The Pittsburgh Steelers lost in overtime to the Kansas City Chiefs 26-20 in their third preseason game. Fortunately, it was the most complete game put together by the starters to this point in the preseason.
While the first offense looked better, it got very little push in the run game and Roethlisberger was under pressure a lot. Left tackle Mike Adams did have a rough time with edge rusher Tamba Hali, but he was not called for debilitating penalties that were evident in Monday night’s loss to the Washington Redskins.
Wide receivers Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders were the highlight of the first unit, although Sanders did lose control of a ball in the End Zone that would have put the Steelers ahead by a bigger margin.
Defensively, the return of Cortez Allen was evident in all facets, as he was all over the field in coverage and played stout against the run. His return allowed William Gay to move back to the nickel role. Unfortunately, Gay continued his uneven play this preseason, allowing an easy touchdown at the end of the first half, which brought the score to 10-10. If the Steelers defense is going to be elite in 2013, Gay must play better.
Along the defensive line Ziggy Hood and Steve McLendon were extremely stout and made an impact. The biggest take-away was the outside linebacker rotation between LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones, who alternated series throughout the first half. This configuration could allow all three to stay fresh and healthy throughout the season if they decide to make it part of the base defense.
In the second half of action, it was mostly back ups, and some things stood out both positive and negatively. On offense, wide receivers Markus Wheaton and Derek Moye looked good, with Wheaton again showing big play flair with his first touchdown catch from quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
While Grakowski and the young receivers were the story of the second offensive unit, there were some uneven moments. Newly acquired running back Felix Jones came in and gained some tough yards both in the return game and as a runner. Plus, his presence clearly inspired Baron Batch, who ran hard, although the reserve offensive line did little to open holes for any back.
Defensively, the young linebackers continue to impress, ending the game with three consecutive sacks. Alan Baxter was a terror off the edge, and looks like a player with enough speed and athleticism to contribute on special teams. They did show some over aggressiveness that led to some unneeded penalties, but their play will make it an interesting final week of preseason. At this point, linebackers Stevenson Sylvester (knee) and Chris Carter, both veterans, could be on the outside looking in on the roster.
Along the defensive line, the Steelers appear to be set with Cameron Heyward, Brian Arnfelt and Al Woods at nose tackle. That configuration was stout throughout the second half, and more importantly kept players such as Nick Williams, Alameda Ta’amu and Hebron Fangupo on the sideline.
In the secondary, it was a mixed bag, as rookies Shamarko Thomas and Terry Hawthorne as well as veteran Robert Golden made some plays. One player who did not show up tonight was cornerback Josh Victorian, who missed a special team’s tackle on the Knile Davis 109-yard kick-off return touchdown and committed a pass interference penalty erasing a Jarvis Jones interception. With Allen back and Hawthorne showing promise, Victorian cannot make negative plays if he wants to earn one of the final roster spots.
Kick returner Reggie Dunn got a shot late in the game and again showed that elite speed with a solid return. While he has shown very little as a receiver, he still has a chance with that game breaking return ability. This will be one of the most interesting spots to watch as they move toward the end of preseason. The Steelers now have until Tuesday August 27 to reduce their roster to 75 players.
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