Los Steelers cayeron en Arrowhead por 23 a 13

En su viaje a Missouri, los Steelers cayeron derrotados por los Kansas City Chiefs, por 23 a 13 en lo que fue el debut como titular del QB acerero Landry Jones.

Los Steelers llegaban al partido con la intención de prolongar su racha ganadora aún cuando no podían contar con su mariscal de campo Ben Roethlisberger, ni con su QB reemplazo Michael Vick, lesionado la semana pasada, que aunque nunca recuperó el nivel de juego de antaño es un jugador de experiencia. Así las cosas, Pittsburgh debió arrancar el juego enlistando a su tercer QB.

Landry KC

Si bien la ofensiva acerera estuvo lejos de acercarse siquiera a lo que es cuando juega Big Ben, los Steelers (4-2) se las habían arreglado para sacar adelante los partidos anteriores basándose en una gran producción defensiva. La unidad a cargo del DC Keith Butler, si bien permitió gran cantidad de yardas por partido, se había hecho fuerte defendiendo en zona roja, había presionado a los mariscales rivales lanzando cargas, y había conseguido turnovers en momentos críticos de los juegos (algo que había sido un gran déficit en la defensiva de Dick LeBeau en sus últimos años)

De esta forma la defensiva mantenía el equipo a tiro del marcador.

Por su parte Kansas City llegaba al juego con un magro 1-5 en la temporada mostrando estadísticas de equipo mediocre.

La primera reflexión que se me ocurre a esta altura de la temporada 2015, es que ambos récords (4-2 de los Steelers y 1-5 de los Chiefs) son mentirosos.

Los Steelers ganaron partidos que perdían o hubiera sido “justo” que perdieran.

Pero dónde se puede encontrar la razón de la derrota de la tarde de ayer?

  • Turnovers
  • Falla en convertir 3eros y 4tos intentos
  • Falta de splash plays por el lado de la defensiva
  • Volvieron las fallas en los tackles

Los números de Landry Jones no son vergonzosos (16/29, 209 yardas, 1 TD y 2 INT) por lo que sería injusto responsabilizarlo de la derrota. Si bien se vio involucrado en las tres pérdidas de balón, sólo el primer pase interceptado, debe ser anotado a su cuenta personal de errores de juego.

La segunda intercepción fue una carambola: pase desviado en la línea, malabareado por Antonio Brown y atrapado finalmente por el defensivo.

El fumble fue una carga por la espalda del joven mariscal, que debía ser cubierta por tackle izquierdo Alejandro Villanueva que fue quien perdió el bloqueo.

De estas instancias del juego KC obtuvo sólo 7 puntos, pero estas pérdidas de balón truncaron series ofensivas y minaron el ánimo del equipo trasladando al rival, el momentum del partido.

Pero desde una perspectiva más amplia se puede decir que frente a KC la ofensiva cedió 3 veces el ovoide: la misma cantidad que había cedido en los 6 juegos anteriores.

Bell KC

El resultado de cada serie ofensiva acerera fue como sigue:

– Punt

– FG

– Downs (falla en convertir en 4to y 1)

– INT

– Fin de la mitad.

– Punt

– INT

– TD

– FG

– Fumble (en la yarda 48 de KC, cuando habían avanzado 37 yardas en 7 jugadas, faltando 2:11 en el reloj del último cuarto)

Jugar sin Ben

Jugar sin el QB titular tiene sus consecuencias. Entre ellas se pueden contar la merma en la producción de sus receptores, la alteración de los esquemas de juego de la ofensiva, la sobrecarga en el juego terrestre, entre otras. Estas desventajas fueron en parte resueltas con el ingreso de Jones en lugar de Vick. Pero a la que no se le encontró la vuelta fue a la baja conversión de terceros intentos.

Bajo Ben Roethlisberger el porcentaje de 3° intentos fue de 46, 41 y 50% (teniendo en cuenta que el último partido salió lesionado)

En su ausencia fue de 15; 35; 25 y 20%

Pero también hay que contabilizar los 4tos intentos: en los primeros 2 partidos Ben completó 2 de 2 y 3 de 5 contra New England y San Francisco respectivamente. En cambio Vick no consiguió ninguno de 2 intentos contra Baltimore y Jones 1 de 2 vs. Kansas City

Analizando la producción de los receptores esta también se vió bien alterada:

AB KC

Antonio Brown (en yardas aéreas por partido) 133, 195 y 108 en los primeros tres juegos vs NE, SF, STL con Big Ben en cancha, pero luego junto a Vick cayó a 42, 45 y 24 vs BAL, SD y ARI para remontar a 124 yds con L. Jones.

Algo similar sucedió con Markus Wheaton (55, 67, 16, 18, 72 -único pase de TD- 8 y 16)

Splash Plays se buscan

La ofensiva de Kansas City llegó al partido exhibiendo estadísticas de equipo mediocre.

El juego terrestre de los locales promediaba 101 yds por juego (20° en la Liga) y 240 yds aéreas (ranqueando 19°).

Por su parte la defensiva de Pittsburgh, se cierra bien al juego terrestre siendo la 7° del ranking con solo 93.3 yds por juego pero permite muchas yardas aéreas (238 yds/juego; 26° en el ranking) factor que compensa, en cambio, permitiendo pocos puntos a la ofensiva rival con sólo 24/jgo (9° en puntos/jgo y es la primera defendiendo en propia zona roja) y provocando una importante cantidad de turnovers (9 en los 6 juegos anteriores, entre ellas un pick six)

Sack KC

Sin embargo, esta vez en Arrowhead, permitió más de un 40% de yardas terrestres que su promedio de la temporada.

Se puede enlazar esta última estadística con las numerosas fallas en la tackleada que nuevamente volvió a mostrar esta defensiva, algo que parecía haber corregido en partidos anteriores.

Para finalizar, quiero mencionar, dentro de los equipos especiales, el muy buen partido de Dri Archer devolviendo patadas de salida: promedió 29 yardas por intento (con un retorno de 38 yardas) y la regularidad del nuevo valuarte de este equipo: el pateador Chris Boswell, convirtiendo todo lo que pateó y logrando 7 de los 13 puntos de su equipo. Gran fichaje.

Boswell KC

Se viene el próximo domingo el duelo de la división norte de la AFC, contra los líderes invictos, los Cincinnati Bengals, en el primero de tres partidos en serie como locales.

La visita llevará a la tercera ofensiva en puntos y en yardas por partido, 5° en juego aéreo y 12° en juego terrestre.

La gran pregunta para los Pittsburgh Steelers es si Big Ben estará en condiciones de regresar.

La Nación Steeler espera ansiosa.

                                                                                                  El Dr de Acero

 

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Report card for Steelers Week 7 loss to Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium

Quarterback 

Making his first NFL start, third-year quarterback Landry Jones didn’t exactly pick up where he left off a week earlier, when he passed for 168 yards and two touchdowns in a little under a half, after replacing Mike Vick in the victory over the Cardinals. However, Jones did do an adequate job, passing for 209 and yards a touchdown. Unfortunately, Jones also turned the football over three times–two interceptions and a fumble. Grade: C+

Running Backs 

Le’Veon Bell looked like his usual dominant self, rushing for 121 yards on 17 carries. DeAngelo Williams did a fair job as the short-yardage specialist, going one for two on fourth down conversions. Unfortunately for Williams, he dropped a pass on what would have been a key first down early in the game, with the Steelers facing a third and two from the Kansas City six yard-line. Grade: B+

Tight Ends 

Heath Miller had no catches in a game for the first time since 2008. He did stay in a lot to help block, however, and considering Jones was only sacked twice, and the team totaled 147 rushing yards, Miller deserves at least an average grade. Grade: C

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown found his early-season form, pulling in six catches for 124 yards. But Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton combined for just five catches and 61 yards. Bryant did pull in Pittsburgh’s only touchdown on the day, when he caught a 19-yard pass from Jones late in the third quarter and managed to get both feet in bounds despite bobbling the football. Grade: B-

Offensive Line

Again, the offense rushed for 147 yards, and Jones was only sacked twice in 29 passing attempts. Considering the line was down two starters, Alejandro Villanueva was making his first career start at left tackles and Kansas City has some of the best pass-rushers in the NFL in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, the line acquitted itself just fine. Grade: B

Defensive Line

Missing defensive end Stephon Tuitt due to injury, the defensive line wasn’t as disruptive and active as it had been in recent weeks. Alex Smith came into the game having been sacked 23 time, yet, he faced very little pressure on Sunday and was only sacked twice. Also, the Chiefs, despite missing running back Jamaal Charles, totaled 138 yards on the ground. Grade: C

Linebackers 

Too many missed tackles, and, obviously, the linebackers deserve their share of the blame for failing to place great pressure on Smith–although Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons were each credited with a half of sack. Also, Travis Kelce proved to be yet another high-pedigree tight end who was a match-up problem, catching five passes for 73 yards. Grade: C

Secondary

The Chiefs were simply too good on third downs, converting nine of 16 on the afternoon. Obviously, a lot of the blame has to go on the defensive backs. Despite missing Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson and Chris Conley teamed up for 134 receiving yards on nine catches to go along with Kelce’s 73 receiving yards. Grade: C-

Special Teams

Chris Boswell remains perfect on field goals, as he connected from 23 and 36 yards out on Sunday, and Jordan Berry averaged 45.5 yards on two punts.

As for the return game, Dri Archer continued his rather modest momentum, returning four kickoffs for 116 yards–including a 38-yard return.

The coverage unit left a lot to be desired, allowing 25.3 yards on kickoff returns and a 25-yard punt return by De’Anthony Thomas early in the game that set-up the Chiefs first field goal.

Coaching 

Considering what the team was up against, a young quarterback playing in a hostile environment and with an offensive line that was starting another inexperienced player at left tackle, for the Steelers to only have one penalty on the day was a testament to coaching and focus. Of course, the many missed tackles on defense were not a testament to great coaching and focus.

Also, head coach Mike Tomlin going for it on fourth and one twice may have been a bit too aggressive, especially considering Boswell’s perfect string of field goals made since coming to Pittsburgh. Grade: B-

 

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Steelers Report Card for Win Over Arizona Cardinals

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is pleased to see his students taking the “Next Man Up” philosophy to heart, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the win over the Cardinals.

Quarterbacksteelers, report card, grades, Cardinals
After coming alive in the 4th quarter vs. the Chargers, Michael Vick performance was again anemic for the first half vs. the Cardinals. He threw at least one should have been pick six, and was averaging 0.8 yards per pass when he injured his hamstring. When no one is ready to say Landry Jones “made everyone forget about Ben Roethlisberger” he did provide the Steelers offense with the spark they needed going 8-12 for two touchdowns. Jones performance was excellent, but Vick’s struggles bring the grade down. Grade: B-

Running Backs
Its clear that the Steelers offense cannot survive on a diet of Le’Veon Bell alone, although Bell ripped off some excellent runs at times when the Cardinals KNEW what was coming. DeAngelo Williams had one carry for a loss. Roosevelt Nix continued to work as a fullback, and to great effect. Grade: B

Tight Ends
Heath Miller only caught one pass, but it was his only target. Will Johnson along with Matt Spaeth were used in the blocking game. Grade: B

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown is clearly a gifted wide receiver, you don’t establish the kind of track record he has without talent. But he’s not been the same wide receiver without Roethlsiberger. The start of the game was of course Martavis Bryant, who made an excellent touchdown catch in traffic at the goal line, and then sealed victory by converting a would-be game winning 1st down into an amazing 88 yard touchdown play. Markus Wheaton had 1 catch for 8 yards. Grade: B+

Offensive Line
Losing your left tackle is normally an ominous sign for any NFL team, but when Kelvin Beachum went down, Alejandro Villanueva came in and the Steelers offense didn’t miss a beat. The Steelers offensive line did well enough in the running game and kept both of its quarterbacks upright. Grade: B

Defensive Line
It is a shame that Cameron Heyward’s getting so much attention for honoring his father Craigh Heyward, because he continues to pay excellent football, even if his stat sheet looks mundane. Hewyard is playing at an All Pro level, and is clearly a disruptive force. Stephon Tuitt left the game with an ankle injury. Steve McClendon only made one tackle, but the Cardinals average 2.8 yards a carry. That doesn’t happen if McLendon isn’t doing his job. Grade: B+

Linebackers
Lawrence Timmons lead the group and continues to play at an All Pro level, making a Troy Polamlauesque interception which showed both great presence of mind and concentration on his part. Vince Williams and Sean Spence had 4 tackles followed him in the tackle count. Aurthur Moats had a key tackle behind the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 2 to force a field goal. James Harrison’s sack on third down helped force a punt, preventing the Cardinals from answering the Steelers go-ahead touchdown. Grade: B+

Secondary
IT was the best of times, it was the worst of times…. Michael Mitchell came up with a key interception which snuffed out nearly any chance of a Cardinals comeback, and make Carlson Palmer look like a rookie in the process. Robert Golden got his first start, and didn’t do anything to attract attention to himself, which can be good for a safety.

ON the flip side, Antwon Blake continues to miss tackles, and Ross Cockrell’s physical play helped sustain a Cardinal’s scoring driven and quite frankly he got away with several other plays he should have been flagged for. Grade: B-

Special Teams
Danny Smith’s special teams continued to commit some costly penalties, but and while the Cardinals returns weren’t damaging, they were better than one would like to see. Brown had one good punt return, and Dri Archer had a 35 yard kick return and overall a decent average. Jordan Berry boomed off a 79 yard (OK, he got a REALLY good bounce) although his kicks were erratic. Overall and above the line day for the Steelers special teams. Grade: B

Coaching
Todd Haley’s choice of play calling with his two quarterback spoke volumes of how he sees his offense, and one has to wonder if the rumblings of Landry Jones seeing action didn’t come from him. Either way, his offense has protected the ball, and executed with Landry Jones under center.

Keith Butler is making a lot of Fantasy Football owners happy, but his defense continues to deliver when it counts by making critical third down stops, securing turnovers, pressuring the quarterback, and playing its best football when defending its own Red Zone.

Since the day he was hired, Mike Tomlin has preached “The Standard is the Standard.” It is easy to say the words, but clearly he’s instilled the mentality into his football team, and they have responded. Grade: A

Unsung Hero Award
The Steelers beat the Cardinals by a score of 25 to 13, yet only scored two touchdowns. The rest of the scoring came from a man who was unemployed just 15 days ago. Chris Boswell not only went 4-4 on field goal attempts, he made field goals of 47, 48, and 51 yards at Heinz Field, the NFL’s most difficult stadium to kick in. And he made it look easy. A miss on any one of those could have dramatically altered the dynamic of the game. But he made all of his tries, and for that Chris Boswell wins the unsung hero award for the Steelers victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

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Steelers Nation Votes: Steelers Game Ball Winners for Win over Cardinals

The Pittsburgh Steelers pulled out an improbable 25-18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. And as usual Steelers Nation now has the pleasure of voting Steelers game ball winners:

This was the Steelers third game without Ben Roethlisberger, but Michael Vick was not the signal caller to lead the Steelers to victory. That honor fell to the oft maligned Landry Jones.

Jones hooked up not once, but twice with Martavis Bryant for two touchdown passes, and led the Steelers to 21 second half points as the Steelers held on for a victory against Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals.

Le’Veon Bell makes our ballot by virtue of his 88 yard rushing performance. Rookie kicker Chris Boswell also makes the ballot thanks to his 4-4 field goal performance. On defense Michael Mitchell, Antwon Blake, Cameron Heyward, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison and William Gay also win slots on today’s ballot.

However, this victory was a true team effort, and Steelers Nation is encouraged to write in their choice for game ball winners. And you make a case for including Antonio Brown and/or Heath MIller? If you think you can, by all means write their names in. Ditto Robert Golden, who was second on the Steelers in tackles. Perhaps you might even find some love for Dri Archer.

Please take a moment to vote for the Steelers game ball winners, and remember to check back for full analysis of the Steelers win over the Arizona Cardinals.

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Steelers Cut Tyler Murphy, Dri Archer Reportedly on Trading Block

Steelers Nation has been looking forward to Le’Veon Bell’s return from suspension. Nonetheless a couple of players in the locker room have been dreading this day because it meant might cost them their jobs.

  • No one was sweating more than running back Dri Archer and fullback Roosevelt Nix.

However, the headline “Steelers cut Tyler Murphy” reveals that The Truk has visited another area on the Steelers depth chart. The Steelers decision to cut Tyler Murphy isn’t a surprise, but it does come two weeks earlier than anticipated.

Most expected the Steelers to cut Tyler Murphy when Martavis Bryant ends his suspension, but the Steelers decision to part ways with him now leaves Ben Roethlisberger just four targets at the wide receiver position Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and rookie Sammie Coates, who has yet to dress.

Tyler Murphy played quarterback at Boston College, and got extended snaps at quarterback during the Steelers 2015 training camp as the Steelers looked for him and others to mount a challenge to Landry Jones. Ultimately, Landry Jones secured a roster spot with improved play in the preseason, and Murphy continued his transition to wide receiver. If he clears waivers, he could return to the Steelers practice squad.

  • Dri Archer’s stay of execution might prove to be short lived however.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Ed Bouchette suggested that Bell’s return had put Dri Archer could be on the chopping block. And Post Gazette reporter Gerry Dulac indicates that the Steelers were trying to trade Archer. Although Archer is a 2014 third round pick, he has failed to carve a role for himself on the team, despite having a golden opportunity to do so thanks to the suspensions of Bell and Martavis Bryant.

  • In two games this season, Archer has not gotten a carry or a catch, nor has he been targeted.

Archer’s lone stat from 2015 is his single kick off return for 22 yards. That’s not a bad return and better than the 17.9 yard average he saw on kickoff returns in 2014, but hardly the type of production expected of a third round pick.

  • But for now, Archer dodged a visit from the Turk, as did Roosevelt Nix.

Nix is an undrafted rookie free agent who has made the transition from college defensive lineman to full back. Nix has yet to see the field on the office with the Steelers fullback duties being taken by Will Johnson, but Nix has played well on special teams. Mike Tomlin spoke highly of nix during Steelers training camp, and appears eager to give the rookie more NFL game experience.

As Dri Archer can attest, Nix would be wise to do all he can to take advantage of his opportunities.

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Steelers Cut 18, Sign Ross Cockrell, Roosvelt Nix Makes Roster. For Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers cut 18 players to get to the NFL’s mandate roster limit of 53. Headlining the cuts were running back Josh Harris, backup center/guard Doug Legursky, cornerbacks B.W. Webb, Kevin Fogg and 7th round pick safety Gerod Holiman.

With Le’Veon Bell facing a 2 game suspension, Josh Harris had a golden opportunity to establish himself as the Steelers third running back.

However, Harris did not perform well in preseason after spending much of training camp injured, and the Steelers will go with DeAngelo Williams as their prime running back, and Will Johnson and Dri Archer will serve as his backups. Fullback Roosevelt Nix also made the roster giving the Steelers 2 players at a position where many teams have none.

  • The Steelers cuts in the secondary also yielded surprises.

Kevin Fogg had an outstanding camp by all accounts and had the Steelers lone interception during preseason, he was expected to challenge B.W. Webb for a roster spot, instead both both visits from The Turk, as did 7th round draft pick Gerod Holiman.

The Steelers instead opted to sign cornerback Ross Cockrell whom the Buffalo Bills drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft and who appeared in 7 games for Buffalo last year.

The other Steeles hopefuls who got visits from The Turk are: The Steelers released 18 players and placed linemen Mitchell Van Dyk and Kelvin Palmer on the team’s waived/injured list.

running back Jawon Chisholm
offensive linemen Reese Dismukes and B.J. Finney
wide receivers Shakim Phillips and Jarrod West
defensive linemen Matt Conrath, Ethan Hemer and Mike Thornton
linebackers L.J. Fort, Shayon Green and Howard Jones
safeties Jordan Dangerfield and Alden Darby

The Steelers also placed offensive lineman Mitchell Van Dyk and Kelvin Palmer on the team’s waived/injured list. In other roster moves, the Steelers traded 2014’s punter Brad Wing to the New York Giants for a conditional 7th round pick, and will begin the 2015 season with Jordan Berry as their punter.

Practice Squad Potential

Steelers decision to sign Ross Cockrell indicates that the final composition of the Steelers 53 man opening day roster is far from complete. The Steelers depth at offensive and defensive line is painfully thin, and Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin will certainly be scouring the wavier wire looking for potential additions.

Several of the Steelers players who were cut can expect to return to the Steelers practice squad, with Kevin Fogg and Jordan Dangerfield topping the list. Howard Jones also could return for a second year, as could C.J. Goodwin and Ian Wild, whom the Steelers cut earlier in the week.

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Steelers Preseason from Hell Ends as Carolina Tops Pittsburgh 23-6

And finally it ended. It had to. But not before the Pittsburgh Steelers could suffer more injuries, several of which appear serious.

Finally, the Steelers preseason from hell ran its course. There was simply no more time left to play so the misery had to stop at some point. “Misery” accurately sums up the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers preseason experience.

  • It didn’t begin that way.

The Steelers preseason from hell began as all preseasons should – with promise. The 2014 Steelers finished with a bang, ok, they got banged by Baltimore in the playoffs, but the team’s 4-0 finish and return to the playoffs were signs of strength.

The Steelers preseason from hell started where 2014 left off. Cam Heyward, who’d emerged as an indisputable leader, got a contract extension. Mike Tomlin got a new deal as did Kevin Colbert, demonstrating Art Rooney II’s endorsement of the Steelers direction, and a total negation of the “Fire Everyone” crowd who wish that Daniel Rooney would act more like Daniel Snyder.

  • But there were warning signs. The Steelers began the season with 5 players on the PUP list.

It’s not unusual for the Steelers to place a couple of guys who are nicked on the PUP list but 5 was a large number and list of names now sounds ominous: Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Adams, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, Shawn Lemon and Senquez Golson. All 5 started training camp on PUP and none of them will make the Steelers opening day roster…

Starting training camp with 5 players on the PUP seems like a luxury considering the carnage suffered by the Steelers once they started playing preseason games from hell.

  • The Hall of Fame Game cost the Steelers Shaun Suisham
  • The Packers game cost the Steelers Pouency and Gradkowski
  • The Bills game cost the Steelers Garrett Hartley
  • The Carolina game saw the Steelers lose three backup offensive lineman, two of whom were lost on the last play

Oh, yeah, and third string quarterback Landry Jones got injured late, late in the Panthers game and had to leave the field. For those of you taking notes at home, the tally is 2 kickers one backup quarterback, a Pro Bowl Center and a host of other players.

At this point, in most blogs are professional sites dedicated to football, this would where the obligatory paragraph begins that decries preseason football, rants against the injuries to stars in “meaningless games” and rages against preseason football charging Major League Prices for Minor League Talent.

  • You won’t find that here. Not quite.

Yours truly has been and remains preseason apologist. Teams need a chance to evaluate young talent under “live fire” conditions and the only way to get that is in preseason football and 2 preseasons games isn’t going to give you that. 5 games, however, is quite excessive.

  • If the toll from the Steelers preseason from hell has been sobering, the injuries are perhaps not the most disturbing trend.

Injuries are part of the game and come with every preseason. But typically preseason injury news is balanced by stories of young players, either touted draft picks or unheralded rookies, making a name for themselves and staking a claim to an NFL roster spot. Steelers Nation has heard plenty about injuries, but heard scant little about young players on the rise.

Writing on Jim Wexell’s Steel City Insider, veteran Pittsburgh reporter Dale Lolley summed up the Steelers preseason from Hell syndrome like this:

…But the lack of offensive and defensive line depth is perplexing. I realize the starters are set at both positions, but doesn’t anyone want to fight for a roster spot anymore? [Emphasis added]

Following the Buffalo Bills debacle Mike Tomlin lamented the lack of fire in his backup layers, labeling them the walking dead, and wondered allowed why the competition for roster spots wasn’t more intense.

And that is what’s most disturbing about the Steelers 2015 preseason from hell. The Steelers starting offense has looked strong. The Steelers pass rush showed some life, even if Pittsburgh’s pass defense promises to struggle. Those are good things. But think of what didn’t happen:

  • No kick returner not named Antonio Brown emerged
  • Dri Archer failed to establish a role for himself as rusher or receiver
  • Josh Harris had a golden opportunity to establish a roster spot and failed to do so
  • Shamarko Thomas, by all accounts struggled and could sit behind Will Allen
  • Neither Jarvis Jones nor Cortez Allen did anything to show they’d turned a corner

At some point soon, yours truly will publish an article on Rebecca Rollet’s Going Deep Steelers site discussing both how and why the NFL needs to drastically reshape the way it market’s preseason football to make it relevant to the modern fan. The article ends by offering the NFL a free tag line to promote the preseason: “Preseason football – Not a Preview, a Proving Ground.”

Steelers Nation certainly hopes the 2015 Steelers preseason from hell isn’t a preview. But unfortunately, once you set the injury issues aside, the biggest story on the Steelers preseason from hell focuses on what they failed to accomplish as opposed to what young hopefuls proved.

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Steelers Bills Preseason Summary: Steelers Secondary Scorched by Bills QB Quartet

Traditionally, the Pittsburgh Steelers next-to last preseason game is their dress rehearsal for the regular season. In recent years, Mike Tomlin has not even dressed let alone played most of his starters for the final preseason game.

  • Steelers Nation had better hope the Steelers preseason effort vs. the Bills was not preview of things to come

The highlights, from a Steelers perspective, were short and sweet. DeAngelo Williams ran strong albeit for all of three carries. Michael Vick looked like he’d ran the Steelers offense for a decade and Martavis Bryant played like a stud instead of a stoner. Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell avoided injury.

Outside of that, the game was a total disaster for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dean of the Steelers press crops summed it up this way:

That was the first quarter. Unfortunately it got worse for Pittsburgh. The Buffalo Bills played four quarterbacks, and the Pittsburgh Steelers made each of them look like All Pro Candidates combining for 30 of 33 pass attempts. That’s a 90% completion rate. The Steelers defense did not fare any better on the ground, as the Bills racked up 156 yards rushing.

  • Sure, one can fall back on the mantra, “Its only preseason.”

But when all was said and done, the Bills offense scored 6 touchdowns on the Steelers. That is unacceptable, regardless of who is in the game. The Steelers dismissed Dick LeBeau promoted Keith Butler to defensive coordinator in hopes of halting the slide of the Steelers defense. Unfortunately, the until appears to have regressed.

Archer Absent?

Leading into the Steelers-Bills preseason game, Steel Curtain Rising opined that running back Dri Archer had the most to gain from Martavis Bryant’s suspension. Dri Archer did well enough with the carries and catches that he had, but he only had 3 in total – hard enough to cement a role for himself in the Steelers offense.

Hartley, Dupree Injured

To further complicate matters, the Steelers lost first round draft pick Bud Dupree to a foot injury and, perhaps more ominously, place kicker Garrett Hartley was also injured and will require an MRI…. Australian punter Jordan Berry moonlighted in his stead, and acquitted himself well.

Berry might have also punted himself over fellow Australian Brad Wing for the punting job, by booming off a 75 yard punt and averaging 57 yards per punt.

That’s good news, because the Steelers defense will a punter who can put opposing offenses as far back as possible.

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Martavis Bryant Suspension = Dri Archer’s Opportunity

The Martavis Bryant’s suspension has left the Pittsburgh Steelers reeling. Everyone knows that. Before Martavis Bryant scored his first touchdown vs. the Houston Texans, a 35 yard bomb from Ben Roethlisberger, the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers were 3-3.

  • The Steelers closed out the season 8-2.

OK. There are a lot of players besides Bryant to deserve credit for that. Le’Veon Bell elevated himself to elite back status during that time. Antonio Brown did what he does. The offensive line improved. And so Dick LeBeau coaxed some much needed improvement out of the Steelers defense to close his tenure as Steelers defensive coordinator.

  • But Bryant showed game-changing, big play ability that translated into incredible firepower for the Steelers offense.

That’s gone now, at least for the season’s first four games. Worse yet, Bryant can earn a 10 game suspension with a single piss. That’s quite an accomplishment for a player with 10 NFL games under his belt….

News of Bryant’s suspension shifted attention to who would take his roster spot, with the focus falling on C.J. Goodwin, Shakim Phillips and Tyler Murphy as the Steelers head into their preseason game vs. the Bills. Each of these three roster bubble players have had their moments in preseason and it is all but certain that Martavis Bryant’s suspension opens a roster spot for one of them.

  • But a roster spot does not equal a role in the offense let alone a helmet on game day.

And the one player to stands to gain the most from Bryant’s suspension is all but guaranteed a roster spot and his name is Dri Archer. The Steelers drafted Dri Archer a round before drafting Bryant in the 2014 NFL Draft and the move quite frankly caused a lot of head scratching.

Yes, Dri Archer’s 4.26 time in the 40 made him the fastest man in the 2014 NFL Draft. But he was small. Dri Archer’s 5’8” 173 pounds statue led many to question not only his status as a third round draft pick but also even whether he belonged in the NFL.

The Steelers nonetheless had big plans for Archer. They use his speed as a kick returner and planned to unleash his versatility as a utility back in the mold of Eric Metcalf or Dave Meggett. By any measure Dri Archer disappointed in 2014. He returned 1 punt for 2 yards and only 9 kicks, with the longest coming in at 23 yards.

As a rusher, Dri Archer only gained 40 yards on 10 carries, and 15 of those came in one long run. Things weren’t much better through the air as Archer’s 10 catch 23 yard resume betrays none of his break away speed.

Fair enough. Rookie seasons are supposed to be tough. A quick look at the Steelers 2014 preseason stat sheet reveals that Dri Archer is the team’s number 2 receiver and number 2 rusher. Sounds impressive, but is it? Not really. 8 carries is hardly something enough to hang your hat on, and 7 catches for 41 yards isn’t much either.

  • But the Steelers need someone else to help stretch the field in Bryant’s absence.

On paper, Dri Archer would seem to be the one player who could do that. Opportunity is knocking at Dri Archer’s door. The question is, how will he respond?

Dri Archer’s opportunity is standing right infront of him. He would do well to begin taking advantage it during the Steelers-Bills preseason contest.

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Vikings Defeat Steelers 14-3 in Preseason, Suisham Possibly Injured

The Pittsburgh Steelers began their 2015 season in Canton, Ohio in the NFL’s annual Hall of Fame Game that saw the Vikings defeat the Steelers 14-3 in this preseason contest.

The Steelers of course were on hand to celebrate Jerome Bettis’ induction to the Hall of Fame, and as this is the first of 5 preseason contests, the Mike Tomlin chose to sit veterans such as Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and James Harrison.

With Roethlisberger out and Bruce Gradkowski still on the PUP list, it fell to Landry Jones to lead the Steelers under center. Jones had entered training camp fighting for his NFL life, but Jones had show good progress in the eyes of the press. Jones played the entire game, and per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, only put in a so-so night.

  • Jones completed 50% of his passes, and missed key passes to rookies Sammie Coates and tight end Jesse James. Jones was also sacked twice.

Brandon Boykin, whom the Steelers recently acquired in a trade, looked sharp, as did Shayon Green and Stephon Tuitt.

On the ground, the Steelers were led by second year man Dri Archer, who rushed 4 times for 24 yards. Archer also caught six passes for 33 yards, although he appeared to shy away from contact.

Ryan Shazier led the defense, registering 5 solo tackles, and he was followed by Antwon Blake and Terence Garvin and Jordan Zumwalt, both inside linebackers trying to make the team at a very crowded spot on the depth chart. For the record, Eathan Hemer had the Steelers lone sack.

Suisham Injured?

Shaun Suisham headed to the locker room following the opening kickoff of the second half. No word has been released on his health, but Suisham has been a very reliable kicker for the Steelers, and an injury to him could cause problems for the Steelers. Marcus Gilbert also had an eye poked and Cameron Stingily suffered an knee injury and did not return.

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