The offense had its moments, with Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, and David Paulson catching some nice long balls along with rookie Marcus Wheaton.
But none of that will mean anything if the Steelers cannot right the ship on the offensive line – staying healthy would help too.
When Steelers Nation Should to Know to Panic
While what Steelers Nation has seen so far is hardly encouraging, it is too early to panic. The Steelers don’t game plan for preseason. A fair number of play calls are designed towards testing players rather than specific game situations.
- Still getting manhandled is getting manhandled. There’s no way to sugar coat it.
If history is any guide, the next game’s performance will be the true gauge.
Back in 1998 after the Steelers let John Jackson depart San Diego, Bill Cowher tried Jamine Stevens, Paul Wiggins, and Chris Conrad out as replacements. The Steelers had an extra preseason game then, giving Bill Cowher a four full games to see all three men go.
- The coach’s most difficult challenge was figuring out which one was worse.
After their fourth game against Atlanta, played at Morgantown, Cowher had had enough. He started Roger Duffy at guard (soon to be replaced by rookie Alan Faneca), moved Will Wolford from guard to tackle, and shifted Justin Strzelczyk from left to right tackle.
- That worked fairly well until Strzelczyk got hurt.
The moral of the story is that no improvement from the offensive line in the third week of preseason = time to panic. If Mike Tomlin is starting Kelven Beachum over Gilbert in the final preseason game, you’ll know the coaches are really worried…..
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