Just My Opinion ...

Jim Wexell with his thoughts on Pouncey, Landry, Dri, Finney, Dieffenbach, Fogg and much more.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who only wanted to see some improved defense and continued good health and, really, got neither:

* There were sparks and spurts of a pass rush, though, and that's a start.

* The Packers' first drive -- a stroll through the park for the most part -- picked up where last year's Steelers preseason defense left off, with its nickel getting gauged by the running game.

* But the Steelers only gave up eight rushing yards on four carries the rest of the first half following that opening drive. The ease with which Eddie Lacy scored eight points made it seem worse than 23 yards on six first-series carries.

* It was the pass defense that continued to be picked apart. Even though Aaron Rodgers played only two series (and only one against James Harrison), the Steelers' statistical woes continued. In three first-halves they've allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 77 percent of their passes with a 118 passer rating.

* Maybe Harrison needs to start.

* Although I do like the rotation of the outside linebackers. Fresh legs at the most exhausting position will mean something.

* Mike Tomlin's assertion of "Don't warm up to it" has been a mantra throughout camp. Too bad the league doesn't use it to eliminate preseason games altogether.

* But I'm guessing that issue, and the injuries which come with it, won't carry Pittsburgh sports talk this week the way Landry Jones will.

* The in-town squabbling is at a fever pitch, but doesn't make much sense. After carrying the guy until the final season of his contract, the Steelers aren't going to cut him now that he's actually shown some improvement, particularly with the No. 2 QB's struggles with an arm injury.

* I wrote about punter Jordan Berry's moonshots in the spring, and he's carried it over into August. He's punted 10 times for a 46-yard average and has put four down inside the 20. And yet all I've heard are negatives. He can't hold. He can't make "football moves." He's inconsistent. Well, I can't say I've seen any of that. And he was the first holder Sunday.

* Looking at the holder is the only explanation I can fathom for going for one following the Steelers' first touchdown.

* Berry's 42-yard punt that was downed by Antwon Blake at the 1-yard line was the turning point of this preseason game.

* Hey, if we're going to put careers on the line in pretending these games matter, I'm going to pretend there's such a thing as a turning point.

* Blake and Shamarko Thomas had excellent showings as the first-team gunners. Thomas, in fact, had an excellent showing as an in-the-box strong safety. He was hitting with the enthusiasm and confidence he showed as a youthful reserve in Augusts past.

* Harrison doesn't care if he's starting. At least he's not caring publicly. He gets it.

* I was amazed at not just the sack of Rodgers for a safety but how quickly Harrison was up and out of the pile. The 37-year-old can scoot.

* The power he's showing at his age, of course, has brought up speculation of performance enhancers, and Harrison "thanked" one of those speculators on Twitter a couple of weeks ago because it made him feel like his hard work is paying off. I wanted to add that Harrison's strength as a rookie -- a frustrated rookie who would be cut three times by the Steelers -- was apparent in his first training camp. When you mix that natural strength with his oxen-like work ethic, you get what you're seeing, even at 37 years of age.

* No, losing a center isn't as debilitating as losing a star wide receiver, such as the Packers lost Sunday, but that doesn't ease the sting while watching Pouncey pull so beautifully with David DeCastro around the right end the way they did on the play during which Pouncey was injured.

* When Pouncey went down and out in the first series of the 2013 season, who was his immediate replacement?

* Fernando Velasco eventually took over but wasn't with the team that day. Cody Wallace was, but he he was inactive.

* Kelvin Beachum was the initial replacement. He's now a stud left tackle looking for a contract extension, and those talks should begin heating up this week.

* Not because of Pouncey. Just because you have to believe Tomlin will begin scaling back on playing time for his starters. Beachum is that much closer to getting out of the preseason with his health.

* At least I would curtail his playing time. I would coast the final two games and look mainly at players 50 through 60.

* But Wallace is the replacement now, and he'll be serviceable. My guess is that his backup will be undrafted rookie B.J. Finney.

Finney hasn't played any center this training camp, and my guess is that Tomlin already knows Finney can play the position. He's a better center than guard, just as Sunday's backup, Chris Hubbard, is a better guard than center. The degrees of those edges will determine that roster spot.

* Heath Miller only caught one pass Sunday, but the 11-yarder to the GB 5 set up the Steelers' first touchdown. The play after catching that pass, Miller picked off two defenders to free Markus Wheaton for the wide-open TD catch.

* Ian Wild is much more physical than Kevin Fogg on special teams. He's probably more physical than a lot of Steelers. I mention this because it seems as if Wild and Fogg are in a showdown for spot No. 53.

* Fogg, though, is a cornerback, and a cornerback who's come up strong in the run game, as evidenced by him blowing up a lead blocker on a tackle by Jordan Dangerfield. For a 185-pound cornerback, Fogg is plenty physical.

* Hey, give the former national return champ a shot in the return game. Dri Archer still isn't showing it.

* But my guess is Fogg will only make the practice squad because B.W. Webb is an experienced cornerback and cutting Webb would mean saying goodbye to him in a league hungry for experienced cornerbacks.

* Turns out Hubbard did NOT tackle Hubbard on the fumble by Hubbard that was recovered by Hubbard. The press-box announcer made the mistake on the tackle call, and I stupidly went with it on Twitter.

* Sammie Coates made an great catch of an over-the-shoulder 54-yard bomb, but then dropped at least two easy throws while facing the quarterback. My guess is he was thinking too much about Tomlin's talk the other day. Tomlin had told Coates he has no plan for running after the catch, that he's focusing too much on securing the football instead of getting up the field. Well, as you could see Sunday, coaches walk a fine line with athletes.

* A few fun nicknames popped up in the press box: Kenzel Doh!, Colin "Ruh Roh" Rahrig and Miles Dieffenbach Texas amused me while I watched the second half drag endlessly.

* Of course, Tyler Murphy and Shakim Phillips shook those blahs with clutch catches. Murphy is forcing himself onto the practice squad with his playmaking skills (and ability to play QB for the look team). He has the edge on Phillips, but Phillips made a great catch for the go-ahead points.

* As Tomlin likes to say in his neverending support of QB Jones, that was "a varsity throw." And a varsity catch. * The interception throw on the ensuing conversion attempt? Straight outta junior varsity.


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