It’s a good thing the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have to play the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2013 regular season.
Those Chiefs have been quite a pest since 2009.
Two of the Steelers’ last three regular-season meetings against the Chiefs have gone to overtime, with the Chiefs winning at Kansas City in 2009 and the Steelers winning at Pittsburgh last season.
In 2011, the Steelers escaped Kansas City with a 13-9 win.
The Steelers and Chiefs went to overtime again Saturday night at Heinz Field. Fortunately for the Steelers, this game didn’t count. They lost 26-20 to drop to 0-3 in the preseason.
Because the starters see their most extended playing time before the games count, it has become chic in NFL circles to dub Week 3 of the preseason a “dress rehearsal.”
These guys aren’t getting ready to stand up at a wedding, they’re getting ready to play a rough game. Networks get a lot of advertising money from car companies to televise these games.
So wouldn’t the term “tune-up” fit the football culture a little better?
After watching the Steelers tune up for the 2013 season, here are a few thoughts coming out of Saturday’s game.
Ziggy Hood silenced his detractors, at least for a week. He had three tackles and a sack. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he also had a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.
Hood wasn’t the only defensive end on the field Saturday night who was chosen in the first round of the 2009 draft. Tyson Jackson was drafted No. 3 overall by the Chiefs, 29 spots ahead of Hood. Like Hood, Jackson hasn’t had the impact expected from a first-round pick.
Jackson has started 46 games in his career. He’s made 167 combined tackles and had five sacks.
Hood has started 39 games with 101 combined tackles and 8.5 sacks.
For all the grumbling about Hood, when compared to Jackson the Steelers got decent bang for their buck in terms of draft value.
Hood just needs more performances like the one he turned in Saturday night.
Offensive Line Improves
Well, the offensive line couldn’t be any worse than it was last week in Washington, D.C.
The Steelers often used Kelvin Beachum as a tight end on Saturday. After the debacle against the Redskins, maybe they figured they need six offensive linemen out there.
Ben Roethlisberger was sacked twice in one half of football. That extrapolates to a four-sack game, and a 64-sack season if he plays in all 16 games. However, there were some encouraging signs.
The penalties still need to be cleaned up. But the pass protection was solid at key times. The line had to have been doing something right for Roethlisberger to complete 13 of 19 passes for 166 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
Staying healthy is what matters most in preseason games, and so far the Steelers’ five starting offensive linemen have done just that. Continuity can’t be overlooked. An offensive line becomes stronger as a unit by playing together week in and week out.
The Steelers used 25 different offensive line combinations in 2011. Last season, Max Starks was the only offensive lineman to take every snap.
With the starters likely playing only a series Thursday at Carolina, Mike Adams, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert have a good chance of entering the regular season unscathed after a full preseason of working together.
That’s a step in the right direction.
Baxter Should Make Roster
Alan Baxter’s performance against the Chiefs made the Adrian Robinson-for-Felix Jones trade look even better.
The trade made sense for the Steelers. They unclogged the logjam at linebacker and have a much-needed body at running back. It also gave Baxter more snaps Saturday, and he took full advantage.
An undrafted rookie from Northern Illinois, Baxter had two sacks, forced a fumble and induced a holding penalty. In 2011 and 2012, the 6’0”, 238-pounder had 15 sacks and 24 tackles for loss playing in the Mid-American Conference. That’s the same conference that produced Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison.
Baxter’s coming-out party should put Chris Carter on notice. Both players should see significant playing time in the preseason finale. Unless Carter has a huge game or Baxter takes a major step back, Baxter should make the 53-man roster, and Carter should be cut.
Carter, taken in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, was pretty much invisible Saturday except when he recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff, and that was negated by a penalty. Carter has broken up one pass in his career and he’s never had a sack. It’s time for the Steelers to move on from Carter and keep a guy who can get to the quarterback.