In their first preseason game of the 2014 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the New York Giants 20-16. It was a rather mediocre performance by both sides and each will need to improve if they want to return to playoff form. The Giants will come away feeling good about their defensive performance, having not allowing Pittsburgh to score an offensive touchdown. The Steelers will like the big plays they got from some young players on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
The Steelers were able to strike first with the first of three Shaun Suisham field goals on the night. Le’Veon Bell started their first drive off with some good runs of eight and nine yards, but he was quickly taken off and replaced by newly acquired Lagarrette Blunt. A 46-yard pass to Dri Archer set up the kick, and then the rookie showed off his speed after catching a short bubble screen and got some great blocks to find some open field. Pittsburgh was not able to capitalize on the big play because of some good defending from the Giants, settling for the field goal.
Ben Roethlisberger was taken out right after the first drive and changed into street clothes. Eli Manning stayed in a little longer, but both left the game early as expected. The only other big offensive play for the Steelers in the first half came from second year receiver Markus Wheaton, who caught a 28-yard pass from backup QB Bruce Gradkowsi. Wheaton beat out both Lance Moore and rookie Martavis Bryant for the right to the start opposite of Pro Bowler Antonio Brown.
New York busted through the Pittsburgh defense on the first play of the next drive with a run straight up the middle from Rashad Jennings. Jennings was untouched right up the middle for 73 yards and showed the flaws of the aging Steelers defense. However, aside from that big play, the Giants’ offense was mostly inert in the first half, as the Pittsburgh defense was able to hold them to just six more points off of two long field goals. 2013 first round pick Jarvis Jones showed some of his pass-rushing skill set as he was able to sack Eli Manning in the first quarter. Sean Spence also had some good moments in his return to the lineup after a horrific knee injury in his rookie season that looked like it might end his career.
Teams rarely impress in their first preseason game of the season, and the Giants and Steelers were no exception in this game. The Steelers will be happy with some big plays from their young guys, but they should also be wary of the big run up the middle early on their first team defense. The defense was really able to buckle down after the big play, even scoring a touchdown off of a fumble recovery by rookie Howard Jones in the fourth quarter.
Wins and losses in the preseason are basically irrelevant, so the Steelers do not need to worry about losing their first game to the Giants. They need to take what they saw in this game and improve upon it for their next preseason game coming up against the Buffalo Bills.
Commentary by Max Petkevicius
Photo Courtesy of Jack and Diane-Creativecommons License
Pro Football Talk