In their most important preseason game before the season opener, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat themselves Sunday night with bad fundamentals and a lack of discipline.
The Steelers suffered a 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos in a game where reviewing the tape won’t be a fun scene for much of the team.
The Steelers starters played for the entire 1st half and some starters even played into the 3rd quarter but it was Denver who played with more poise.
Penalties were at the forefront of the Steelers issues Sunday night. The Steelers were called for six penalties in the 1st half, including three personal foul penalties and one roughing of the passer.
The quarterback rotation went as expected with Ben Roethlisberger starting the game. Roethlisberger played the entire 1st quarter going 4 of 6 for 67 yards. Much of Roethlisberger’s yardage came on a 47 yard strike to Mike Wallace on the Steelers first play from scrimmage.
Roethlisberger was sharp once again but the same can’t be said for Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich.
Dixon who relieved Roethlisberger at the start of the second quarter, had a miserable game running with the Steelers 1st team for the first time this preseason.
Dixon was 6 of 13 for 58 yards and threw two interceptions in the first half, going up against Denver’s 1st team. Dixon posted a passer rating of 19.6 in the second quarterback.
Dixon’s final line was 9 of 16 for 94 yards, 2 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 33.9. He also rushed for 33 yards.
Dixon struggled mightily at making tough reads and his decision making got him into trouble. Dixon’s performance however did bring clarification to the Steelers quarterback situation as Byron Leftwich is now a lock to open the season as the Steelers starter.
Leftwich came into the game in the third quarter, playing behind the Steelers 2nd team offensive line. Leftwich was under immense pressure for much of the 3rd quarter and didn’t complete a pass on four pass attempts.
Charlie Batch saw some action in the 4th quarter. The veteran QB went 3 of 4 for 44 yards with a touchdown and interception. Batch connected with Antonio Brown for a touchdown in the 4th quarter.
The Steelers running game was strong. Rashard Mendenhall saw limited work but was effective rushing for 28 yards on 5 carries. Mendenhall had two misdirection runs where the play broke down and busted a run to the outside.
Mendenhall’s long run was for 11 yards. It is likely that Mendenhall will not play Thursday night in the Steelers preseason finale.
Rookie running back Jonathan Dwyer got his first extensive action of the preseason and was impressive. Dwyer rushed for 89 yards on 13 carries and scored a touchdown. It was a pivotal game for Dwyer who faces an uphill battle to make the team.
The Steelers appear committed to Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore, Isaac Redman and Frank Summers as their top four.
The Steelers 1st team defense continues to get beat on passes to the outside. Kyle Orton was 9 of 14 for 80 yards and an interception.
Keenan Lewis made his first start of the preseason and it was a nightmare game for Lewis. He looked lost at the left corner spot and lacked maturity being called for two personal foul penalties. Lewis not only found himself in Mike Tomlin’s doghouse but his off the field antics won’t do him much help either. Lewis reportedly punched a sign and glass was broken all over the ground.
Some of the Steelers starters on defense including Troy Polamalu played into the 3rd quarter.
The Steelers who didn’t have an interception from a cornerback until week 17 last season, had two interceptions from cornerbacks against Denver. William Gay picked off Kyle Orton and Crezdon Butler intercepted Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter.
Jeff Reed said over the weekend that he feels “fired” about no longer being the Steelers kicker on kickoffs but he may get that job back.
Daniel Sepulveda struggled on kickoffs against Denver and has not ran away with the job.
The Steelers gave Antonio Brown another long look on kick and punt returns. Brown opened the game as the Steelers primary returner. Like Sepulveda he has not ran away with that job either.
Brown had 24 kickoff return yards and 14 punt return yards on two returns. Brown struggled with his decision making on punts.
Notes and Observations
*Troy Polamalu took a big step forward tonight playing into the third quarter. Polamalu appears to be feeling no ill effects of his knee injury from last season.
*Really like what I’ve seen from Lawrence Timmons during the preseason. Timmons led the Steelers with five tackles and he’s reading the play very well, especially on running plays.
*Maurkice Pouncey made his first start at center and handled himself very well up against Jamal Williams.
As a whole the Steelers 1st team offensive line did not have a great game but they had their good moments It was especially a rough night for Trai Essex. Essex gave up a sack in the 1st half and struggled in the run game.
Notes: Ben Roethlisberger will meet with commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday, September 3rd to discuss his suspension.
James Farrior left the game in the 1st quarter after suffering a gash to his head.