It was supposed to be the big “dress rehearsal” but after a 31-21 loss in Philadelphia, the Steelers are hoping the regular season looks nothing like last night’s debacle.
This was the good, the bad and the ugly from the starters’ three quarters of work:
LeGarrette Blount – Let’s start with the perfect choice for this dismal night. All was seemingly well with this team until the arrest of Blount and Le’Veon Bell for smoking pot on the way to the airport for this game. Both played, and Blount played pretty well. He gained five yards on his first carry and was met by an enthusiastic handshake from Mike Tomlin as he went to the sideline. Hmmm. Later, Blount picked up blitzes, made some moves in the backfield to escape losses, returned a kickoff for 25 yards (called back by penalty) and ran hard enough to gain 26 yards on 6 carries. He returned for some fourth-quarter carries, perhaps punishment for his boneheaded manuever on Wednesday.
Troy Polamalu – Had an interception and helped out with some linebacker play in the nickel defense. Also erupted in a defensive huddle on the sideline and had to be calmed down by Dick LeBeau, as Steelers fans no doubt cheered on Troy’s disgust.
Ben Roethlisberger – Before completing 5 of 5 for 85 yards and a touchdown late in the third quarter against Eagles reserves, Roethlisberger had completed 10 of 19 for 72 yards with an interception and a fumble that the Steelers recovered. He seemed to be aiming the ball, perhaps trying to be too perfect, from the start.
The Specialists – Shaun Shuisham missed a 46-yard field goal, his third missed kick this preseason after signing a lucrative contract extension; Brad Wing averaged 36 yards on his first five punts and is looking like he’ll be replaced by someone off the waiver wire; the long-snappers were seemingly in constant conference with both kickers; and return man Dri Archer finally was able to return a kickoff (only to the 15) after calling for a couple of fair-catches too early on punt returns.
Cam Thomas – Could pick any one of the members of the nickel defense that allowed 71 yards on 11 carries through the first defensive series of the second half. Thomas was knocked off the ball in the few turns he took in the nickel rotation, but his greatest embarrassment may have come at the goal line when he was stood up, moved, and then spun around as Darren Sproles made it 14-0.
Ike Taylor – Started the game by breaking up a third-and-15 pass, but things rolled downhill quickly, thanks to referee Ed Hochuli’s point of emphasis on defensive contact. Taylor’s first penalty was a third-down hold on an incompletion on the other side of the field. He also had a pass interference penalty that was declined, but had another accepted that nullified a sack by Worilds.