Jacksonville, Florida, was the location for the Steelers’ second pre-season game where they faced off against the Jaguars.
Unfortunately, they lost by a score of 23-21 after failing to score on a potential game-winning drive.
Although the loss was disappointing - and there were a lot of things the Steelers need to improve upon - there were also many positive improvements from the previous week and things they can build on going into their third pre-season game next Sunday.
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The biggest positive I'm sure everybody saw was the efficiency and explosion of the Steelers’ first-team offence.
The unit only played for one drive, but it was a scoring drive that couldn't have gone any better. Le'Veon Bell carried the ball twice for 18 yards, Antonio Brown caught the one pass thrown his way and Ben Roethlisberger finished the drive off with a beautiful 44-yard TD bomb to second-year receiver Martavis Bryant.
The Steelers then went for two and got it, thanks to a Markus Wheaton catch, giving the Steelers a starting lead of 8-0.
The whole drive summarised what everyone is expecting from the Steelers’ offence this year, efficiency and big plays. Not to get too hyperbolic, as this is only the second pre-season game, but if the Steelers come out and play like that every game they will be near impossible to defeat.
Garrett Hartley confirmed that we are in safe hands in the kicking department. He went two for two on field goals and completed the only extra point attempt. His longest kick was a 48-yard field goal. No problems there at all.
DeAngelo Williams ran well after Le'Veon Bell left the game. Williams carried the ball six times for 28-yards, not a number that jumps off your screen but watching him play told me that if Le'Veon Bell ever needs a breather, our run game will not diminish.
Sad to say once DeAngelo left, the run game deteriorated completely. The rest of the running backs combined for 29-yards on 12 carries, suddenly DeAngelo's numbers look good, right?
Back up issues
Landry Jones had a bit of an up and down night. His pocket presence was much better, I saw some improved accuracy on some throws and he managed to put more than three points on the board. If not for so many drops he would have also completed a lot more passes.
Despite positive improvements from the week prior, some of his negative faculties still haunted him. His accuracy, although improved, was awful at times. Too often he overthrew on deep passes and gave his receivers no chance at all.
His game management was still not great and he couldn't sustain long drives. He was handed a golden opportunity at the end of the game to lead the Steelers down for a field goal or touchdown to win the game, but he couldn't. Had he done so, it would have been a major step forward in his development.
The defence, overall, was quite bad. They struggled to slow down the Blake Bortles-led offence and were prone to leaving receivers wide open, especially tight end Clay Harbor. Harbor had a 31-yard TD and if not for a drop would have had another 40-yard plus TD also.
No signs of improvement occurred when Blake Bortles left the game and Chad Henne entered, as Henne had his way with the Steelers’ defence also, completing all but one of his passes. The defence has to start generating more pressure and turnovers, having only two sacks and one forced fumble on defence is not good enough in today's NFL.
Sammy Coates, the rookie receiver out of Auburn, had a great game. He caught five passes for 52-yards, one being a fantastic sideline catch in the final quarter that helped move the chains.
Mike Tomlin was visibly fired up over that catch, clapping and shouting encouragement from the sideline. He added caution to his praise for Coates after the game, though, telling the media:
"He's got to get in better condition, fatigue was a factor, like it is with a lot of young guys, he's got to get better in that regard"
Tomlin seeming to indicate that playing time for Coates this year could come down to his level of fitness.
If Sammy Coates can get in better condition he will contribute both speed and good catching ability to the offence. This is not something the Steelers lack , but would always welcome. Coates also snagged a fumble recovery on special teams that helped the Steelers score a touchdown.
Dri Archer was much quieter in this game than last Sunday's. He carried the ball twice for four yards and had one punt return for four yards. Not something I was expecting, I had hoped he would have built on his 90-plus yard performance versus the Vikings.
He needs to show he can add something to this Steelers’ team, especially in the return game, otherwise he won't be guaranteed a roster spot come September.
Although losing the game itself was frustrating, the Steelers were lucky enough to escape without any injuries to the team. The Jacksonville Jaguars lost starting tight end Julius Thomas with a broken hand, so Pittsburgh could count ourselves lucky in that department.
The positive developments from Landry Jones and Sammy Coates, as well as the awesome firepower and efficiency the Steelers’ starting offence possess gives me positive anticipation for next week's game.
However, the default errors the defence keep on making in pass coverage give me cause to pause. An emphasis on turnovers and sacks must be enforced to all players on defence over the span of this week if we are to improve in that area.
Another loss to the Steelers at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, they go into their third pre-season game next Sunday versus the Green Bay Packers looking for their first win of the pre-season.
If they tighten up on the negatives I have outlined and improve and build upon the positives I see no reason why the Steelers can't win.