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Steelers’ offense a work in progress following loss to Eagles

The first preseason game of the 2012 National Football League season is in the books and while no one will remember the 24-23 score of the Philly win over the Steelers, there is a lot to take from the game and I’m focusing on the offense.

New offensive coordinator Todd Haley unveiled his new scheme last night and the differences between he and former coordinator Bruce Arians were obvious from the get-go. The very first play was a screen to David Johnson, who reportedly may have an ACL tear, but more on that later.

Throughout the opening drive which resulted in three points, the offense relied on quick throws and runs, but also saw Ben Roethlisberger sacked twice. It’s clear to me that this offense will be built around a number of three-step drops for Roethlisberger which is good for getting rid of the ball, but he seemed slow on his progressions. This is normal for the first preseason game and Roethlisberger will be fine as the training camp progresses.

Last night was also the big debut of top picks David DeCastro and Mike Adams. I thought both guys represented themselves well in the run game. DeCastro looked great on the pull and Adams is an absolute road grader as he buried several Eagles’ defenders.

Pass blocking was another story however, especially for Adams who gave up two sacks before tweaking his knee recovering a fumble. He should be OK according to Head Coach Mike Tomlin. I’m sticking with the ‘one game’ mantra right now because he will get better, but he was beaten solidly by speed rushes and that cannot happen to the guy protecting the QB’s blind-side. DeCastro proved to be the ‘gamer’ many thought him to be. More than likely going to be the man at right guard for a long time.

Everything I know about offensive line coach Sean Kugler tells me he is a good, knowledgeable and intense coach, but I’m starting to have concerns. The line last night regardless of who was in there, did not look good. The red zone/goal line offense again sputtered giving many Steelers’ fans horrible flashbacks to recent years. Granted Willie Colon was not in the line-up last night, but this unit must improve significantly in the next month.

The Chris Rainey Show took center-stage last night as his electrifying speed was on display a couple of times including a 57-yard touchdown reception in the second half. Rainey will not knock anyone over, but he will rarely take a solid hit and that’s good because duarability will be an important factor for him.

I thought Jonathan Dwyer and Baron Batch looked decent at running back although Dwyer left with a shoulder sprain. Batch was used at will in the second half and while he didn’t look overly explosive, he seemed to gain confidence as he carried more and more. Keep in mind he’s coming off of ACL surgery so confidence was a big issue in trusting the knee. With that said, I’m not sure Batch makes the roster if Dwyer is healthy.

Receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders each looked good and exited quite early as expected. No one really had a chance to step up for the crucial fourth wide receiver spot simply because second half QB Jerrod Johnson was under constant pressure.

With David Johnson going down with what is believed to be an ACL injury, the fullback position suddenly became one of significance. Will Johnson has played well in camp, but is he what Tomlin and Haley are looking for in the position? The Steelers have questions there and tight end because of the suspension of Wes Saunders for the first four games. D. Johnson’s injury could allow that to settle out.

Overall, it is just one lousy preseason game with much to be excited about and much to be concerned about. Let’s see where we are next week at this time.

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