Preseason Week 2 Analysis: Steelers-Colts

The Pittsburgh Steelers took home their first win of the preseason on Sunday night, as they grabbed a 26-24 victory over the Colts.

It may have been Andrew Luck that got much of the attention, and the rookie QB’s poise after some early mistakes was certainly impressive, but I was keeping a careful eye on the Steelers. Once more, there were both some good and bad aspects of the game that deserve some more in-depth consideration.

The Good

Jonathan Dwyer:

The running back didn’t get a whole lot of work last week, but he made up for it a little on Sunday. He, much like many of the other Steeler running backs, has battled injury issues for the whole offseason, but he still looked good against Indy. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry, and even broke off a 23-yard run at one point. I’m a firm believer in Dwyer as a real option for the running game when Isaac Redman needs a breather, and it’s good to see that the team feels the same. It’s certainly disturbing that the coaching staff felt the need to send Chris Rainey back into a preseason game despite being knocked unconscious, but the running game has seemed effective as a whole this preseason.

The cornerbacks

My problems with Ike Taylor have been well documented, but when the guy is focused, he sure can be a heck of a cornerback, and he proved that against the Colts. Luck made a pretty decent throw to Taylor’s side of the field, but he read the situation perfectly, and jumped the route to grab an interception and take it in for six. He can be a weapon on the outside if he doesn’t repeat the type of brain-dead performance he had against the Broncos, and his play will be a major determination in how effectively the team can generate turnovers.

Cortez Allen, another guy that I’ve liked for some time, also got a pick, albeit it was a little fluky. I really believe in him and it’s good that he could show off for the coaches. Even Keenan Lewis, whom I despise, did well, racking up five tackles. With the departure of William Gay, there’s not a ton of experience at this position anymore, and while it was confusing that the team didn’t really address this deficiency in the draft, perhaps there’s hopes for the DBs yet.

The Bad

Red zone offense

Yikes. Pittsburgh was in the bottom half of the league in red zone offense last season, and the new emphasis on the offensive line was supposed to change all that. So far, that hasn’t exactly been the case. The team was 0/3 inside the 20 on Sunday, and went just one for two against the Eagles two weeks ago as well. Part of this has been the continued struggles of the line, as they did allow three sacks on the day as part of another uneven performance, but part of the blame has to lay with Ben as well. The best quarterbacks go for the touchdown at all costs, but he’s definitely exhibited a recent cautious streak in the red area that isn’t exactly conducive to getting big wins. Sure, it was nice to get kickers like the new Danny Hrapmann some experience, but when the regular season rolls around, they’ve got to go for the jugular and stop playing so many close games.

The front seven

The Steelers just weren’t the same last year when it came to sacking opposing quarterbacks, and this trend has also carried over to the preseason. They only generated one sack on Sunday, courtesy of LaMarr Woodley with some help from Steve McLendon, which isn’t the same for this organization. This is largely due to injury after all, as the absence of James Harrison and Casey Hampton really hurts this group, but those guys won’t be around forever. The team has invested a lot into developing young defensive players, and they have to show much more than basic competence. I want to see Cam Heyward and Ziggy Hood become explosive, dynamic forces on the defensive line, and it just hasn’t happened yet. I had hoped that this preseason could be their time to shine with the veterans on the sideline, but that hasn’t been the case.

Up next, the team travels to frigid Buffalo, to take on the new look Bills. As always, it should be interesting.

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