All in all the first preseason game doesn't mean much of anything. OK, none of the preseason games mean anything, but they still play them so I wrote down a few things that I noticed. Here are some notes from the Steelers 24-23 loss to the Eagles.
Ben Roethlisberger - Large Benjamin was pretty good tonight under center. The first drive the Steelers ran was the only drive of the game but it went for 16 plays and resulted in three points. Ben didn't really stretch the field and kept everything underneath and used the tight ends and backs on screens which is what we probably plan to see a little more this season than last. He only threw one incompletion so all in all it was a good day. He did get sacked a couple of times but that was more due to the play of the offensive line. He did scramble a few times and made some big plays off those scrambles so all-in-all it was Ben being Ben.
Al Woods INT - One of the best things in football is when you have a large defensive lineman intercept a pass and go for a touchdown. This happened tonight to an extent when Al Woods picked off a pass but he wasn't able to score a touchdown. He was brought down at the five yard line despite a pretty good effort just couldn't get the job done. Might draft him as a receiver in my next fantasy draft.
David DeCastro - The first round pick of the Steelers was the talk of the town when he said that he was having some problems with the physical part of the NFL but tonight he looked pretty damn good. He was pulling and blowing lineman up off the ball so I think we can start to believe that he has made some significant progress as line coach Sean Kugler has been talking about this week. If you were worried about him before tonight then you probably shouldn't be. Sure this wasn't against the Eagles top line but it was still first team reps and he more than held his own.
The Backs - When I say this I am mainly talking about the guys that got some reps with the first team because Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey had really nice days. Dwyer's day was cut short due to a shoulder injury but he ripped off a 33 yard yard in the Steelers second series. Redman and Rainey didn't finish with very good stats but Reman ran strong and converted a fourth and short and Rainey is going to be a very exciting player to watch. Get the ball to Chris Rainey in open field and good things are going to happen. He had a carry of 14 yards and he was so close a few times to breaking the big one and then he eventually did in the third quarter on a scree pass. He took a Jared Johnson pass 57 yards to the house. Big play ability for this kid. Barron Batch also played but looked pretty bad overall and John Clay also didn't do a whole lot.
The offensive line - Mainly I am talking as a whole but it wasn't very good at all. They couldn't keep Ben clean on the first drive and even though it was successful drive Ben was sacked a couple of times and had to scramble for his life a few more. Mike Adams had a really tough night and was probably responsible for a pair of sacks on the night before he went out with a right knee injury. The run offense was alright and there were a few bursts but this is becoming a passing league and the Steelers are going to sling the football. They have to be able to protect the QB.
Kick Coverage - A few times the Steelers had to cover kicks and more often and not they weren't really doing a nice job of doing that job. There are certainly a lot of new guys on the special teams but these are the types of things that will cost you games in the regular season. I am sure these things will be tightened up but it wasn't pretty tonight. They got bailed out by an illegal block in the back but fact still remains you need to make the plays.
Injuries - Going into preseason games the one thing you want to come out of is to stay healthy. You always want to play well but keeping guys healthy is probably just as important as these games do not mean anything. The Steelers were not able to stay away from the injury bug and now we all have to hope that things are not as bad as some of us might think. David Johnson was hurt in the first series and this is the one that doesn't look to be good. He got his leg rolled up by Marcus Gilbert and it really looks bad when you watch it on film. Johnson could be a big part of the team not only from a blocking perspective but he has been pretty good at catching the ball out of the backfield. He was also one of the only "fullbacks" on the roster. Holding out hope is is OK but I don't really think he is. Adams was also hurt and I believe it was his right knee. No word on how bad it was but hopefully it isn't serious. Adams didn't play well but he needs to be on the field to make adjustments and he can't do that if he is hurt. Jonathan Dwyer banged up his left shoulder and not really sure how serious it is. He had a really nice couple of series before he left the game and looked like he slimmed down a good bit from a year ago. He was on the sidelines late joking around with teammates without a sling of any sort so hopefully it isn't too bad.
Replacement Officials - As you know the replacement officials are in because the regular officials and the league aren't seeing eye-to-eye. These are guys from the college ranks from D II and D III as we as some JUCO guys and you can tell that they aren't very comfortable on the field and look a little lost. I know that the officials weren't that great to begin with but I think this is an instance of you not knowing what you have until it is gone.
KDKA - I know that the local affiliate out of Pittsburgh doesn't get a lot of NFL games to do. Actually they only get to do the preseason game every year but it wasn't a very good showing. Early they couldn't figure out the camera angles and at one point the ball was snapped and there was an iso shot of an offensive lineman for about three seconds before we got to see the play. The timing was way off and it just wasn't a very good product overall. I know they don't do it much but just something noticeable though out the game.
Red Zone Offense - The red zone offense was brutal tonight. The Steelers got into red zone twice in the first half and they really didn't do much with it. Both were goal-to-go situations and the first series they got stuffed twice in the running game before converting on a third down pass. The second time the Steelers got stuffed three times running the football and only got three points. I know they scored a touchdown and got ten points out of two trips but you have to have some success running the football in the red zone.
The biggest thing to remember though all of this is that this is the first preseason game. There were some good things that happened and some bad things that happened. There is plenty of times to work on these things but this is just the first of four preseason games so to take much from this game is pretty foolish. The first team played all of one series and even the Eagles didn't have a lot of their regulars even playing so just take this as football being somewhat "back."