Welcome to “Quick Yinzing”, a fast reaction article where a member of the SCU staff gives their initial post-game impressions without digging into any films, major stats, or other deep analysis. It’s as real as that car ride home or sobering down at the bar following the game
Another week, another preseason victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The defense looked dominant from the jump, and the first-team offense found their rhythm and moved the ball efficiently. Let’s take a look at how it all went down.
Derek's First half observations
Going into the dress rehearsal, there were a couple of items to keep an eye on. One of them, and quite possibly the biggest, was how the defense as a whole performed. And if this is the defense we see in the regular season, you’re looking at a top 5 unit in the NFL. From the jump they were diving around, hitting hard and getting after the quarterback.
The starting front 7 handled the Titans offensive line, led by Stephon Tuitt’s two sacks; one for a safety. Cam Heyward added a sack of his own and was his usual stout self against the run. Bud Dupree also showed further improvement from his work in the offseason playing much of the game in the Titans backfield. His speed was on display and his improved bend around the edge was evident. The Steelers should lead the NFL in sacks for a third season in a row.
The secondary is a unit that is and should be under a microscope this season, and they passed the dress rehearsal test. Terrell Edmunds was lightning quick and involved in almost every play. He seems to have taken the next step forward and is playing fantastic football. Coupled with the addition of Steven Nelson, who shut down anybody the Titans sent out against him tonight, and this secondary is coming together well. One surprise was the amount of time with the first-team unit that Kameron Kelly got tonight as the third safety, and he took full advantage of it. Kelly made plays in the backfield, in coverage, and even forced a fumble. He has seemingly played himself not only on to the roster but carved himself a role.
The one position group on defense that was hard to get a grasp on was the inside linebackers. Vince Williams, Mark Barron, and Devin Bush all played well, although they split time and made it difficult to get a grasp of who will start. They alternated series' through the entire first half. Bush’s speed was on display from the first play of the game, however, and no matter the pecking order all three players will get plenty of playing time.
As for the offense in the first half, it started slow and gained steam as the game went on. James Conner looked light on his feet, juking Adoree Jackson out of his shoes, and Jaylen Samuels continued to impress this week as he has all preseason. It’s clear that he’s quicker and in better shape this time around. Trey Edmunds got the call for short yardage duties with Benny Snell Jr. out, and he converted his one attempt, as well as making a great special teams tackle in his case to make the team.
Ben Roethlisberger found his rhythm with his receivers, connecting on several passes with Donte Moncrief, showing the rapport we have heard about, and finally connecting on a dime to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a touchdown. One concern was Vance McDonald dropping two passes thrown his way. Wet ball or not, you’d like to see him make those plays, as I’m sure he will come the regular season.
And the offense didn’t miss a beat when Mason Rudolph came in, connecting on a 41-yard pass to fellow Oklahoma State Cowboy James Washington. Mason should, at this point, be stepping ahead in the battle for the backup quarterback spot, despite an interception, which was a result of miscommunication. Lastly, Washington continued to make his case for playing time with phenomenal route running, speed, and hands. His ability to track the ball showed on his 41-yard touchdown, making an adjustment in the air to come down with it. He should get plenty of playing time this season.
The starting offensive line was the starting offensive line. Steelers Nation has watched this unit the last few seasons perform as one of the best in the NFL, and it was more of the same today. The one notable here was Big Gainesville (Fred Johnson) running second-team right guard, and running it well. He was stout in the passing game and played mean in the running game. He certainly made his case for the 53-man roster tonight. Overall it was a dominant first half for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Christina's Second half observations
Joshua Dobbs had another so-so outing on Sunday night. Dobbs got the opportunity to run the Steelers offense after halftime and showed some flashes during two quarters of play, and had other moments that he’d probably like back. At least twice, Dobbs showed his ability to get out of the pocket with good leg speed. On one play he was able to hit Trey Griffey on a nice pass that was initially called incomplete by officials, but upon review was verified as a catch on the challenge by Pittsburgh. Dobbs let a couple of balls float on him, though, with one ball flying through the air end-over-end. Two passes to Zach Gentry had poor results, the first a toss that was just too high for the 6-7 tight end to get to, the second one (that was also high but tipped by Gentry) ended up in the hands of a Titans defender for an interception. Dobbs would get back on track with a nice pass to Brandon Reilly for a first down and go on to earn the victory formation snap at the end of the game.
With the way Rudolph and Dobbs played, it still is not clear - at least to me - if one or the other has set themselves apart to the point that the Steelers have an obvious number two behind Ben Roethlisberger. Rudolph looked more comfortable, but from a certain perspective, you can see that both of the backups are running with what the Steelers coaches are giving them as far as teammates and on-field personnel go. Dobbs worked primarily behind depth players on the line and across the offense this weekend. With Devlin Hodges not earning snaps, it does appear that Pittsburgh may have at least penciled in the two more-experienced quarterbacks on their roster.
Possibly the most-spectacular play during the final half by the Steelers offense was a reverse by Diontae Spencer that went for 29 yards. Malik Williams and Travon McMillian would both get carries, but yards were kept to a minimum by the Titans defense. Spencer was also involved in the Frank Herron double-facemask penalty that resulted in Tennessee drawing a personal foul when the Titans defensive lineman clothes-lined the Steelers rusher on his way to grabbing Spencer's helmet and knocking him to the ground as well.
The real story of the second half of the game was that the Steelers defense kept thumping the Titans throughout the final two quarters despite depth players trying to stick on this roster for the upcoming 2019-20 NFL regular season. Outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper blazed off the edge to sack Logan Woodside and strip the ball (Tyson Alualu recovered) setting a good tempo as Pittsburgh rotated more players into the game. Marcus Allen was physical in stopping the run and Casey Sayles was able to earn a run stop on Woodside due to good hustle. Ulysses Gilbert III, Tegray Scales, Robert Spillane, and Jordan Dangerfield all showed up and found success. Scales grabbed one sack and then Spillane and Dangerfield split one to put the finishing touches on the Titans offense.
Overall, the Steelers looked to have exactly what Smith-Schuster said during a second-half on-field interview with Pam Oliver, "The chemistry is there." The final preseason game should reveal who Pittsburgh is locked onto and who they'll say farewell to.