Well, if there was one thing that we should have taken from tonight was that there isn’t much substance you can take from a team standpoint from the fourth preseason game. There are a lot of individual performances that you can put stock in but if you were trying to look for something to tell you if the Steelers were going to be for real or not this season then this game isn’t what you want to watch.
To be honest this game took forever. Many starters didn’t play and the ones that did were not in the game very long. A lot of second and third team players got some work done, which was really good to see, but for the casual fan the game might have not been turned back on after halftime. The most important thing is that there were no serious injuries and that the regular season is going to begin a week from Sunday. The preseason actually flew by and we are finally here for the regular season. Oh yea.
Here are a few things that I took from the game:
-Jon Dwyer made this team, easily. I thought Dwyer looked pretty well all preseason but he took it to another level tonight. Sure, it was against a really bad Panthers team and it might have been against some of their second and third string guys but he was impressive. Overall he ran for 88 yards on 13 carries which included a really slick 50 yard touchdown run. He seemed to be hitting the holes hard and finding the creases and working for every yard. I think what was most impressive about Dwyer’s game was his blitz pickup. Sure, it is great when you can run the ball but being a great all around back is very important and that is what Dwyer was tonight.
-The QB situation really didn’t work itself out a ton tonight. Chuck Batch started the game and played pretty well going 6-of-8 for 59 yards while Dixon wasn’t very accurate, which is one of his big flaws. He got off to a rocky start when he came into the ballgame in the second quarter but he really started to pick up the play as the game went on. To be honest I really don’t know what to think about the backup quarterback situation.
-One guy that really made a big impression, and might have played his way onto the team, is Wesley Saunders. He was a beast all night and when he wasn’t catching passes (3 catches, 32 yards, 1 TD) he was throwing blocks and showing that he can be a well rounded tight end. I am not sure if Saunders was on the cut or not but he made a huge step towards making this team. It also doesn’t hurt that Saunders can play some specials teams as he had a couple of tackles there too and you know how Mike Tomlin likes guys who are flexible.
-One vet might get the ax in the coming week and that could be fan favorite Chris Hoke. Hokie has been a really good guy to have on the team but with the emergence of Steve McClendon he might have worn the Black and Gold for the last time. McClendon has done nothing but make plays all preseason and it was no different tonight as he chalked up a sack and was consistently getting into the backfield and disrupting plays. If I were a betting man I would say that Hoke is gone and McClendon will be on the 53-man rosters.
-Emmanuel Sanders looked good tonight in his first action. If I was watching this team for the first time with no knowledge of Sanders’ injury then I would have thought he didn’t miss any time. He wasn’t on the same page with Dixon for one pass play, but other than that he was making sharp cuts and making some nice grabs. Very good to see.
-The young defensive backs didn’t play to terrible and were able to hold their own. Curtis Brown had a decent game and had some pretty good coverage on the Panthers wide outs. Cortez Allen made his first appearance in a Steelers jersey and made his presents felt with a great pass defended on his first play that led to an interception by Will Allen. Overall Cortez had three passes defended which is a nice number and I thought his coverage skills were decent. Not sure how much these guys can contribute in the season but at least they all weren’t total duds like the young corners have been in the past.
-Overall the defense wasn’t great, but it was the fourth preseason game. This is like trying to dissect a Florida Gators game after they play Florida A&M Tech in game one of the college football season. You just can’t do it because it is basically worthless. What was a little concerning as a while was that the Steelers committed 11 penalties for 99 yards, which was highlight by ANOTHER celebration penalty by Antonio Brown in the end zone after Jon Dwyer scored. This doesn’t concern me a whole ton because this is something that can be fixed pretty quickly but you never like to see your team rack up a football field’s worth of penalty yards in one game.
Get ready for Baltimore people.