Observations from the Steelers – Cardinals Pre-season Game

In a departure from my typical statistical analyses, I am putting out a couple of posts today that are more observational analysis (mainly just my thoughts about a couple of things).

NFL Football is finally back! Sure, it’s just preseason, but I know most Steelers fans are interested in several young guys and whether they are making good progress this pre-season. I know I am! Here are just a few things that I noticed from the game last night.

First, the first teams looked about like I expected for a first preseason game. Over at BTSC, I predicted that Ben would go 2 of 3 for 25 yards. Well, he went 4 of 6 for 33, so I was pretty close. The starting defense looked solid, but not great, which is typical for a preseason game. I don’t think they were showing much in terms of scheming yet, on either side of the ball. I was relatively impressed by Legursky’s play in replacing Hartwig at center. I thought he was decent. He may have gotten away with a hold, but on reviewing it, he may have let go quickly enough to not draw a penalty. He did, at least, impede a late blitzer instead of letting him in untouched.

Sweed looked ok to me. At the very least, I don’t see him as a drop off from Nate Washington. He had one very good catch over two defenders, then a good adjustment on an underthrown pass from Batch. He dropped a pass on the sideline that he should have had, but Nate was known for that type of thing as well.

Mike Wallace, however, may end up being an upgrade over Nate. It’s early, and he was mainly going against 2nd and 3rd teamers, but Wallace looked good. We may want him doing PR and KR duties, though, based on Burnett’s fumble. In fact, it was Wallace who recovered that fumble for us.

Mendenhall looked ok, nothing spectacular. I am really interested in seeing more of him this season. The one mistake I remember was him missing blitz pickup. It looked like he started into the flat, then realized the blitz was coming. Batch got rid of it, but in traffic. 

Of the RBs, Redman had to be the star of the night, with 2 rushing TDs. Again, like Wallace, it was against backups, but he bulled his way over some tacklers on at least one of those TDs. He showed a nice little spin move at one point to get out of a tackle and gain more yards.

Dixon looked great last night. I believe that he should be Ben’s backup on game days, so that we can use him in select packages and to get him more experience. If Ben has to miss a game, then start Batch, but if Ben starts, make Dixon the active QB. On one drive Dixon was 6 of 6 passing. He made some really nice throws and he appeared to do a good job of reading the defenses. The only pass that sticks out as being off was the deep pass to Wallace. It was about a half second late, or 2-3 yards underthrown.

Sepulveda looked great punting. It seemed like every punt was a 50 yarder. And, it was high enough, too, to give the coverage team time to get down there. Overall, I think the Steelers’ coverage units were solid, except for one KR in the late 3rd or 4th quarter. I would guess at that point, the coverage unit was just 11 guys trying to make the team.

William Gay and Lawrence Timmons looked solid. It seemed that they went right after Gay in the first half, and I think he looked just fine. Honestly, I don’t think he’ll be a drop off from McFadden at all. Timmons was fine as well. I only remember one time where he let Hightower juke him out to get through the hole. But, I think he’ll learn to fill the hole better.

Ziggy Hood had a sack, but I hardly heard anything more about him. Of course, the commentators were so busy talking about other things that they rarely even told who made the tackle in the second half. But, Ziggy’s sack was more of an OL mistake than any great play by him. Still, he got in quick and took care of it. I seem to remember him getting double teamed at least once after that. Overall, the back up defenders were impressive. Or, the Cards’ backup offense was very unimpressive. Brian St. Pierre, I think, is clearly not going to beat out Leinart for 2nd string QB.

Overall, a solid first pre-season game for the Steelers all around. Nothing spectacular, but several nice plays by guys that Steelers fans are hoping to step up this year. And, most importantly, no injuries!

Feel free to add your own thoughts on the game below.

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