By Jeremy Hritz
The Steelers are now 3-0 in the preseason, as they get ready to cut their roster down to 80 from 85, and get set for their final exhibition against the Carolina Panthers next Friday night. Last night’s game against the Lions featured a lot of good, and not much in the way of bad, save for the near collapse in the 4th quarter. With some time to process and reflect, here are more of my reflections and analyses from the third preseason game.
- Najee Harris has a chance not to just be a good player, but a GREAT one for the Steelers organization. Just look at the article photo and how just straight up pulled away from multiple Detroit players last night on his big reception.
- Wish we could have watched Pressley Harvin get more opportunities last night, but that speaks to the success of the offense converting scoring drives, even if they were only field goals. Harvin did get work as a holder, which is equally as important in his pursuit of the starting job.
- Joe Haden had a nice break on a ball early in the first quarter, and he looks ready to go for the season. Gotta love Haden.
- While his performance last night was much better than what it was against the Eagles, there was an instance in the first quarter in which a receiver got behind Cameron Sutton, and had the ball been thrown better, it would have either been a massive game, or a long touchdown. I hope this doesn’t become a trend for Sutton on the outside.
- Melvin Ingram was impressive last night, both in pressuring the quarterback, and also in stopping the run, especially with a tackle for loss of 3 yards in the second quarter.
- While I didn’t get to watch him too closely, it seemed that Justin Layne was around the action in a positive way last night, and he more than likely helped himself in staying on the 53-man roster.
- I thought Mason Rudolph played well, and I initially had him on the Honor Roll, but his inability to finish drives with touchdowns, and the bad throw that almost resulted in a pick, changed my mind. We need to see more decisiveness and confidence from Rudolph in these types of situations.
- While I had projected that Dwayne Haskins would get reps with the 1s and would come in after Ben Roethlisberger, that was quickly dispelled as Rudolph was the next man up. Logic says the battle for QB2 is over, and Rudolph is it. It was a fun narrative, but we now have our answer.
- Speaking of Roethlisberger, I know it is only one preseason game, but man, he looked tremendous out there. More importantly, he looked like he was having fun. There is a renewed sense of energy emanating from Ben, and I am excited to see what he can do this season in the new Matt Canada offense.
- I don’t quite know what to make of Anthony McFarland yet, as there are times he flashes, and other times where he dances too much and fails to capitalize on an open hole. He is still a young player, but I’d like to see more conviction in his carries, as he is leaving yards on the field. Hopefully, this gets coached up prior to the start of the regular season.
- Speaking of running backs, Kalen Ballage, in my opinion, is the clear #2. He is steady, consistent, and has shown hands out of the backfield. I see McFarland as more of change-of-pace back, and not a guy who will get 5-7 carries a game like I can Ballage. Also, this is the end for Bennie Snell, and it is a mystery as to what happened there.
- The new offensive line is developing, but it is still working out the kinks. We need to see more of a push, as it looks like the backs are creating on their own, as opposed to exploiting open holes. Again, it’s not awful, but it hasn’t been great.
- It’s safe to say at this point that none of the UDRFAs will make the team, not even Mark Gilbert as I have been projecting for a while now. I can see most of them headed to the practice squad, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as they have potential that just needs time to develop.
- I had a question last week that I covered on the podcast about whether or not Mathew Sexton could make the roster. After another big punt return last night and inconsistency from Ray-Ray McCloud, I do. If he has a big night against the Panthers, he could sneak on to the 53 and be the starting return man.
- Still think this is going to be Ben’s last year?
- My biggest disappointment last night was that we didn’t get to see too much from the rookies and untested depth, but that will change in the final contest on Friday. Don’t expect much time for starters (if any), as it will be the youth movement primarily as the coaches make their final evaluations. And remember, the Steelers must cut to 53 by 4:00 PM on August 31st.
- Look for my updated 53-man roster projection tomorrow morning, Monday, August 23rd.
Have a great Sunday!