The Steelers come out of the second week of the preseason undefeated after a 16-15 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. With some late heroics yet again, Pittsburgh has produced at least two preseason games that illustrated both the good and the bad of the team as a whole. So, who comes out on the other in the ascending column, and who needs to raise their stock a bit more in the coming weeks?
Nick Farabaugh of Steelers Now breaks down who is playing at a high level heading into Pittsburgh’s final game against Detroit, and who needs to get a little push before the regular season.
It may seem somewhat obvious, but Kenny Pickett has to be the top winner of the week. During a game where he was set to receive more ‘varsity-action’ for the first time in his young career, he stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. Pickett snapped pass after pass around the field Saturday night in a surgical two-minute drive. He continues to showcase his poise and impress his teammates.
Even under duress, the Steelers’ first-round pick continues to be the talk of the town for a good reason. Pickett’s anticipation, accuracy, and poise are three translatable traits at any level, and it is why he is the top winner of this week as he continues to ascend.
The Steelers Safeties
Well, the Steelers’ inside linebackers are not exactly awe-inspiring, but the safeties are one of the strongest position groups on the field. While Minkah Fitzpatrick is the elite free safety that he is, it was Terrell Edmunds who was the best defensive player on the field against Jacksonville. Consistently in the box, Edmunds made play after play at or behind the line of scrimmage. The Steelers cooked up three safety sets and brought Damontae Kazee into the equation, too.
Kazee made a thunderous hit on a fourth-down drag route over the middle of the field to cause a turnover on downs. If the safeties can play the way they did on Saturday, the Steelers may have to play in three safety sets a lot more than they anticipate throughout the season.
Speaking of guys who want to lay the boom down, seventh-round Steelers rookie Mark Robinson has been a true downhill thumper in the preseason. After his strip sack against the Seahawks to win the game, Robinson’s pressure against E.J. Perry caused an interception to be tossed in Justin Layne’s direction. He consistently plays with reckless abandonment and sets the tone for the defense snap in and snap out. That makes Robinson more than impressive throughout the game and training camp practices.
Do not forget about Mason Rudolph. Sure, is it easy to throw him by the wayside? It absolutely is with Mitch Trubisky and Pickett being the new faces in town. But Rudolph was strikingly solid on Saturday in Jacksonville. He made the correct reads, was in rhythm, and engineered a game-winning drive in a two-minute drill. Rudolph is doing what he can at this point. It is very clear he will not be the starter, but throughout the preseason and training camp, he has been good. That’s about all he can do at this point. Rudolph has to be labeled a winner because he is playing well, and continues to do so.
Pressley Harvin III
Okay, it is easy to forget about the punter at some point, right? Well, Pressley Harvin III has made that hard as his past week has been the best punting in his Steelers career. Both in practice and in the preseason game, Harvin boomed punts of over 60 yards with hang times of over five yards. Not only that, but Harvin has now been able to prove he can locate his punts throughout practice. If his last three punting sessions are anything to go off of, Harvin may fully be here as the Steelers’ answer at punter.
Now the players who haven’t done enough to rise above the competition.
The left guard battle for the Steelers has been an uninspiring battle to this point. Kevin Dotson has not been super healthy, but he was fine on Saturday for the most part. Kendrick Green, on the other hand, looks pretty unplayable. What gives with Green’s play? He lacks the length necessary to be a high-level NFL offenisve lineman, but more so, his hand placement is all over the place. Green’s natural athleticism is fun, but if his hand placement and usage never improve, he will never play. The simple fact of the matter at this point is it looks like Dotson’s job to lose thanks to Green’s play.
Dan Moore Jr.
After a strong training camp, Dan Moore Jr. has just not been able to translate that into the preseason games thus far. In his second showing against the Jaguars, Moore allowed five presusres and a sack that should have been taken care after he let the looper cross inside of him. It was a tough day for Moore, who had one of the roughest showings of his career to date. He has to show considerable growth in the week leading up to the Lions coming to town.
This is a weird one to be typing, but James Daniels has not lived up to the billing that he had in Chicago. The tape from a season ago in Chicago was solid. While he had moments where he struggled, Daniels was still a quality, average lineman. Thus far, he has appeared to be below average and Travon Walker gave him all sorts of fits on Saturday night. His hand usage has been all over the place, and it seems like he is just out of sync as it stands right now.
Bush continues to end up on the list just because his play is overall uninspiring. Was he better against the Jaguars than he was against Seattle? He absolutely was, and there was some willingness to make some downhill plays there. However, he still never knifed through gaps to make a big play in run defense. Then, there was nothing that stuck out about his play in coverage, either. Bush just executed his assignments, but the splash was simply not there for the Michigan product. It is a tough slog with Bush at this point, as he continues to just be fine.
3rd Down Defense
The Steelers first-team defense was encouraging in a few ways. For one, the run defense was pretty solid. Larry Ogunjobi played extremely well when he was out there. Myles Jack looks like a home run signing. The Steelers secondary continues to impress week after week. Still, the team struggled to get off the field with the first team out there. Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars started out 4 for 6 on the day, but could easily have been perfect if Lawrence had hit an open Christian Kirk both times. This will be a situational aspect of the game that the Steelers will need to improve heading into the season.