Dare we say this was quite the exciting game for the Steelers in their preseason opener? If you watched it then I’m sure you’d agree, at least as far as the 2nd half is concerned. Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff learned a lot about their team tonight in the preseason opener agains the Eagles. Then again, that’s what these games are for. After being in camp for a couple weeks now you get a great chance to see who still needs the most work and where along with seeing who is beginning to step up in game situations. While it didn’t end in favor of the Black ‘n Gold, it was a very exciting affair for an opener and we all learned a lot about what our team is early on.
After winning the toss, Chris Rainey saw the kickoff sail into the endzone for a touchback, allowing Ben and the offense to take the field first. It was a successful first drive for all intents and purposes but it was not without issue, which we’ll get too shortly.
Todd Haley came with a concentrated effort on the ground game and short, quick passes to Isaac Redman and David Johnson. The runs were mainly up the middle as Redman powered his way through tackles, picking up where he left off last year. Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey also get in on the action early as the opening drive went 16 plays, 52 yds in 9:48 culminating in a Sean Suisham 46 yd FG to put the Steelers up by 3.
After Roethlisberger left the game, Byron Leftwich took the offense down the field and hit Emmanuel Sanders on a 2 yd slant pass touchdown to go up 10-0.
The defense made a statement with a quick stop agains Mike Vick and the Eagles first team offense. NT Steve McLendon made his statement with a sack on Vick for a 7 yd loss to force 4th down.
As we said though things were not all rosey for the Steelers. The offensive line had it’s share of issues in pass protection, especially against the wide, speed rushers of the Eagles. Mike Adams struggled allowing a couple of sacks, but to his credit was heads up enough to recover the ensuing fumbles. The interior line wasn’t fairing much better as they had trouble with allowing the Eagle defenders to get penetration. Basically, the rookies on the line looked like rookies in a big way but the veterans had their share of issues as well.
Byron Leftwich lead the offense for the remainder of the first half; Ben left after the first series. He finished up 3-5 for 14 yds and 1 TD as the offense continued to focus on the run game. The starters began to filter out after the 2nd series for both teams and consequently things were a bit rough, but there were some big plays.
DE Al Woods was in the right place at the right time, intercepting a Mike Kafka pass and returning it to the Eagles 5 yd line. Things went in reverse though and Suisham ended up kicking a FG to give the Steelers a 13-0 lead at the half. I should note, just because, that we had a short flashback of the Bruce Arians redzone offense when Todd Haley called an end around to Chris Rainey that lost yardage and ultimately killed the drive.
Halftime saw the Steelers up 13-0.
In the 2nd half things were mediocre as the backups were in and Jerrod Johnson was leading the offense. There’s not much to add here in the game recap with regards to the backups in the 2nd half but that’s to be expected. Like earlier though there were some big plays, unfortunatley they came at the expense of the defense.
Nick Foles hit 2 long passes for touchdowns in the 3rd quarter. On the first, the entire Steelers secondary was caught napping as their was clearly a blown coverage on the 70 yd TD pass to Damaris Johnson. On the 2nd, Curtis Brown had coverage on Gilyard for the Eagles and never got his head around, allowing the 44 yd TD pass.
The Steeler offense was completely out of sync until the final 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter when they were able to convert a first down. They went 1-4 in 3rd down conversions until Chris Rainey took the quick pass from Jerrod Johnson and sprinted 57 yds for the touchdown, making it 20-14 near the end of the 3rd.
Both teams traded punts regularly in the 4th quarter, and the defenses traded big hits against their opposing offenses in a typical first preseason game ending. Defensive Backs Andre Freeman and Myron Rolle both whiffed on a late Eagles touchdown pass, allowing the go ahead score, making the game 21-17 with about 5 minutes to go. Jerrod Johnson came on to try and lead the Steelers to a late rally. Johnson went to the shotgun completing passes to Tyler Beiler and Brandon Johnson, complimented by Baron Batch carrying the ball and gaining confidence with every opportunity. The drive stalled out around the 20 yd line though, then went backwards after a delay of game against the offense and some negative running plays. Daniel Hrapmann kicked a clutch 46 yd FG to put the Steelers up 23-21 with under 2 minutes to go. The defense had the Eagles offense at 4th and 4 on the 39 yd line but allowed the conversion and then go ahead FG kick with 16 seconds to go to win the game for Philadelphia. The Steelers finish it out with a loss, 24-23.
Marshall McFadden and Adrian Robinson both having a solid second half in pass rush and coverage duties. McFadden broke up a few passes and Robinson is dishing out some big, solid hits. These kids have been having very good training camps and definitely turning heads in their respective heated battles.
Brandon Johnson and Sean Spence spent a lot of time on the field in the second half and both played very well in coverage and in blitz situations. These two are taking charge early, and Spence has a serious nose for the ball. For the backup job on the inside, Stevenson Sylvester has a serious battle on his hands with Brandon Johnson who’s very capable and reliable.
Injuries were a big story in the game though as the Steelers lost 3 players in the first half. TE/FB left with a right knee injury and did not return. He wasn’t able to get off the field without help and was carted off. OT Mike Adams also left with a right knee injury and did not return. Finally Jonathan Dwyer left with a shoulder injury and did not return. The team did not release any information about the severity of any injuries after the game.
In the kicking game, Drew Butler took the Punting duties; 5 times for 45 yd average, a long of 61.
Sean Suisham went 2/2 on FG’s. Hrapmann kicked an extra point.
Chris Rainey and Marquis Maze traded return duties all night. While there were plenty of flags for illegal blocks on the returns, both guys showed good vision and obvious quick feet with a nice burst getting up field.
Be sure and check out our writeups in the coming days as we break down the game further!