The Steelers got another preseason game against a good opponent as they downed the Atlanta Falcons 34-16 at Heinz Field.
I don’t have much from there so here are some notes that I jotted down as the game was going on:
Ben Roethlisberger looks scary good so far this preseason. Tonight he was about as good as you can be and sparkled against a pretty good Atlanta defense. Large Benjamin was 11-of-16 for 214 yards and two touchdowns in a half of play. He was making good throws in some tight windows and we should see him in about one series in the final preseason game before we see him on September 11th for the season opener in Baltimore.
Has anyone had a better camp than Antonio Brown this season? If they have I would be wanting to know who that was. With Emmanuel Sanders down with a foot injury Brown has easily passed him for the third receiver spot on the team and was Ben’s favorite target. He caught four passes for 137 yards including two touchdowns and he made everything look easy. The best of which was a 77-yard touchdown grab where he caught a tightly thrown ball by Ben at the 50 and absolutely ran away from the defensive backs. Oh yea, AB also had 109 return yards on four kickoff returns. Not bad youngin.
Marcus Gilbert looked OK at left tackle for the Steelers. As a rookie starting on the blind side you can’t really expect him to be all pro but Gilbert played pretty well against a pretty good defensive line for the Falcons. He was beat a few times but other times he looked good and kept the rush away from Ben. It was a good step for Gilbert and if called on in the regular season I would feel pretty good with him out there.
I don’t really know what to think of the defense. They gave up 266 yards in the half but Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw the ball and eye popping 42 times, only completing 22 of them for 220 yards. This is against a defensive backfield that is playing on bare bones and even sustained an injury to starter fill in Keenan Lewis. The Steelers did get dominated in time of possession (18:49-11:11) and gave up some long drives where the Falcons dinked and dunked down the field, but as you know that is how the Steelers defense has been for years, and it’s worked. It wasn’t a good performance by the defense but they did get decent pressure and I am not very concerned about the defense.
There might not have been a better defensive player on the field for the Steelers than Lawrence Timmons. He was all over the field from his linebacker position and even picked off a pass and almost took it to the house for a touchdown. One thing that people notice about Timmons is a freakish athlete and is unbelievably athletic. He was having no problem matching up with receivers in pass coverage and was getting into his coverage zone and forcing Ryan to throw the ball elsewhere.
Brett Keisel also had a really nice game for the defense. He was getting a ton of pressure and making a ton of plays in the run game. With guys like Ziggy Hood, Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton getting a lot of attention on the defensive line it is easy to overlook Keisel, but he is a very important part to how good that front line is for the Steelers. Tonight he showed a great motor and that he is ready for the regular season and that he hasn’t lost a step.
Crezdon Butler made a splash play with a 95 yard pick for a touchdown, but as cool as that sounds it wasn’t really that impressive. Some people might get on me for this, but on the play the receiver slipped and all Butler had to do was catch the ball and run down the sideline. Overall Butler had a decent game and he is making some definite positive strides in his game, but that one play wasn’t a real indication of a great play.
Stevenson Sylvester is a great special team’s guy. The best the Steelers have. I know that doesn’t really need to be said but he was good in that aspect tonight and he is a pretty good athlete. Arnez Battle is another guy who is good in the special team’s game and it will be very interesting to see if he sticks on the roster. It would be tough to keep a guy like Battle because he is pretty far down on the depth chart for the receivers so it will probably come down to the last preseason game to see if he is going to stay on the roster.
Overall the linebackers were good from top to bottom for the Steelers. I singled out Sylvester becaue of the outstanding specials team's play he always gives but he was good in the second half with some good pressure on the ball.
I talked about this in the pregame about the quarterback situation but I think an injury might have taken care of that. In the middle of the third quarter Leftwich took off and tried to run for a first down and came down really awkwardly on his left elbow and he was screaming in pain as he came off the field. As of now I would imagine this is a serious injury that might hamper his chances of being on the team and possibly being put on the IR. That would leave Batch and Dixon as the two backups for the Steelers and to be honest I would have no idea who would be the number two. Probably Dixon. I think Chuck Batch will be around forever.
Jon Dwyer wasn’t too bad even though he didn’t get in till later in the game. He got the bulk of his carries in the fourth quarter and ended up with 36 yards on six carries and made the most out of some broken plays and found some creases nicely. He is probably in a battle with Jon Clay for the final running back spot, even though I don’t think Clay has much of a chance to make this team. Clay fumbled once in his three carries so that certainly doesn’t bode well for him.
Outside of the Leftwich injury, which as I type this is a broke left arm, Maurkice Pouncey left early with an ankle injury but it sounds like he should be alright. Lewis was banged up and there isn't anything out there yet how serious it is. Once again it is of the utmost importance to keep everyone healthy, but that really isn't realistic. Pouncey shouldn't play at all next week and the starters should play a series and then sit down. With the season so close it isn't worth it.
Overall it was a pretty good game for the Steelers. The offense looked good, the defense didn’t but in the end I think the defense wasn’t as bad as the statistics might show. One more meaningless preseason game before we get into the meat of the season, week one at Baltimore.