Medal Stand: Onward They March

Lopsided win in third preseason game doesn't make up for loss of first-round draft pick David DeCastro. But, the Steelers march on.

I apologize for even trying to find anything good out of this preseason game with the sickening pit in the stomach of Steelers fans everywhere after David DeCastro's knee injury.

As someone on the SCI message board put it: "Rather have lost 56-0 and have DeCastro back."

The Steelers beat the Buffalo Bills 38-7 and the above quote sums up the feeling of Steelers fans everywhere. But, onward they march.

GOLD MEDALS

Cortez AllenThe nickel cornerback brought back memories of Carnell Lake with his combination of safety/linebacker-like play around the line of scrimmage and cornerback skills deep in coverage. It's clear the Steelers aren't even considering Allen for a starting job outside because he's proving so valuable as a Lake-type rover up close with man coverage skills. On one series, Allen broke up a deep ball to rookie sprinter T.J. Graham, pressured the quarterback into an incompletion, and then broke up a deep pass to Brad Smith on 3rd-and-2. After Allen was finally lifted in the fourth quarter, he was summoned by coach Mike Tomlin, who shook Allen's hand and hugged him for a job well done.

Ziggy HoodFor the second consecutive game Hood was the beast of the Steelers' defensive line. With the Bills poised to add to their 7-0 lead upon crossing midfield, Hood batted a second-down pass at the line and then pressured Ryan Fitzpatrick into a third-down incompletion. On the next Buffalo possession, Hood helped Carter sack Fitzpatrick (although Hood wasn't credited), and on the next Buffalo possession Hood recovered a fumble to set up the Steelers' offense at the Bills 18 for the Steelers' first touchdown of the game. Hood also pressured Vince Young into throwing an interception to Troy Polamalu to open the third quarter. The Steelers' 2009 first-round pick is clearly living up to his potential.

Jonathan DwyerAlthough he gained only 1 yard on 5 carries, the big back answered any questions about his ability to play on third downs with his receiving and blocking. Dwyer turned the game around by coming back to catch an underthrown Ben Roethlisberger pass for 33 yards from out of the Steelers' end zone on 3rd-and-9 with 1:28 remaining in the first half. Later in the drive Dwyer caught a short pass in which he had to make some nifty moves to get out of bounds and stop the clock. In the opening possession of the second half, Dwyer punctuated a play-action fake with a roll block into a defensive tackle that allowed Byron Leftwich to throw a 39-yard touchdown pass to ...

Antonio BrownAfter dropping an easy pass to open the game, and the next one to him, too, Brown played like the Pro Bowler that he was last season. The third-year wide receiver caught the next 7 passes thrown to him for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. The first score came off a slick inside-out move to beat rookie corner Stephon Gilmore for a 6-yard touchdown. On the next Steelers' offensive snap (to start the third quarter), Brown ran past two Bills for a 39-yard catch to put the Steelers up by 21-7.

SILVER MEDALS

Troy Polamalu – OK, I realize Polamalu was burned badly on both the ground and through the air during the Bills' five-play touchdown drive in the first quarter. But he came back to break up a third-down pass to give the Steelers one more possession in the first half, and then he intercepted a pass intended for Dorin Dickerson to start the second half. One play later, the game was over. Troy's overall play was a microcosm of the Steelers' slow start and strong finish, and thus he grabs silver.

Chris CarterThe second-year OLB is receiving a crash course with all of the preseason work he's been getting. Carter was the lone defensive starter (Allen entered for the third Buffalo snap) to play into the fourth quarter, and he was in the quarterbacks' faces much of the night. Carter was only credited with 1 sack and 2 quarterback pressures, but his upfield burst caused Fitzpatrick and Young to step up and throw several times before they were ready. If James Harrison isn't back for the opener, Carter can provide them with winning play off of the blind side.

Isaac RedmanThis would be the perfect spot to honor either of the Steelers' quarterbacks, but let's wait until the Super Bowl for that. Redman's health is so important with Rashard Mendenhall out for at least a month, and the Steelers are determined not to allow Redman any self-pity with his hip injury. Even after he had to be helped up before leaving the field with a stinger the play before DeCastro's injury, Redman returned the next series and carried four consecutive times, most of them featuring his powerful leg drive on second-effort pile-driving runs. Redman converted a 3rd-and-one on the next series, and at the end of the half scored the tying touchdown on a 3rd-and-goal carry behind Willie Colon for two yards.

Max StarksLess than eight months ago, Starks tore an ACL. On Saturday night, he participated in his first preseason game and the Steelers' starting left tackle worked flawlessly through the first series of the third quarter. With only three full, padded practices under his belt, Starks turned in a near-perfect performance working mainly against Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay. And like the rest of the Steelers, Starks got better as the game went on.

BRONZE MEDALS

Al WoodsCorbin Bryant entered the game before Woods but Woods made up ground in the competition between the two for the seventh DL job. In fact, both played so well the Steelers might consider keeping eight. Woods replaced Cameron Heyward at RDE late in the third quarter and sacked Young on his third snap. The play was washed from the stats book by a preferred offensive hold, but on the next play Woods pressured Young into a Carter tackle for no gain. Woods and Adrian Robinson nearly recorded a safety in the fourth quarter, but Young got rid of the ball barely ahead of the tackle.

Robert GoldenStill not getting onto the field before third-team safety Damon Cromartie-Smith, Golden entered in the fourth quarter and nearly scored a touchdown on an interception he returned 47 yards before Young wrestled him down. The play set up a Leftwich touchdown pass to …

Derrick WilliamsIn a late bid for the No. 5 WR spot, the third-year pro scored a 10-yard touchdown by perfectly executing a screen behind Weslye Saunders and Mike Adams. On the next series, Williams rose above a defensive back to haul in a 27-yard pass that set up Dan Hrapmann's 40-yad field goal.

Drew ButlerThe undrafted rookie continued to improve in his third game as a replacement for soon-to-be-healthy Jeremy Kapinos. Butler's gross average was 49.3 yards, but his 39.1 net was hurt by a replay reversal of a punt five Steelers had circled to down at the one-foot line. Butler had a long of 61 and had 3 punts downed inside the 20 with only 1 touchback (on the reversal).


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