PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers came out of their victory against the Buffalo Bills looking like stars and a dangerous team to deal with, but it is still only the preseason. However, is there anything to take away from a game where the Steelers looked like the clearly better team? Here is what we learned on Saturday in their victory.
Kenny Pickett Shines
The first, and most obvious takeaway to me is that Kenny Pickett continues to play at a high level. Pickett is obviously the crux of the team’s hopes for the future, and he continues to impress in his second year in the preseason. His touchdown throw to Pat Freiermuth was a thing of beauty. He led Freiermuth to his inside shoulder, both protecting him and making it an easy catch for the touchdown.
Pickett looks sharper in his decision-making and processing, and his pocket movement seems crisper. Now, we still need to see a bigger sample size and have it translate over it into the regular season, but the only thing that can be taken away from the last two games is that Pickett and the starting offense as a whole, are ready to a step forward. They have registered four explosive plays for touchdowns. That is the most encouraging sign we have seen yet.
The LT Battle is Further Apart Than You Think
Dan Moore Jr. has done nothing but impresses so far in the offseason. His training camp was quiet in a good way. He stayed true to his morals as a football player and reworked his body and diet. Now, he comes out in Year 3 looking like a bonafide starting left tackle. But because he learned right tackle in the offseason as well, he has made himself that much more valuable to the team as a swing tackle who appears to be a starting-level player.
Broderick Jones has steadily improved, and I don’t really have a knock on him since he came into the building. I think he looks better from the start of camp to now and is learning. But he won’t have to be thrust in there right away against NFL starting pass rushers. That’s a good thing as Jones reworks his technique. Pittsburgh should be okay at left tackle while Jones comes along.
The Slot CB Battle is Interesting
So, how do you sort out this slot cornerback battle at this point? Chandon Sullivan and Elijah Riley both nabbed interceptions. Neither of them appears to be guys that I would classify as full-time starters, at least for the Steelers on passing downs. But one thing I would classify them as are natural pluses in the running game. Sullivan and Riley are great run-down slot cornerbacks. Could Patrick Peterson end up being the passing-down slot cornerback? Naturally, I think that is the next step that the Steelers must truly figure out.
Kendrick Green Struggles
Mike Tomlin did not hold back on Kendrick Green in his postgame press conference, simply saying that how he played on Saturday was not good enough. That is true, as Green struggled with his snaps yet again and was called for a holding penalty. The Steelers have really tried to make Green at backup center work, and he might be the naturally best true center on the roster, but right now, it is not showing at all.
Spencer Anderson logged some time there with Nate Herbig out today. I wouldn’t discount seeing that more in Thursday’s game at Atlanta. But it continues to look like there will be an external addition from outside the organization added to this room.
Nick Herbig Shines
There is something about Nick Herbig that continues to shine through in his pass-rush plan. It’s not just the burst or the deep bag. Herbig actively studies the pass sets and tendencies that the opposing tackles are going to pull out against him. I find that to be something that is scary for opponents. Herbig is such a polished pass rusher at this point that he is a weapon with that polish on him.
In a few ways, he reminds me a lot of Alex Highsmith coming out of Charlotte. He has better burst and natural bend than Highsmith did, but the polish on the moves and counters is just there already for Herbig. Add in an easy schematic transition and there is not much that Herbig can not do at this point. He will play and is proving the Steelers are four deep at OLB.