Sunday, August 11, 2013

Saturday Night Live and the Not Ready For Prime Time Steelers

"Obviously" neither the Pittsburgh Steelers nor the New York Giants looked ready for February 2nd Saturday night. With the Giants scoring on both of Eli Manning's drives, though, it was clear which team has more to work before the regular season begins.

The Steelers and their pseudo Saturday night live season opener were definitely not ready for prime time. Some of the same issues as last season still seem to be there. Or we could say it as a colleague paraphrased it in a recent conversation when referencing Dennis Green's post-game meltdown after his Arizona Cardinals gave up a 20 point lead and lost to the Chicago Bears 24-23.

In essence, "they are who we thought they were!"

As the aforementioned colleague pointed out, there were "breakdowns in pass protection (they are who we thought they were!), breakdowns in coverage (they are who we thought they were!), breakdowns on special teams (they are who we thought they were!)" and breakdowns in the mental aspect of the game. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said as much in his press conference, saying that they are "obviously" a work in progress. - http://tinyurl.com/mpxpzqk

When If It Ain't Steel presented the things to look for in our pre-game piece, we pointed out that certain things needed to happen and certain people needed to make themselves seen.

Virtually none of them did.

We said the secondary, mainly the young cornerbacks who will be providing depth, needed to step up to show who would be there if the starters went down. None really did. Unfortunately, one of the veterans did the most damage. Slot defensive back William Gay was burned by Victor Cruz for a 57-yard touchdown catch from Manning near the end of the first quarter.

None of the young defensive backs really stood out. Isaiah Green didn't play, so he'll have to wait to be evaluated in a gameday situation. Robert Golden missed a, well, golden opportunity when he barely missed intercepting a pass. Since there was nothing in front of him but grass, he would've scored. Josh Victorian played well, though, having four solo tackles which includes his work on special teams.

The secondary did stiffen at times, veteran Ike Taylor even had a pass defensed to prevent a touchdown in the first quarter. Overall, though, the secondary gave up 221 yards (191 when subtracting sack yards) on 15 pass completions. The NFL's No. 1 pass defense gave up six yards a completion last season.

The quagmire of the fifth and sixth wide receiver spots was cleared at all. In a good way, though. The main candidates for the positions - Derek Moye, Justin Brown, Kashif Moore, Reggie Dunn and throw in JD Woods for good measure - had 10 receptions for 89 yards. Woods had a particularly great pair of catches when jumping out of Heinz Field on one and walked a tight rope to catch another. The only WR without a reception was David Gilreath.

The young linebackers played well for the most part. First-round draft pick Jarvis Jones had a very good open-field tackle, a fumble recovery and, maybe most importantly, didn't look lost. - http://tinyurl.com/moj2fuo

Veteran Jason Worilds had a sack and three tackles, but he also made stupid mistakes. Twice in a three-play span, he was flagged for major penalties, including a "roughing the passer" penalty. Now, we'd rather say "Whoa, Trigger!" than have to dangle a carrot in front of him, but aggression needs to be tempered. Hopefully he learned that by the tongue lashing he received from Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau. Hopefully.

The rest of those looking to make the team looked fairly good, with Alan Baxter, Brian Rolle, Marshall McFadden and Vince Williams all making plays to have the announcers call their names. Adrian Robinson scored the team's lone touchdown off of Williams' sack late in the game.

Aside from a couple of good kickoff returns and Dunn almost creating a vapor trail on a punt return, special teams was bad. Damontre Moore lived up to his college nickname of "DaMonster" when he blocked punt with 11:27 to go in the first quarter. It set up first-and-goal at the five-yard line, but Taylor and the defense forced a field goal.

Outside of blocking, the tight ends weren't a big part of the game Saturday. More will be seen as practice and the preseason continues.

The player of the game, as well as the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, was Al Woods. Playing defensive end instead of nose tackle, he had nine tackles, two for losses, a quarterback hurry and a sack.

The running game was a nice surprise, thanks mainly to LaRod Stephens-Howling. LSH rushed the ball seven times for 40 yards, leading a group of rushers who ran for 91 yards total. But, one thing is for sure, all the zone blocking system talk was somewhat anticlimactic. If we counted properly, they ran it five times total in first half, and eight times the entire game.

Isaac Redman, the designated starter in the game, backed that up.

"People make a big deal of it, it's not that big as everyone's making it. It's just one play," Redman said as dictated by Ken Laird. "Not like we're going to shy away from all the other runs we've had. Plenty of different runs, [zone blocking] is just an added run."

Still, Stephens-Howling liked what he is seeing overall.

"I like it here a lot. Feel real comfortable," he said. [Todd Haley] gets the ball to the backs out in the flats." - http://tinyurl.com/lpuzv38

All-in-all, the offensive line, wide receivers, linebackers and defensive line played well and gave Steelers fans something to which to look forward. The rest of the not ready for prime time Steelers players have more rehearsal to do before their next performance Monday at the Washington Redskins.