What did we learn in Steelers vs Seahawks on Saturday night? For this point in time – a lot. Big picture? Probably some. It was great to see the pads go on and see live what we’ve been hearing about in training camp reports. Let’s go through each position group to see what we can learn from Steelers vs Seahawks.
Obviously this was the big ticket item from Saturday night. The Pittsburgh Steelers played their top three quarterbacks on Saturday night against the Seattle Seahawks. All had more bright spots than down and all led scoring drives. Let’s look at the stats:
- Mitchell Trubisky – Two series 4/7, 63 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, no sacks
- Mason Rudolph – Three series 9/15, 93 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, one sack
- Kenny Pickett – Five series 13/15, 95 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, two sacks
All quarterbacks were fairly clean and played well. The big winner is obviously Pickett who played the entire second half to “KEN-NY” chants and seas of “8” jerseys and Pitt teammates. Pickett led the Steelers to a touchdown on his first drive, and to the game winning touchdown in the final seconds.
We did see brief moments of Pickett struggling with pocket awareness. To his credit though – he usually reacts to this with his legs. There were times he appeared to scramble quicker than he needed to, and he took a critical sack on a fourth down near the end of the game.
Trubisky led two good series where he showed good pocket awareness, mobility and the ability to push the ball downfield. The team was disappointed not to score after driving the ball into Seattle territory on their second possession, but that was really the only fault. The starting job is Trubisky’s to lose, and he didn’t do that Saturday.
Mason Rudolph. The poor guy can’t catch a break (as someone who has expressed many negative feelings towards the QB). Taking his first snaps to the sound of “boos” he made a crucial error by having the ball stripped on his first drop back. In his defense Left Tackle Dan Moore Jr. was beat very early in the play, and Rudolph hardly had a chance. But his day was saved on a nicely thrown deep ball to George Pickens for the team’s second touchdown of the game. Rudolph’s main issue was pocket awareness. Unlike Pickett, Rudolph reacts with his arm, often forcing the ball into tight windows to avoid sacks. Defenders got their hands on three of Rudolph’s passes that could have become turnovers.
Kenny Pickett is definitely making a case to be the backup. His game also fits best behind Trubisky and for what OC Matt Canada wants to do – and that’s the play-action boot game. Something that isn’t Rudoph’s strong suit.
The battle for the team’s third running back heated up during Steelers vs Seahawks. Anthony McFarland got the start and ran well (seven carries, 56 yards). He also was the starting kick returner, and got some work as a gunner on special teams.
His primary competition is Jaylen Warren. Warren did it all Saturday night. Rushing (six carries, 34 yards) receiving (four receptions, 30 yards, one touchdown) and played a lot of special teams. That versatility is a big feather in his cap for making the final roster. He did however, put the ball on the ground. The play was ruled dead, but that didn’t stop Head Coach Mike Tomlin from calling him out after halftime.
Mataeo Durant showed some willingness and ability to block (gave up one sack, but sprung Pickett on a big run in the fourth) and was a contributor on special teams. And Master Teague ran well late in the game (six rushes, 34 yards).
The McFarland-Warren battle got even hotter Saturday. We’ll have to see how things are divided further from here before we can lean one way or the other.
Steelers vs Seahawks Saturday night taught us one thing about the Steelers’ receivers: George Pickens is a bad man. Three receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown is no joke. But above the stats Pickens looked to belong on that field (or not – as in – maybe he doesn’t need to play preseason). Pickens toe-tapping touchdown was a thing of beauty. And this block got fans out of their seats.
Other than that it was hard to learn a lot. Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson obviously did not play, but Calvin Austin III and Anthony Miller were late scratches as well. Gunner Olszewski had a nice and unexpected day as the team’s starting slot receiver (three receptions, 47 yards, one touchdown). Steven Sims played most of the first half as the “X” receiver but came up with just one catch for two yards. Cody White and Miles Boykin subbed in for Pickens and Olszewski early on, and were also contributors on special teams. Tyler Vaughns got into the offense later, but made it count with the game-winning touchdown. He also returned kicks.
What did we learn? Olszewski might be more in line for offensive snaps than we (or I) thought. And if Miller is really hurt – he could be losing ground to Boykin/White.
It was a quiet day for the tight ends. Both Connor Heyward and Kevin Rader started. Heyward had two receptions for 24 yards and looked good moving around the field. Rader had just one catch for six yards. Both were very active on special teams. Jace Sternberger rotated in later and had two catches for 20 yards.
Neither Pat Freiermuth or Zach Gentry played Saturday night – but let’s not forget about those two. At this point there’s probably one tight end spot open. For his offensive abilities and special teams abilities (two tackles) Heyward is probably the front runner. But Rader has stuck around the team for his special teams, and he showed that on Saturday.
The offensive line had its moments in Steelers vs Seahawks, but things were still ugly at times. The pass protection especially had its issues with miscommunication amongst the starters, and some one-on-one losses with the second group.
We saw two groups basically through the game, just not a full change all at once.
- Group 1: Dan Moore Jr – Kendrick Green – Mason Cole – James Daniels – Chukwuma Okorafor
- Group 2: Trent Scott – Chaz Green – J.C. Hassenauer – John Leglue – Joe Haeg
For the starters I thought we saw an improved push from Dan Moore Jr in the run game. He always had good feet for getting out wide, but more vertical push would help and he appears to have it. If he can be the third, or even second best player on this line that would be a win. Mason Cole had a good game. He anchored well and got push in the run game. Things Pittsburgh did not get at center last year.
Kendrick Green struggled at left guard. He ended up on the ground in the run game, and he and James Daniels both were fooled on some inside pass rushes through the first half.
The second unit had the biggest struggles. Joe Haeg and John Leglue opened some nice running lanes on the right side, but certainly nothing to suggest anyone from this group is pushing for a starting spot.
With Kevin Dotson out with an injury there were no surprises to the lines. But the Steelers are definitely hoping to get a healthy Dotson back soon so he can make good on his flashes he showed in 2020.
The defensive line had its struggles – but like last year was playing without a true nose tackle. Starting on the line were Chris Wormley, Henry Mondeaux and Isaiahh Loudermilk. Mondeaux got some time at nose tackle last year – and we know how that went – and it was more of the same Saturday. Mondeaux is a good athlete with some pass rush and even special teams ability. He was on the first line at defensive tackle with Wormley in nickel packages. But when Tyson Alualu and Montravius Adams are back healthy, he might find himself not making the final roster.
Behind them were DeMarvin Leal and Carlos Davis. Leal especially showed off his athleticism and almost recorded a sack.
Khalil Davis got in the game late and delivered the final hit of the night.
Alualu and Adams will have to continue to get ready for game action if we want a clear picture of this group – and a better run defense.
We’ll cover both the inside linebackers and edge rushers here. Inside we saw five guys play due to multiple injuries. Myles Jack and Devin Bush started, and Bush was wearing the green dot. Both played fine, and Jack made a nice move to get in the backfield for a tackle for loss. Robert Spillane also rotated in early for Jack.
For a majority of the game however, it was Buddy Johnson and Mark Robinson getting their opportunities. They both had their struggles in coverage and stopping the run. Doubling up by playing a lot on special teams probably didn’t help. But Johnson led the team with seven tackles, and Robinson got the strip-sack that led to Pittsburgh’s game winning drive. They both have things to work on, but also both have a springboard for the rest of camp.
On the outside we saw Derrek Tuszka and Delontae Scott get the starts. They both contributed on special teams as well. Both were quiet but got a lot of time. Scott had one run play where he overpursued, got buried and gave up a big run to his side. Both are competing for a roster spot with Genard Avery who did not play today due to injury.
Tuzar Skipper – a familiar training camp name to Steelers fans – was next in line and recovered the fumble at the end of the game. He also got a fair amount of special teams work. A turnaround from his first stint with the team.
Recent signees Hamilcar Rashed Jr. and Ron’Dell Carter also worked into the game.
The defensive backs had a solid day giving up just 180 yards through the air. Starting was Cameron Sutton and Ahkello Witherspoon with Arthur Maulet in as the nickel. Levi Wallace rotated in when Witherspoon left the game with an injury. The starting safeties were Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee. Edmunds was subbed out early on by Tre Norwood, and Kazee was subbed out around halftime for Donovan Stiner.
After Levi Wallace the cornerback rotation included James Pierre who saw heavy action. Carlins Platel was next and has been ahead of Justin Layne on the depth chart for the last few days. Platel didn’t look great on the outside (missed a tackle and got lost on one play in coverage) but has versatility and kicked into the nickel for Maulet around the fourth quarter. Linden Stephens and Chris Steele got work towards the end.
How the DB room shakes out will be interesting. Justin Layne being passed on the depth chart could spell the end for his time in Pittsburgh – despite his special teams history. Miles Killebrew didn’t play today because of an injury. Despite his 335 special teams snaps last year (second most) could he be in trouble of losing his spot? Karl Joseph, who was having a good camp as a safety and nickel defender, was hurt on the opening kickoff in what seems to be a pretty bad injury.
This defensive back group might have the most to work out still – in a good way. There’s a lot of talent and versatility to work with. And we’ll need the most time to figure this group out among the whole team.
We were certainly able to learn a lot in Steelers vs Seahawks on Saturday. But there is still plenty more to learn. Check back with us here to follow along Pittsburgh’s preseason as we get ready for Week 1!
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