The Eagle Flies
About the only appealing aspect of the Steelers 3rd Pre-Season Game last night in Philadelphia, were the Eagles Cheerleaders. The rest of the action on the screen was very difficult to watch, unless of course you are an Eagles fan. The performance by the Steelers first team Offense and Defensive was very reminiscent of last years teams, the Defense couldn’t get off the field, giving up long drives resulting in touchdowns, and the Offense just stumbled and bumbled around. The Defense in recent years has been described as old and slow, after much investment in making it young and fast, it is still a moveable object that opponents have very little difficulty in pushing and shoving around. The Eagles Nick Foles led offense came out in a no huddle, uptempo mode. Foles lead the team right down the field on first three drives, resulting in two touchdowns and a field goal. The drives were of 80 yards, 77 yards, and 50 yards respectively. Steeler fans have to be scratching their collective heads, we have a total of 5 first round picks starting on Defense, second year Jarvis Jones and brand new phenom Ryan Shazier, as well as second round upstart Stephon Tuitt. After all the free agent additions, the collective draft picks, OTA’s, a full training camp, and what looked like a successful start to “Team Development” as Coach Tomlin likes to say, this was the best product he could put on the field?
What is most troubling, is that the same issues and deficiencies are still nagging this team. Pour tacking, soft coverage, no pressure, missed assignments, and the most glaring problem, stopping teams on third down. Is the problem Dick Lebeau you might ask? That certainly is the one constant throughout all the personnel changes and upgrades, has the game past him by? Has Coach Tomlin lost his ability to motivate and prepare his team? The latter being true as the blame surely needs to fall on the person in charge, but what is the problem exactly and how can it be corrected? Some of you may by saying, it’s only pre-season, we’ll get better. However, how much confidence can you gain from that statement. Until we finally see sound execution on a consistent basis, there’s no reason to think things have changed.
Conventional wisdom would point to the recent arrests of running backs Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount as the primary reason the team was out of sorts, and there is certainly some merit to that. Watching the Steelers Offense flounder and flail about, you can only imagine what must have really been on the minds of Bells teammates. But why was Big Ben so scattershot? Overthrowing his receivers, making poor decisions, a complete lack of leadership and cohesion. Everyone was in a funk, totally lethargic and meek. The bottom line moving forward is this, there has to be something more going on in the passing game than Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. Newly acquired slot receiver Lance Moore didn’t dress and hasn’t shown much in the way of impact. His blocking last week was less than stellar and no apparent chemistry between him and Big Ben has been displayed. Free agent Darius Heyward-Bey has seen limited action, but looks as if he will beat out rookie incumbent Martavis Bryant if the choice comes down between the two. Where is Justin Brown? Should a pass or two not been thrown his way last night, if not just for shits and giggles.
Second, Third Teams
There was a clear stage set for rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant to earn his stripes last night, however it may be safe to say he showed his true colors instead. There were high hopes for the 6′ 5″ former Clemson receiver, however it looks like he’s not adapting to NFL competition. Bryant has shown trouble consistently handling coverages, whereas in College he had a keen sense for the ball, he now is far too occupied with beating the corners he’s up against. Receivers have to be physical, there is a lot that goes into running routes, field awareness, separation, then of course eying the ball. The Steelers made a concerted effort towards giving him opportunities on a variety of routes, including a fade route from the red zone. Bryant failed miserably, he just doesn’t seem to have the toughness or concentration, the majority of the passes thrown his way throughout this pre-season should have been caught.
Conversely, the efforts by slash sensation Dri Archer have been consistent and promising. Archer has been a guy who is showing not only that he can play in the NFL, but can be productive. A true bright spot throughout, showing again last night that he is someone that will work hard and can be relied on. Speaking of someone we can rely on, what is going on with Sean Suisham? A missed 46 yard field goal last night to go along with one in the first game against the Giants, last week he missed an extra point. Suisham only missed two attempts all of last year, he’s already 3 in the hole in exhibition play. Hard to say how significant that will be this season, if the Defense continues to allow high scores, game winning field goals may not be necessary. Perhaps money is the root of all evil, how many players have you seen deteriorate right after they cash their check.
All the sudden the September 9, opener against Cleveland doesn’t look like a cake walk. Furthermore going into Baltimore 0-1 would not be a very comfortable feeling, 0-2 facing the Panthers in week 3, well, you can do the math. Of course it’s only pre-season right, it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things, right? You say these problems will be all fixed, everything ironed out and raring to go. We’ll soon know, but looking into the reflection of last years ills is troubling to say the least. This team has it’s work cut out … Next up, cutting the roster down.