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Steelers vs. Jaguars: 6 Takeaways from Pittsburgh’s Second Preseason Game

The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to 0-2 in the 2015 preseason with Friday night’s 23-21 loss at Jacksonville.

They won where it really counts, however, because they came out of the game with no significant injuries.

The first-team offense needed just six plays to move the ball 80 yards on the game’s opening possession. Ben Roethlisberger’s 44-yard pass to Martavis Bryant, and his two-point conversion pass to Markus Wheaton, gave the Steelers an 8-0 lead.

Most of the skill-position players on offense were done for the night after that first series. There’s not much to worry about there. Barring a rash of injuries on that side of the ball, the Steelers will be able to put points on the board this season.

It’s the other areas that require deeper scrutiny.

Here are six observations – the good, the bad and the ugly – from the game.

James Harrison, Will Allen and William Gay can’t play forever

That might seem more like a line from Captain Obvious than an observation. The message is that with the exception of Ryan Shazier, none of the younger players on defense seemed to do anything to distinguish themselves against the Jaguars’ first unit early in the game. If it weren’t for Harrison, who had a sack, Allen and Gay the Jaguars probably would have scored a touchdown on their second possession and not settled for a field goal.

The problem is Harrison is 37, Allen is 33 and Gay is 30. At some point, they’re not going to be able to bail out the defense. If the younger guys don’t develop, get ready for more 40- and 50-yard plays from Steelers opponents.

Sixth-round linebacker looks better than first-round linebackers

Rookie outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, who the Steelers drafted in the sixth round, was harder to block than first-round picks Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree.

Defensive end Matt Conrath sacked Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne on third down to force a punt in the third quarter, but Chickillo pressured Henne into that sack. Third-string quarterback Stephen Morris felt the heat from Chickillo and threw a fluttering incompletion late in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus credited Jones with one quarterback hurry. But he just didn’t seem to wreak as much havoc as Chickillo.

Dupree was thrown to the ground on his first play, and it didn’t get much better. He was handled most of the night by Jaguars backup offensive lineman Sam Young. Dupree is a rookie who’s still learning. But Jones is entering his third season and needs to start scaring opposing quarterbacks.

Another solid showing from Alejandro Villanueva

There were a few blemishes in his body of work, but overall Alejandro Villanueva built on his impressive preseason opener.

Pro Football Focus charged Villanueva with two quarterback hurries. Nordly Capi beat him on a move, but not physically, late in the first half for one of his two sacks.

Villanueva was unable to hold his block on a couple of other occasions, but the 6’9″ former Army Ranger remains a candidate to back up Kelvin Beachum at left tackle.

Jesse James bounces back

Rookie tight end Jesse James took steps toward redeeming himself after an awful preseason debut in which he dropped a touchdown pass and allowed a pass he should have caught to be intercepted.

The fifth-round pick caught two passes for 28 yards, including a 22-yarder in triple coverage on third-and-10 to keep a field goal drive alive in the fourth quarter.

James also made a tackle on a kickoff return and did a good job blocking. Three plays after his 22-yard reception, he made a key block to spring Jawon Chisholm for a seven-yard gain.

The Penn State product will have to keep up the good work to prove his bad night in Canton was just first-time jitters.

These guys are in danger of being cut

If the following players don’t knock the coaching staff’s socks off in the two preseason games between now and Sept. 1, they’ll be handing in their playbooks when the Steelers cut their roster to 75 on that day.

Ian Wild: The safety was pancaked by Jaguars receiver Arrelious Benn on punt coverage in the first quarter. Tandon Doss returned the punt just five yards. Much more costly was Rashad Greene’s 37-yard punt return that sparked a Jacksonville touchdown drive in the second quarter. Wild was the first player in the area when Greene fielded the punt, but he overpursued and ran himself out of the play.

B.W. Webb: Jaguars tight end Clay Harbor ran past B.W. Webb on his 31-yard touchdown catch from Chad Henne that increased the Jaguars’ lead to 17-8 in the second quarter. That play wasn’t all Webb’s fault. He could have used some safety help from Shamarko Thomas. But Webb also was flagged for illegal contact and defensive holding on the Jaguars’ first touchdown drive. The penalties were declined, but Webb probably will hear about them in meetings. Harbor’s TD wasn’t considered a pass into Webb’s coverage, but according to PFF Webb allowed completions on all three passes in which he was targeted.

Shakim Phillips: The wide receiver dropped two passes and caught just one of the six passes thrown his way.

Landry Jones shows flashes, but …

What would a recap of a Steelers preseason game be without some commentary on Landry Jones?

Bruce Gradkowski is still sidelined with a sore arm, so Jones played every series except the first. He completed 24 of 46 passes for 200 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Jones didn’t have to drive the Steelers very far on the touchdown. Sammie Coates recovered a fumble on a kickoff at the Jacksonville 17 in the fourth quarter, and Jones eventually found C.J. Goodwin for a four-yard TD pass to give the Steelers a 21-17 lead with less than five minutes left.

Jones might have had a 49-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter. He threw a good ball to Darrius Heyward-Bey, but Davon House broke it up. Jones would have had three more completions if it weren’t for Phillips’ two drops and a drop by Coates in the fourth quarter. Jones led the Steelers on a field goal drive in the final quarter, but the Jaguars committed three defensive holding penalties on the drive. So it’s hard to gauge Jones’ passing there.

With 1:09 left in the game, the Steelers had the ball at their 20 trailing 23-21 with no timeouts. Jones showed some promise on the drive, completing a 17-yard sideline pass to a covered Coates. But he completed just two of six passes on the drive and couldn’t get the Steelers into field goal range.

Jones has completed just 50 percent of his passes (39 for 78) in the preseason and has a passer rating of 60.2. Jones has yet to suit up for a game in his three-year career. If he doesn’t show something in the final three preseason games, the word “inactive” will remain next to his name on Sunday mornings when the games count.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets

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