What did we learn in Steelers vs Jaguars on Saturday night? Probably not too many new things. But we did get some confirmation from what we’ve heard from training camp, and what we saw in the first preseason game. Let’s go through each position group to see what we can learn from Steelers vs Jaguars.
We had a bit of a shakeup to the quarterback depth chart this week. After his strong performance in the first preseason game and better results in camp, Kenny Pickett has moved into the number two spot in the quarterback room. Let’s take a look at the stats for the three QBs who played on Saturday in Steelers vs Jaguars:
- Mitchell Trubisky – Three series 5/8, 60 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, one sack
- Kenny Pickett – Two series 6/7, 76 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, no sacks
- Mason Rudolph – Five series 17/21, one touchdown, no interceptions, no sacks
We again saw clean play from all three QBs. The worst play of the night was an intentional grounding call on Mason Rudolph when he was trying to avoid a sack for a safety – which resulted in a safety. He was put in a bad position though near his own goal line with the offensive line struggling.
Trubisky showed more of the same from last week with good accuracy and mobility. He was under even more fire from a pass rush perspective this week. This resulted in a sack, but also multiple good escapes by him from the pocket. The team struggled running the ball in this one – a big difference in his possessions from last week – but Trubisky was about as successful in this one as he was against Seattle.
Kenny Pickett was again the big winner. There was a nice 19-yard throw called back due to penalty which would have helped his numbers even more. But the big story is another nice touchdown drive in a two minute situation. With 1:07 left in the first half Pickett drove Pittsburgh from their own 37 for a touchdown. Picket went 4/4 for 63 yards on the drive. He even converted the 11-yard touchdown pass twice after a penalty on the first attempt.
What impressed me most about Pickett was his ability to stand in the pocket. At Pitt he had a tendency to drift back to try and avoid a pass rush. It’s part of what led to his fourth down sack last week. In this one however, he stood tall in the face of pressure and delivered strong, accurate throws.
Rudolph played the entire second half and performed well. He was more careful with the ball but the least accurate of the three QBs. The writing is on the wall for Rudolph to be the number three QB for the season unless Pittsburgh trades him.
The three quarterbacks seemed to have solidified their standings with the team. It’s up to each of them to not lose those spots before Week 1 of the season.
The running game was pretty bleak for Pittsburgh in this one with just 24 total yards on 14 carries. In some cases it was a case of not finding the holes that were there, but in most it was a case of no holes being there. Jaylen Warren and Benny Snell Jr. led the team with three carries each for a total of one yard.
Warren at least was once again active in the pass game (three receptions for 24 yards) and on special teams. Snell added two receptions for 15 yards and the touchdown from Pickett. Snell had a special teams tackle.
Anthony McFarland Jr. had a quiet day on offense with two carries for one yard, and one catch for seven yards. He did save himself some with a 38-yard kick return late in the game.
With neither McFarland nor Warren having another breakout performance in this one, Snell’s roster spot is still pretty safe. They should both see a fair amount of work in the team’s final preseason game for the final roster spot in the backfield.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
15 different pass catchers had a reception in Saturday night’s contest. Diontae Johnson had two receptions for 33 yards but also had two catches and one touchdown called back due to penalty. Chase Claypool had one reception for 29 yards on a well executed slot fade from Trubisky. Pat Freiermuth had two catches for 35 yards from Pickett on the way to Pittsburgh’s lone touchdown.
It was a quiet day for George Pickens (two receptions for six yards) but we got confirmation he’s with the starters. Pickens ran with the first team as the “Z” receiver which moved Claypool to the slot. Gunner Olszewski also continues to show he could have a larger offensive role with this team than expected. He rotated into the slot position early in this contest.
Some back end players I found interesting. Christian Blake rotated in before Tyler Vaughns, Cody White or Miles Boykin. But that might have been more positioned base as an “X” receiver. He was in while Pickens and Olszewski were still getting work at the “Z” (where Boykin/Vaughns play) and slot. Blake did not register a reception.
Vaughns, who had last week’s game-winning touchdown, had another good game. Leading the team with four receptions for 56 yards. He’s definitely making a case to land a practice squad spot.
It was another rough one for the offensive line. They gave up a lot of pressure and didn’t create many holes in the running game. But for what we learned…
Kendrick Green and Kevin Dotson are still very much competing for the starting left guard spot. While Dotson didn’t light the world on fire, he played significantly better than Green. I saw one good rep from Green where he stalled the defender’s bull rush, but he still ended up on the ground. Him and Dotson split series for the first three quarters with Green starting, then Green played most of the fourth quarter.
Dan Moore Jr. continued to struggle. He gave up the strip-sack on Rudolph last week, and gave up a lot of pressures and the lone sack in this one. He continues to have issues with his anchor, getting pushed back very easily.
Center Mason Cole for the second week in a row looked like the best starter. His anchor has been really strong for two straight weeks.
The backups continue to struggle as well. John Leglue had a tough week this week after a great showing against Seattle. He played right guard and right tackle with Joe Haeg out. Newcomer William Dunkle had some strong play in the fourth quarter at right guard.
The defensive line got pushed around early, but settled as the game went along (97 rushing yards on 30 attempts). Tyson Alualu and Larry Ogunjobi both saw action this week which was good to see. While neither played particularly well it was nice to see them healthy enough to be on the field. They should be an immense help to the group this season. Alualu did get his hand on a pass attempt.
T.J. Watt was in for a few series and had a great sack against the poor, second-team right tackle Walker Little. DeMarvin Leal also showed a lot of good pass rush ability again this week, and got a sack as a reward.
So far this preseason Chris Wormley appears to be struggling. He doesn’t seem to have the same burst off blocks or to the ball carrier he had last season. It’s still early but something to note.
Derrek Tuszka and Henry Mondeaux also got a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage (LOS).
It was another quiet day, unfortunately, for the linebackers. Myles Jack had the green dot this week with the starters. Robert Spillane played into the fourth quarter, getting time with Jack, Devin Bush, and Mark Robinson.
Robinson played ahead of Buddy Johnson in this one. Robinson splashed with a few tackles at the LOS and a big hit on third down late. The hit wasn’t a good tackle (lowered shoulder, left feet, didn’t wrap) but it worked in the moment.
Overall the tackling and play from the linebackers was poor. A lot of passes over the middle were too easy and went further than they should have. This position could be an issue for Pittsburgh again this season.
The defensive backs were solid yet again in Steelers vs Jaguars, and one player may have kept his hopes alive with an interception.
In the first unit we saw Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. I saw Edmunds and Fitzpatrick being very active both pre and post snap, which is fairly new. Edmunds made some plays at the LOS and Fitzpatrick had a nice blitz which forced an errant throw.
Tre Norwood was the first sub to work in, and played in some three safety sets with Edmunds down in the box. Damontae Kazee had another strong week being all over the field and making good tackles.
This week Justin Layne was buried on the cornerback depth chart. He worked in after James Pierre, Carlins Platel and even Chris Steele (which was new in this game). And with Boykin continuing to get a lot of work at first team gunner across from Pierre, Layne’s days could be numbers. But he won’t go down quietly. He had a nice interception and return late in the game. Layne read the QB, got himself in position, and finished the play going down to the ground. And he showed the awareness to get up and return it before being touched down. Turnovers in preseason can do a lot for a player’s standing. We’ll see if he can capitalize on it next week.
I didn’t comment on the specialists last week because we only saw the backups. But this week for Steelers vs Jaguars Chris Boswell and Presley Harvin III both got work. Boswell was just 0/1 on field goals and 1/1 on extra points. Harvin however had a great day. He had four punts which were accurate and covered well, with one going inside the five. But his biggest play was after the safety, booting the ball 76 yards to Jacksonville’s four.
Steelers vs Jaguars was tough for the running game, offensive line, and linebackers. But the run defense was better this week, and the quarterbacks were again productive. Next week we won’t see many starters, but we’ll see who might be competing for a roster spot at the end. Be sure to check back here to see what we’ll learn then!
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