The Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins battled in preseason action on Monday Night, and it what was another sloppy outing. Like was the case in Week One against the New York Giants, mental mistakes, injuries and turnovers were the story of the game and the Steelers fell again 24-13.
The big story to come from the offense was another injury to running back Le’Veon Bell. The rookie second round pick suffered a foot injury on the first drive of the game, ending his evening with only four carries. The latest setback is another frustrating moment for fans that have been waiting to see what Bell has to offer after an impressive camp. At this point, it would appear that he has to shake the injury bug to be able to make a consistent impact.
In his absence, Jonathan Dwyer makes the most of his chance to make an impact. Yes, he did have one bad fumble to end a drive; he ran with power, speed and vision and looked in the best shape of his career. With Bell seemingly in the training room on a daily basis, it would be hard for the Steelers to part with Dwyer, who can make plays. Another offensive player that came to play was wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. For a second week in a row, Sanders looks more like the number one receiver than Antonio Brown. While it is an unlikely scenario, the Steelers may need to step up negotiations to lock him up before the start of the season; his play could price him out of Pittsburgh in 2013.
One young player that came to life against the Redskins was rookie quarterback Landry Jones, who demonstrated the arm strength and pocket presence that made him a record setting quarterback in college. On his stat line, he did move the team to the first offensive touchdown of the preseason on a fourth and one, but it was his throws to all three levels of the defense that made the drive go, especially the 45-yard hook-up to wide receiver Markus Wheaton to set them up in scoring position.
Wheaton demonstrated a solid all-around skill set showing speed to take the top off the defense deep, while also making some tough grabs over the middle. Another wide receiver that opened some eyes was Reggie Dunn, who flashed the quickness and speed in the return game that everyone has been waiting to see.
While tight end David Paulson struggled as a blocker, he did make a play or two in the passing game. Back-up Jamie McCoy also made some plays, but still no clear position structure with Heath Miller on the sideline. On top of that, fullback Will Johnson, who again came to play with solid blocks and was a presence out of the backfield, until he injured his ribs late in the second quarter and did not return. On a down note, the back-up offensive line, especially Guy Whimper struggled again.
Defensively, the first team defense did look stout, although cornerback William Gay did give up another touchdown pass, his second in two weeks. While Gay struggled on the outside, it is just a matter of time until Cortez Allen returns, something that would allow Gay to move back into his nickel back role. Most importantly, the young defensive players came to play, showing fans why the Steelers are excited about their future. Rookie first-round pick Jarvis Jones forced another turnover to end a drive and fourth-round safety Shamarko Thomas showed off his physicality while forcing a third quarter turnover. Damon Cromartie-Smith also forced a turnover to squash a Redskins drive.
On special teams, while the return game did flash some life, the punt coverage teams seemed to struggle as the game wore on, with the Redskins breaking a couple of decent returns. Yes, there were many back-ups on the field during those returns; but those are the times where the young players must open some eyes.
Injuries are always the story during preseason and the Steelers came out of the game in better shape than the Redskins, watching only Bell (foot), Johnson (ribs) and Baron Batch (stinger) leaving the game due to injury.
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