Medal Stand: Vets Debut in Style

Last night marked the preseason debuts of Willie Colon and Brett Keisel, and each came away with gold medals. Jim Wexell has the rest of the breakdown.

Last week I watched the Steelers' newcomers closely and awarded gold, silver and bronze medals accordingly. This week I'll start with a couple of veterans who made their first preseason appearances in the Steelers' 26-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

GOLD MEDALS

Willie ColonThe Steelers have said Emmanuel Sanders is "quick to the tuck," and Sean Spence is "quick see to do." Of Colon, say he's "quick to the throat," as he showed his opponent on Antonio Brown's 57-yard touchdown catch-and-run. The Steelers' new left guard mauled a linebacker on the second play of the game to blow open the middle for Jonathan Dwyer, and on the next play sealed the edge for Chris Rainey's 8-yard run (and fumble). On another Dwyer run, Colon teamed with Marcus Gilbert to pancake Fili Moala to open another big hole. Colon and Steve McLendon had the best training camps on the team, according to GM Kevin Colbert, and it appears that left guard is going to suit the former right tackle just fine.

Brett KeiselThe right defensive end read screen to Reggie Wayne on the first play and got out to provide blanket coverage of the Hall of Fame receiver to be. Keisel's big play, though, was made after getting past a guard and then a tackle to pressure Luck into throwing Ike Taylor's pick-six. Keisel was a standup middle linebacker on the play, and he also did some standup DE, but his base play against the run – forcing the Colts' OTs to run block on their side of the line – will be so important with Casey Hampton out of the lineup.

Heath MillerHe blocked two linebackers on the first play and then settled in to single-block DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis for much of the first quarter. Miller, in fact, pulled to block Freeney and help open the path for Rainey before his eventual fumble. Miller also opened up Brown's 57-yard touchdown run by blocking safety Tom Zbikowski on the bubble screen, before following Brown downfield along with Baron Batch and David DeCastro.

Ike Taylor – A team bereft of splash plays last season, the Steelers are hoping Taylor's 49-yard pick six opens the floodgates. Taylor also broke up a pass to Austin Collie and alerted the officials to the fact Collie did not catch the pass, which led to a replay reversal. Ben Roethlisberger did the same thing last week, and it appears these "player alerts" are going to be important if the league continues to lock out its officials.

SILVER MEDALS

LaMarr WoodleyThe team's best pass-rusher hit Luck on the first play and later had an easy sack because he did not fall for the play-action fake (something that fooled bookend Chris Carter at the goal line). Woodley was also a rock in the run game. In fact, he looked like he was back on the practice field with David Johnson by throwing Coby Fleener to the ground and tackling Donald Brown after a 1-yard gain.

Jonathan Dwyer – Led all ballcarriers with 43 yards and all but Charlie Batch with a 5.4 average per carry (Batch 1 for 9). Dwyer broke two tackles on his first carry, and then showed both power inside and enough quickness outside the remainder of his appearance. Dwyer also blocked very well. He blocked Mathis after carrying out a play-action fake to help spring Rainey's reverse, and Dwyer also picked up a blitzing linebacker that allowed Roethlisberger to throw deep, albeit incomplete. Dwyer combined his outside quickness and inside power to run behind Mike Adams for his game-long 23-yarder in the second quarter.

Cortez AllenI don't really know Allen's assignments but he executes his techniques with such confidence and physicality that I would gladly be fooled. Allen's blitz out of the slot and his strong tackling of tight ends makes me understand better why the Steelers just want to leave him inside instead of allowing him to challenge Keenan Lewis for the starting outside job. Allen also plucked a gift interception out of the air in the second quarter.

Antonio Brown – His 57-yard touchdown run off a bubble screen was enough for a gold medal, but his weak blocking cost him there. Brown also converted a 3rd-and-11 play by catching an out for 18 yards.

BRONZE MEDALS

David Gilreath – Had he made his 4 receptions for 78 yards in the first half, this former Colts practice-squad player would've won gold. And, really, who's to say he wouldn't have made these plays in the first quarter? Gilreath's best may have been a 41-yard catch on 3rd-and-11 in which the Colts jumped offside and Charlie Batch didn't want to settle for the five yards. Gilreath was in tune with the veteran QB and caught the bomb. Gilreath also converted a pair of 3rd-and-5s by breaking tackles on each, and converted a 3rd-and-16 by catching a 24-yard pass from Jerrod Johnson. However, Gilreath was unable to help the Steelers' anemic return game with his only return to the 13-yard line.

Jerrod Johnson – Entered in the fourth quarter and was far more poised in the pocket than in his previous appearance. Johnson was sacked once, but he stepped up into a busy pocket on 3rd-and-29 to throw for 14 yards and set up the Steelers' penultimate field goal. Johnson also audibled to a 9-yard Rainey run and then snuck the last yard for a first down that not only set up the final field goal but effectively ended the game.

Adrian Robinson – The pass-rusher deflected a pass on his first snap of the game and consistently pressured the opposing quarterback – again. Robinson was called a "one-trick pony" by Tomlin (via broadcaster Cris Collinsworth), which means Tomlin cares enough to coach the undrafted rookie into doing better in his pass drops and special-teams work. Robinson also had a tackle-for-loss and pressured the quarterback into Josh Victorian's interception while he was being held like he was James Harrison.

Dan Hrapmann – The undrafted rookie placekicker remained perfect for the preseason with four field goals. Each of his first three (25, 39, 43 yards) kicks last night were dead down the middle, but his game-winner from 22 yards was blocked as a pair of Colts jumped over DeCastro and Ryan Lee. But the ball made its way over the crossbar anyway. Hrapmann also sent two kickoffs out of the end zone, and his other two were returned out of the end zone to the 26 and 6, respectively.


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