Preseason Week 1 Analysis: Breaking Down Steelers-Eagles

It may have been just a preseason game against the Steelers’ cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, but I know I was still watching closely, and there was certainly plenty to take away from the 24-23 loss.

Sure, the loss itself doesn’t matter too much, other than wounding my pride, but there was both encouraging and discouraging elements of the 2012 squad’s first performance on the field.

The Good:

Chris Rainey

Let’s start with what I liked about the game. I really liked the team’s selection of Rainey in the draft, since getting a speedy, versatile player in the fifth round like the Florida product seemed like a good move. I wasn’t necessarily thrilled that they didn’t add someone earlier in the draft or sign a veteran to help cope with Rashard Mendenhall’s absence, but the fact that Rainey was impressive in this one certainly allayed some of my concerns. He only carried the ball four times for a grand total of one yard, but it’s not like he’s going to be a straight ahead runner. His value is as a third down back, and considering that he took a pass 57 yards for a touchdown, I’d say he did good job of acquitting himself in that regard. It would have been nice for him to show a little more consistency, but that won’t be his focus during the year. Instead, the team will need someone explosive in the backfield, and he’s certainly looked good in that respect so far.

Baron Batch:

Batch didn’t exactly put up stellar numbers in his limited action, with just 19 carries for 41 yards, but the fact he got the most reps at running back tells me that the coaches are invested on taking a serious look at Batch. While I’ve wanted a veteran presence on the team at the position, I’ve never felt terribly worried because I’ve been intrigued by what guys like Batch and Dwyer could bring to the rotation. I have a lot of faith in Isaac Redman from a talent standpoint, but the concern with him is durability. If Batch or Dwyer can come in and effectively spell him, with a sprinkling of Rainey as well, I think this can be the most effective Steelers running game in years. Of course, a lot of that is dependent on…

The Bad:

Mike Adams and David DeCastro

I know they’re both rookies, but yeesh. DeCastro had his moments, good and bad, but it still seemed like he got pushed around by the Eagles’ defensive line at times, which is concerning given that his strength is one of his best assets. Adams, on the other hand, was a disaster. Left tackle is a tough position to learn, and I knew there would be a bit of an adjustment period for him, but allowing 2.5 sacks in nine whole plays is a little ridiculous. To top it all off, he managed to hurt himself in the process, and while team doctors don’t seem overly concerned, the last thing he needs is to lose practice time. I really believed that the drafting of these two marked the start of a new day for the offensive line, but Thursday’s game certainly gave me some unpleasant flashbacks. There’s plenty of time for both to improve, and it helps that the team got Max Starks back on board (and at a normal human weight) but they need to make a big leap sooner rather than later.

The team has the week off from preseason action until they take on the Colts for a Sunday night game. It’ll be fun to see Andrew Luck come to town in the preseason home opener, and here’s hoping the line is up to the challenging of handling Mathis and Freeney for the few snaps that they’re all out there. I know I’ll be watching.

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