By Jeremy Hritz
I’ve been through the game three times now, including watching it in person Saturday night. Here are my final thoughts on the contest, with a defensive focus, since I honed in on the offense in my post earlier today.
- I’m concerned about Devin Bush and his ability to be the starter alongside Myles Jack. Throughout his snaps, Bush was out of position, easily blocked, and slow to the play, in addition to being ineffective in coverage. I am sadly leaning towards the reality that his ACL injury is too much for him to overcome, and his potential to be a starting NFL inside linebacker is at its end. I’m willing to give him the rest of the preseason before I make a final judgment, but based on last season, training camp, and the first preseason game in 2022, it doesn’t look good.
- Speaking of ILB, Jack seems to be the real deal, but outside of that, they are thin. I already wrote about Bush above, and Robert Spillane was beat easily in coverage, while Buddy Johnson missed several tackles and was no match in covering the pass. Could ILB be a position the Steeler explore in a trade before the conclusion of training camp?
- Could we possibly see Bush traded or cut?
- The defensive line, yes without its big names, struggled mightily against the run. That includes Henry Mondeaux and Isaiah Loudermilk. This can’t be the look come week one, or once again, this defense is in trouble.
- Outside linebacker? Not much to write home about. Underwhelming. Yes, Derek Tuszka, too.
- In the secondary, Tre Norwood showed growth from year 1 to year 2, and it’s exciting to think about how he can benefit this team his sophomore season, Outside of Norwood, everyone else was uneven. James Pierre had some nice plays, but also gave up some big plays. Carlins Platel and his subpar speed was exposed. Second year safety Donovan Stiner missed multiple tackles.
- Ultimately, if I was Teryl Austin and Brian Flores, I’d be highly annoyed by the performance of the defensive depth, as it wasn’t good. Sure, rookie Mark Robinson had a game-changing sack to lead to the win, but he was unblocked. The defensive unit has a lot of work to do to get ready for the regular season.
- I’ll close with mentioning that Arthur Maulet played with fire and made multiple plays. While it cam against second stringers, he did show some reasons for optimism. He’s in a prime spot to make this team.
- And props to Mark Robinson for his sack fumble, which led to the game-winning TD drive. Yet, prior to that play, he was inconsistent, out of position, and very much rookie-like
Overall, the defense underplayed the offense, and there is much work to be done. Thankfully, the Steelers defense is missing many players due to injury, and this is not the unit to expect week #1 vs. the Bengals. However, this is the depth that will spell the starters, and it simply is not good enough yet.
On to Jacksonville.