The NFL pre-season is a complicated beast, while fans worldwide scoff at the prospect that anything can really be learnt from backups playing backups, that still doesn’t stop them from watching the games, scrolling through the stat lines and engaging in rhetoric about how their 3rd string running back is a beast. However, in this article I will take a look at the Week 1 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants.
Earlier in the week I was laughing to myself as Bears fans hyped up rookie Mitch Trubisky’s performance as a sign they have a franchise quarterback, or Dallas fans taking their pre season win as a sign of a Superbowl run. Then came the Steelers game and I’ll admit I was excited. I was hoping to see our first rounder TJ Watt get some sacks, and for starting quarterback Josh Dobbs to carve up the Giants defence.
I got one of my wishes, as TJ Watt had a pair of sacks in under four minutes. Josh Dobbs, however, had a bit of a rollercoaster evening throwing two interceptions and completing only 53.3% of his passes, but also throwing a pretty 28-yard touchdown that hit Cobi Hamilton perfectly on the chest.
It was a run of the mill rookie quarterback pre season game, one that that perhaps tempered the expectations of some Steelers fans who were expecting a Dak Prescott-esque revelation from Dobbs.
Anyway, believe it or not, there were other players on the field outside of Dobbs and Watt, so let’s take a glance at some statistics, and some players who helped the Steelers grind out the victory.
No NFL team will ever whip out their full offensive playbook for some meaningless pre season game, instead, they compile a watered down version and this showed as the Steelers offense was dormant for most of the night, struggling to consistently move the ball through the air, and relying on a basic running attack. Despite this, they still had a couple of touchdown and field goal drives.
Josh Dobbs; 8 completions, 15 attempts, 100-yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions.
Bart Houston; 2 completions, 7 attempts, 24-yards.
Terrell Watson; 10 attempts, 44-yards, 1 touchdown.
Knile Davis; 8 attempts, 34-yards.
Fitzgerald Toussant; 6 attempts, 19-yards.
Josh Dobbs; 1 attempt, 16-yards.
Cobi Hamilton; 2 catches, 72-yards, 1 touchdown, longest catch 44-yards.
Canaan Severin; 2 catches, 24-yards, longest catch 14-yards.
Marcus Tucker; 1 catch, 10-yards.
As stated earlier, Dobbs played inconsistently throughout his tenure under centre, asked about his performance at halftime, head coach Mike Tomlin said “its been up and down” he elaborated to say “what I do like is the look in his eye, his level of communication in the midst of it all and from that standpoint it’s very encouraging”.
Post game, Dobbs spoke softly of his mistakes and called them “learning opportunities” showing to me that he’s someone you can rely on to never get down after a bad play.
The Steelers defence was the more impressive unit, racking up 7 sacks and a turnover, they restricted the Giants offense to just field goals and defended the red zone especially well.
Arthur Moats; 4 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception.
TJ Watt; 3 tackles, 2 sacks.
Mike Hilton; 4 tackles, 1 sack.
Veteran Arthur Moats played one hell of a game, as the stats above suggest, he was a force in pass coverage and rushing the passer. Moats also spoke of his fellow linebacker and rookie TJ Watt calling him “phenomenal”, although Coach Tomlin was fast to calm to the hype, commenting on his two early sacks saying “He got a little fortunate, it’ll probably be the two easiest sacks of his career”.
Easy or not, a sack is a sack, and two sacks are two sacks, and for a Steelers defense that has searched high and low through the draft in recent years to find a consistent pass rusher, finding a guy who can sack the quarterback off the edge is crucial, no matter how “easy” the sacks come.
A notable absence in the first pre season game was recently reinstated receiver Martavis Bryant, who practised with the team pre game, and suited up as if he was going to play, only to find himself sat on the sidelines among other veterans.
Coach Tomlin said he didn’t give much thought to how Bryant must have been feeling to be back in pads, in a football stadium, after a year long suspension, but the talented receiver said after the game he knows he will be playing next Sunday. As a fan, I hope he plays too because Bryant is a phenom, and it will give Josh Dobbs a huge downfield target to throw too.
Once again, everything mentioned here has to be compartmentalised into the “It’s only pre season” file, but I still think we can look at some of the points I’ve made and get a little excited about the fact that Steelers football is back, and winning never gets old, even in the pre season!
The Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Atlanta Falcons on August the 20th for their second pre season game.
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