Lots of times in games, especially preseason games, you see goods and bads. Rarely is there a game where everything is ALL bad, or ALL good. That was most apparent yesterday. We got a heaping handful of things to like and lots of things to worry about. Here's some things to consider.
I'll go with the bad first.
-Jesus Christ, we gotta get Ben. It is unpossibly hard to take that big bitch down, I know, but that dude is gonna make me bite my goddamn nails off. In my head I'm hearing "That wouldn't happen most of the time. Ben Roethlisberger is probably the best at buying time in the league. It's cool." But that is still tough.
-Deep pass defense might be a problem this year. Don't get me wrong I'm digging the Sean Smith pickup, Hell I even liked most of what he did last night, but if he misses that initial jam and he's going up against a burner like Brown, stuff like that 49 yard pass is gonna happen. We knew that big plays would happen when we started up with the new blitzing defense, so be ready for it. Not to mention Lewis can easily be burned too.
-Jamaal looked... A teensy bit off. Maybe he's still shaking off that foot injury or something and I'd rather he be shaking it off now as opposed to Week 1 but still. His cuts weren't too sharp, he wasn't seeing holes that he normally would, he just didn't look as fluid.
-Run blocking also left a bit to be desired. This is a bit more understandable, the emphasis on this game was obviously seeing what Alex could do and the run game didn't seem to be too much of a focus, so the line was never able to get into much of a rhythm. I'm not too worried here, we know these guys can run block (we were 5th in rushing last year) and I anticipate to see us run the ball hard on Green Bay next week to get Jamaal ready to go for Jacksonville.
-Tight ends weren't involved much. This was a change of pace from the last couple of games, but the number of looks and involvement of tight ends wasn't as extreme. I really hope Kelce can play next week because I want to see this guy go.
-Tysyn Hartman? Is he any good? He does shit like that sack or that block or a run stuff or that INT week 1 of the preseason every once in a while and then he gets picked on a couple times a game. Am I supposed to like him? He just seems out of place. As a blitzing guy he's pretty lights out, he's got instincts there. It's almost like he shouldn't play safety, like we need to invent some kind of position between defensive end and safety. Extra Blitzer Position. The 31. I dunno.
-Alex looked a bit sloppy to start with. Overthrown, thrown behind, the works. It took a while for him to get into a rhythm.
-Dammit Knile. You get two freaking carries with the first team and you just HAVE to ruin a good thing and fumble. At the moment it's just a bad play, so I'm gonna sit and hope he doesn't make a habit of it. The worst part to me is that he was definitely gonna get that first, too. If he didn't worry about that ball on the ground he keeps running hard and that first down is ours.
-Awesome, Knile! That kick return was a thing of beauty. Following blocks, making moves in the open field to get free then using that speed to pedal the 230 pounder to one of the longest plays in franchise history. And I believe he can do this on offense too. But this guy isn't Jamaal, he needs a hole. It doesn't have to be right in front of him but if you can give him some room to work with he's gonna be dangerous. When he gets to the open field he can deal with defenders with power (like when he bulled over that DB on a seven yard run in the third, or just make moves like we've all seen.
-O-line obviously learned from their mistakes. Last week we had some problems with blitz pickup but they obviously learned from that. We gave LOTS of time for Alex to do his thing back there.
-Piggy-backing on that, Eric Fisher looked real good, against LaMarr Woodley no less. So Fisher matched up against easily the best guy he's faced in the preseason thus far... and made him disappear. Sidenote, is it weird that Fisher ALREADY looks way bigger than he did in his first game?
-Run defense was keeping up the streak. Steelers rarely got more than 3 yards on the ground (and that 13 yard run by Dwyer was only possible because of an obvious hold on Houston). Tyson and Houston may be the best run D tandem in the league, Poe has been locking down the middle, DeVito has been stepping it up and dammit, aside from that horrible loss of backside contain against San Fran Tamba has been damn good too. If they keep this up we should finish top 10 in run defense easy.
-Piggy-backing on THAT, Poe looked great. He was often triple or double teamed and most of the time he somehow STILL would end up in on the play. I've said it before, this defense hinges around Poe. When he's good, we're good.
-Nico Johnson looked sick. He's REALLY pushing for that spot. He followed up a startlingly good training camp with a great first game and has only improved since then. Takes command of that defense and can make plays in the backfield as well as getting in on plays downfield. Gotta hope that he gets playing time with the first team next week.
-Allen Bailey once again looked good. This guy will get lots of time. He was consistenly in the backfield getting disruption. He wasn't getting tons of tackles or sacks or hits but he was always right there, in the runners face, causing them to change the play on the fly which is always a good thing to have. He and DeVito rotating is pretty good, because both of them have impressed with the first group.
-Pass rush, pass rush. Hali killed Mike Adams all night. Oh, and did anyone else see that 46? Houston and Hali rushing from the same side is terrifying. We got on the QB almost every time we did that. Then we got Poe getting a one-on-one and if DJ comes a blitzin' ( like he did on that sack) you can't let Poe free so DJ comes unblocked. LOVE seeing 46 packages utilized. Actually thinking about rewatching the tape in more detail specifically to that and doing a bit of a post on our 46 and it's effectiveness.
-Eric Berry going rogue. I LOVED this. Bring Abdullah in, let him play that deep safety spot and let Berry pick what he wants to do. See a lineman's stance leaning forward? Get into that box. See a formation that you saw on tape where they normally attempt a deep pass? Get back, now you have 3 deep safeties. He's fast enough to get around if he makes a mistake, and his instincts are just too good to not let him pick his own plays once in a while.
-Avery and Hemmingway getting involved. Avery came out and immediately showed that he should've been the #2 the whole time, and Hemmingway proved that he was quality depth behind Dex while still being a very different player.
-Alex spreading the ball around. Getting it to everyone. Slot guy, both WR's, TE's, RB's. He moved around well, he got into a groove and hit the open man, and he has yet to throw and INT. Can any QB in the preseason say that this year? This guy had a good game to close out. We were tied 10-10 at the end of the half with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were much better than 2-14 last year.