The Pittsburgh Steelers broke training camp Sunday. If coach Mike Tomlin had his way, the team would probably return to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., instead of Pittsburgh for the rest of preseason practice.
The Steelers still have plenty of work ahead of them as their uneven, and at times ragged, play showed Monday night in a 24-13 loss at Washington.
Three turnovers, untimely penalties and an inability to control the line of scrimmage added up to the Steelers’ second loss in as many preseason games. The players return to work Wednesday, and the starters will see their final extended action of the preseason Saturday night when the Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs. Here is a review of the Steelers’ loss to the Redskins:
•The offensive line film room won’t be a lot of fun later this week when position coach Jack Bicknell Jr. breaks down tape of the game with his players. And no one was immune to the kind of mistakes that added up to a subpar showing at best for the offensive line.
The interior of the line couldn’t handle Barry Cofield, and the Redskins nose tackle beat Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey for an early sack of Ben Roethlisberger. Cofield also split the double-team of Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro to force the Roethlisberger interception that Ryan Kerrigan returned for a touchdown.
The Steelers’ first four penalties were committed by offensive linemen. Four penalties by offensive linemen wiped out pass completions that moved the chains. The good news? It’s still only August.
• Roethlisberger pulled on a baseball hat earlier than expected and gave way to backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski early in the second quarter. But that’s because Big Ben was nearly flawless after throwing an interception for a touchdown on the first series of the game.
The 10th-year veteran completed his next five pass attempts behind a leaky offensive line, and a 26-yard toss to tight end David Paulson was trademark Roethlisberger.
He escaped a collapsing pocket and bought enough time to find Paulson for a big gainer. Roethlisberger looked like he was in midseason form after the careless swing pass that Kerrigan intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He completed five of six passes for 66 yards.
• There can’t be any questions about Jonathan Dwyer making the team after the fourth-year running back rushed for a game-high 68 yards on 14 carries.
Dwyer relieved rookie Le'Veon Bell after Bell left the game early with a foot injury, and he showed good vision and elusiveness despite running behind lines that struggled. Dwyer did lose a careless fumble, but that was one of his few blemishes, and 57 of his rushing yards came in the first half against Washington’s first-team defense.
Bell’s early injury problems make hanging onto Dwyer a must, and that would make Baron Batch the odd man out if the Steelers keep only four running backs along with fullback Will Johnson on their 53-man roster.
• Rookie Jarvis Jones played the bulk of the time at right outside linebacker with the first-team defense, and the first-round pick forced a fumble that Ike Taylor recovered deep in Redskins territory.
Jones is physically ready for the NFL, and he appears to be making good progress in learning Dick LeBeau’s defense. Jason Worilds, whom Jones is battling for a starting job, played sparingly and lined up at both left and right outside linebacker. Whether or not he is losing ground to Jones remains to be seen. The coaches might have wanted to take a long look at Jones, who also played with the second-team defense.
• The defense did a good job early of getting off the field but also made third-string quarterback Rex Grossman look like a Pro Bowler. Grossman relieved injured Kirk Cousins in the first quarter and completed seven of nine passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
One plus for the defense is it forced four turnovers, including safety Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith's interception of Grossman in the third quarter.
• Markus Wheaton did a pretty nice Mike Wallace impersonation in the third quarter when he blew past a Redskins cornerback and hauled in a 45-yard pass from third-string quarterback Landry Jones. The wide receivers were one of the few bright spots for the Steelers as Emmanuel Sanders made a couple of leaping grabs and Derek Moye, who is battling for a roster spot, scored the Steelers’ only touchdown on a 10-yard reception.
Jones still looked every part the rookie against the Redskins, but the former Oklahoma star showed improvement from his first preseason game. Jones led the Steelers’ only touchdown drive, one that he capped with the scoring pass to Moye on fourth-and-1. He also showed nice touch on the pass to Wheaton, though he almost put too much air under the ball. Jones completed nine of 22 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.