I watched the game last night thinking, ok, this doesn't look so bad. I still have concerns about the secondary, but the defensive line looked stronger and faster (and younger h/t to Warren Sapp) than they have in a while. The offense looked good. Dri Archer is fast as hell, and can't wait to see him cook on the field this year. Kid has burners on his feet and not just for 20-30 yards but I feel like he can burn up 100 yards easily and come back and do it again, no oxygen needed (James Harrison).
A lot of you killed Martavis Bryant on social media. I feel like he made a mistake, but he also made a lot of good plays. He's a kid. My football mom antenna went up and not just because I am a mom, but because many of you criticizing have no idea what learning a new offense and reading defenses and playing at an NFL pace is like. (I don't either, but as the mom of a WR, I see the struggle close up and personal) That kid shows lots of promise. Should he start before Markus Wheaton. No. But will he be better than Justin Brown or Derek Moye, probably. He reminds me of Santonio a little in his strength and ability to make big plays. He will learn and grow into that role, I believe.
Here's what Coach Tomlin had to say and I agree with him 100%, "It was an up and down day. He created a field-flipping play for us, got behind a guy and got a pass interference, a fumble. He did some other things. He is a young guy, it’s the early portion of the process. I’m sure he’ll be concerned about getting better during the course of this week and having a better performance next Saturday."
There was also a lot of talk about how bad Landry Jones is. First of all, he's a 3rd string QB. As was said last night during the game, if he's on the field in a real game, we have bigger problems. But truth is, how do you expect him to get better and be a true backup (note I did not say starter) if he can't take reps and learn from mistakes during pre-season? That's what pre-season is for. He is NOT Ben Roethlisberger, but could he be a viable backup, I think, eventually. Let's just set expectations here, though, he's 3rd string on depth chart for a reason, no need to call for his head. Instead, you should be thankful he gets the reps and experience now because he won't get it any other time (God willing cross your fingers no injuries.)
On defense, I thought Sean Spence was the highlight. Great to see him out there and kicking butt after a 2 year recovery from injury. He will be competing for that starting spot but I think he can win it. The good news is that there's depth on the defense and they are young and able to grow and learn. Jarvis Jones also looked pretty good. There's a lot to be hopeful about as you look at the young guys.
I do have the same concerns as last year though with the secondary. There is no way we should be giving up 73 yard runs. Sure, there's always going to be a good Oline that creates a gap and sets someone free, but there's got to be accountability to keeping that freedom to 10-12 yards vs 73. I'd like to see some of that addressed in the next pre-season game.
I also would like to see the 2nd string Oline get better. There was a big gap in ability between the first and second string O-line in my opinion. As soon as the 1s went out of the game, protection for the QB was not good. In the second half, Landry spent a lot of time scrambling. Again, he's not Ben, so the scramble isn't necessarily going to play to his strength. Mike Adams is still giving up the blocks. I had hoped to see better progression from last year to this year. And hopefully the face injury (or getting poked in the eye, whatever it was) to Ramon Foster is cleared up by the next game. He's been a solid starter for the Steelers and as I have said multiple times in multiple posts, leadership was what was lacking on the line in the past - not to mention the injury bug. I believe Munchak brings that leadership and mentoring to the line and I look forward to seeing their growth.
Joey Porter on the sideline was great to see. He looked like he wanted to get in there and play!! ( I think many in Steeler Nation would love to see that too!!)
Overall, I give this pre-season game a grade of C+.
I think there is a lot of room for improvement, but what I saw this year was more urgency, better players at positions we needed to upgrade and seemingly better coaching. There were still calls to fire Haley, but I liked the no huddle and the calls that were made early in the game. Ben didn't play much, but as pre-season continues and we get to see more of the 1s, I expect we'll like what we see on offense.
And same for defense. Looking forward to seeing Troy and Shamarko out there together. And hopefully the secondary starts to look better.
What grade would you give this first pre-season game?