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Steelers Analysis

Winners and Losers From Steelers Preseason Win Over Bills



Steelers RB Jaylen Warren

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers took the field against the Buffalo Bills and pulled out a 27-15 win over the group. With the ever-changing field of the preseason in the NFL, the Steelers went into this game looking for attributes that could allow guys to sink or swim. So, who met some criteria, and who fell short?

Winner: The Entire First Team Offense

I am not even going to try and parse out who should be a winner on the Steelers’ first-team offense because, well, they all were winners. Certainly, the standout of that group will be Kenny Pickett, who dashed his way to another big-time throw by hitting Pat Freiermuth for a touchdown. On the day, he was 3 of 4 for 43 yards with that touchdown.

Diontae Johnson threw a key downfield block to spring Jaylen Warren. Overall, the offensive line played well, too. That group is clicking on all cylinders, and the team has to be happy with how Pickett and company are playing right now. Going into their final preseason, it is hard to be anything but optimistic.

Loser: Kendrick Green

I hate to keep putting Green on this list, but when your coach explicitly says that your performance was ‘not good enough’ in the postgame press conference, you are undoubtedly a loser in the game. That is true for Green, who had another bad snap and consistently was pushed around in the run-and-passing game. On the sack that Broderick Jones technically allowed, Green was pushed right into Mason Rudolph’s lap. Simply put, the team’s backup center options right now look sparse as Green continues to struggle.

Winner: Jaylen Warren

Warren is on this list in part because of his touchdown, but it really encapsulates the summer he has put up in totality. This is a guy who just continues to ball out in every facet. I opined earlier this week that Warren has some Austin Ekeler-like qualities in his game. That still seems like an apt comparison to me at this point. Warren is playing at a high level with more explosiveness this year, and that can really open up some exciting possibilities in his game.

Loser: Rushing Offense (aside from that Warren run)

This is a niche loser, but one I have to put on the list. The first-team offensive line showed out and got more than a few quality runs. But for a team that is supposed to be built upon the running game, it would be hard to tell that given how the second and third offensive lines performed in the running game. Bills defenders sliced through open holes and the defensive line wreaked havoc in an ugly way.

Outside of that one run, the team averaged 1.8 yards per carry on 32 rushes for 59 yards. That is not good enough for the team to sustain a rushing attack if some injuries occur. So, that is something for the depth offensive line to strive for on Thursday as a point of improvement.

Winner: Slot CBs

The Steelers came into this one with a massive question at slot cornerback. After this game, it became a little clearer, in some ways. I don’t think they have a clear passing-down nickel cornerback yet. That could be Patrick Peterson, but I am not sure if we know that just at this time given his lack of reps. But Chandon Sullivan and Elijah Riley both nabbed interceptions and are proving to be a solid tandem of run-down slot cornerbacks for this team.

One or both of the players will make the final 53-man roster. They are showcasing they deserve it. My concern still lies with the coverage ability of that room right now, but I know what I am asking Sullivan and Riley to do. They excel at their skill sets.

Loser: Trenton Thompson

It was a really up-and-down day for Trenton Thompson, who really carved out a nice spot by the end of training camp. However, he seemed overly aggressive and out of position a number of times in this game. Thompson was the definition of a roller coaster without enough highs to justify the ride. This safety room is deep enough to where a game like this can influence who makes the roster and the practice squad proper. Thompson did not help himself on Saturday.

Winner: Outside Linebackers

I am putting the top four outside linebackers on this list. T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Markus Golden, and Nick Herbig all had great games. Somehow, Herbig has leveled up his game from one game to the next. Highsmith appears to be even better than he was last year. Golden is a scrappy veteran that gives you exactly what you expect as a strong run defender and pass rusher who wins through power. Watt is one of the best edge rushers in the league. It’s simple from there. The Steelers are legitimately four deep at outside linebacker.

Loser: Anthony McFarland

Anthony McFarland lands on this list due to no fault of his own. He played well as a running back and continued to show what everyone knew he brings to the table. There were three or four nasty jukes he pulled out in this one. But this one stems from the unfortunate fact that McFarland only got to field one kick, and it was poorly blocked. That means he finished the day with just 19 yards on one return. For a third running back, doesn’t special teams matter a lot? I think it does, and McFarland does not play on many other units besides kick return. He simply did not get an opportunity to show what he could do on kick return, and that is unfortunate.

Winner: Pressley Harvin III

More special teams, but this time the punter. Pressley Harvin III checked the boxes he needed to check on Saturday and looked far more impressive than Braden Mann did last Friday. All of his five punts ended up inside the 20-yard line, some of them being tight punts. One ended up being a great play by Miles Boykin that ended with Harvin’s punt at the 5-yard line. Overall, it’s hard to not give him props. The punter job seems, mostly, locked up in Harvin’s favor.

Loser: Hakeem Butler

Butler struggled at training camp throughout the last week or so and then mysteriously did not play on Saturday. That is a recipe for disaster for a guy who is trending down. For someone who had so much hype coming out of OTAs and minicamp, Butler simply doesn’t seem to have a future with the team.

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