The Steelers played their first game of the 2012 preseason last night; luckily for them they still have 4 weeks to get better. The Steelers came out to a quick 13-0 lead, but ended up losing to the Eagles, in Philadelphia, 24-23. There was a lot of good and bad in the game, but overall the Steelers execution was below average at best. In the preseason wins and loses don’t matter; execution and player evaluations are the name of the game.
First team – The first team offense drove the ball for almost ten minutes. They had to settle for a field goal, but they showed some good things. Ben Roethlisberger was sharp and the run game looked better than at most points during the 2011 season.
Jonathan Dwyer – Dwyer played well as the primary back-up to Issac Redman. However, he suffered a shoulder sprain and was taken out of the game. Lucky for the Steelers the injury is not deemed to be serious and Dwyer should be back soon.
Chris Rainey – The Steelers may have the steal of the draft in running-back Chris Rainey. Rainey didn’t disappoint in his NFL debut and score on a long touchdown catch and run. Rainey was a standout at Florida and looked like a a guy that could definitely contribute during the 2012 season.
Myron Rolle – Rolle has a great career at Florida State, but missed an entire year as he was a Rhodes Scholar. Following his year off he entered the NFL Draft and was selected by the Titans. After failing to stay in Tennessee he was signed to a futures contract by the Steelers. Rolle is attempting to make the team as a back-up safety and special teams player. In his first game he played well; he still needs to get better to make this team, however.
Brandon Johnson – Johnson was a free agent pick-up from Cincinnati and played really well at outside linebacker for the Steelers second team. He is trying to make this team as a back-up to Lamarr Woodley. He provided good pressure and showed good coverage skills.
Byron Leftwich – Leftwich took a violent hit from Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie, but played very well and looked sharp. He will be Roethlisberger’s primary back-up in 2012.
Antonio Brown – Brown looked good in his first game as the Steelers #1 option with Mike Wallace still absent. He played a big role in the Steelers first two drives that culminated in a field goal and touchdown.
Steve McClendon – Some fan’s may have though Casey Hampton was out there, but the big body in the middle of the defense was the “Work in Progress” Steve McLendon. McLendon played well and even recorded a sack on Michael Vick early in the game.
Al Woods – Woods is going to be one of the Steelers back-up defensive lineman and he played very well. He made the highlight reel with an interception that he returned inside the five yard line setting up a field goal for the Steelers.
Drew Butler – Butler was the only punter in uniform for the Steelers as Jeremy Kapinos is out with a back injury. He punted pretty well for his first NFL game. He has a strong leg and a good chance at unseating Kapinos in 2012.
Cortez Allen – Allen is in a big time battle with Keenan Lewis for the starting corner job alongside Ike Taylor. He got a lot of looks last night and played very well. He definitely is the only guy left in competition to start with Lewis as Curtis Brown struggled.
Emmanuel Sanders – Sanders looked healthy which is about all we wanted to see from him. He also played very well and scored on a nice slant route from Leftwich.
Alameda Ta’amu – Ta’amu played well and had some good pressure from the middle of the Steelers defense when he was in there. Ta’amu is fighting to be the primary back-up to McLendon, but will drop on the depth chart once Casey Hampton returns.
David DeCastro – DeCastro was being questioned heading into the game. Fans were wondering why Mike Adams was playing better than him, but they both showed very different things. As you can see DeCastro is in the “good” section. He displayed why he was considered a great run guard and pull guard coming into the draft last night.
Chris Carter – Carter filled in for Harrison and didn’t disappoint. He set the edge well and is in line to take over as the back-up outside linebacker pushing Jason Worilds down the depth chart.
Sean Spence – Spence looked good in his first NFL game. He was able to pressure the quarterback, cover, and looked good moving sideline to sideline making plays.
Rob Golden – Who? Exactly, Golden is a undrafted rookie free agent safety out of Arizona, but he made some nice plays last night. He looked good in coverage and on special teams and coaches notice the players that stand out. He may get some more looks if the team thinks he can be good.
Adrian Robinson – abused the left side of the Eagles line late in the game and just may make this roster as an undrafted free agent outside linebacker. With Carter and Johnson potentially stepping up as back-ups the Steelers may keep a project and potential star in Robinson over the oft-injured Worilds.
Entire 2nd team O-line - In particular Kelvin Beachum, Mike Adams, and Trai Essex . However, all of the second team guys, Adams included, looked very bad in pass coverage. The Steelers gave up a discouraging seven sacks last night. Adams gave up two and a half sacks in a nine play stretch.
Curtis Brown – Brown was also in competition with Allen and Lewis to be a starter at corner, but his play last night showed he isn’t quite ready to start in the NFL. Brown got beat multiple times last night. He will still contribute in 2012, but likely not as a starter.
Special teams coverage – The special teams overall were bad too many penalties and big returns given up. The will need to work on their special teams coverage because 40+ yard returns are not ok in this league.
Andre Freeman – Freeman, a rookie free agent, struggled in pass coverage and a missed tackle allowed a touchdown late in the game.
Jamie McCoy – He is making this list for two blocks in the back that negated good returns on special teams. Not a good start for a guy who is a long-shot to make the roster.
John Clay – Clay is probably the guy on the outside looking in at running-back and he only really stood out for a missed assignment on a third down.
David Johnson who was expected to be a back-up tight end and the primary fullback on the Steelers offense was injured early in the game and carted off the field. Later reports have indicated that Johnson tore his ACL and will miss the entire 2012 season.
This is a huge blow for a guy who was standing out early in the preseason. Will Johnson, the Steelers only other fullback, seems a lock to make the roster, unless they sign another fullback that performs better. This injury could also cause Haley to use a fullback less than he had expected in 2012.