NFL Nation: 081912 preseason obs

Thoughts on Steelers 26, Colts 24

August, 20, 2012
Some thoughts out of the Colts’ 26-24 preseason loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday night:
  • NBC’s broadcast and in-game interview with Andrew Luck ably summed up his night. The rookie quarterback didn’t start well but kind of fought through it and settled down, and the Colts did well to get to halftime with a 17-14 lead. Luck saw some exotic stuff called by Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau -- like just one down lineman pre-snap in the amoeba defense – and didn’t panic. A Luck pass aimed for Reggie Wayne wound up an easy pick-six for cornerback Ike Taylor (which gave Pittsburgh a 14-0 lead) and he absorbed a LaMarr Woodley sack on his very next play. Indy rallied with a drive that produced a short Donald Brown touchdown run and Luck got in himself on a fourth-and-goal to make it 14-all.
  • Austin Collie may have suffered a concussion in the second quarter when Taylor started to tackle him, bending him down into position to catch an arm from Larry Foote in the helmet. The veteran receiver has had concussion issues in the recent past, and a lot of outsiders felt it was their job to tell him to retire to avoid risking any further head trauma. We hope, of course, that it’s not a concussion or that it’s mild as can be -- and that it’s nothing that will affect him for very long. But even a mild concussion would be bad news. From the football perspective, if he’s going to miss time, rookies T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill will continue to get more action, and Donnie Avery becomes more important.
  • We got more of a sense of just what Wayne will be asked to do in Bruce Arians' offense, and it’s far more complex than what he’s done before. He’s motioning all over the place, and on this night he was just the sure weapon the Colts were envisioning when they re-signed him to be a key guy for Luck -- six catches for 74 yards in a half.
  • Rookie running back Vick Ballard got work with the first team and showed some indications of why he could earn a bulk of the team's carries. One 12-yard run to the right sideline featured a nice spin move as he pushed wide and showed both power and speed.
  • Luck’s second interception was completely on Hilton, who bobbled a catchable ball, knocking it up into the air and to cornerback Cortez Allen.
  • First-team run defense was an issue. Young running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey averaged 5.9 yards on their eight carries against the unit.
  • A sack against the second team isn’t cause for major celebration, but outside linebacker Jerry Hughes had one. He’s now got two in two games and sure seems like he’s got a more suitable role coming in this defense than he had in the team’s old 4-3 as an end. He finished with seven tackles, tied for the game high.
  • Two other injuries we will be monitoring: Defensive lineman Cory Redding left with a right knee strain and outside linebacker Robert Mathis with a shoulder strain.

Observation deck: Steelers-Colts

August, 19, 2012
It was another conservative showing by the Steelers offense in Pittsburgh's 26-24 preseason victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Emphasizing the run and a controlled passing attack, the Steelers' starting offense managed one score on four drives. It came off a wide receiver screen, which resulted in a 57-yard touchdown by Antonio Brown.

The Steelers clearly wanted to get their ground game going, running the ball on the first five plays of the game. And it's clear that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger feels most comfortable throwing to Brown. Five of his attempts (and his only ones to wide receivers) went to Brown, who took a short pass and weaved his way to the end zone like it was punt return.

Take away that touchdown throw and Roethlisberger was 4 of 8 for 24 yards and one interception.

Here are some other observations from the game:
  • Ike Taylor put a lot of work into improving his hands this offseason and it paid off Sunday night. He jumped a route on the sideline and ran 49 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. But he did have some forgettable moments, from two missed tackles to a miscommunication with Troy Polamalu that should have resulted in a touchdown (Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton got behind the defense and then bobbled the pass, which was intercepted by Cortez Allen).
  • The Steelers should feel more comfortable going with Jonathan Dwyer as their backup running back after Sunday night. He showed good vision and cutting ability in gaining 43 yards on eight carries. Dwyer broke two tackles on his first run of the game and then threw a good block on Chris Rainey's eight-yard gain on the first drive.
  • On the one-yard touchdown allowed by the Steelers in the second quarter, linebackers Larry Foote and LaMarr Woodley have to get off blocks to make that tackle. Defensive end Ziggy Hood, who was active against the run, got double-teamed on that play.
  • Chris Carter isn't James Harrison but he's much better than a typical third-string linebacker. He exploded to the ball and put himself in position to make plays. Carter just has to learn that he can't blatantly hold receivers like Reggie Wayne because it will draw a flag every time.
  • And speaking of Harrison, this is what head coach Mike Tomlin said about his Pro Bowl linebacker's chances of playing in the season opener after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery: "I'm always optimistic. That doesn't necessarily mean he's going to be ready. We're just taking it day to day and we're going to let his recuperation dictate how we proceed. He's always been a fast healer and we'll keep that attitude."
  • When the Steelers went with their second-team offense, it was Charlie Batch and not Byron Leftwich who came in at quarterback. Batch completed 7 of 10 passes for 84 yards. Leftwich didn't get into the game.
  • Rainey looks like he can break free for a touchdown every time he touches the ball. His size is a concern, and that had to cross your mind when Rainey coughed up the ball on that rough hit. He has to hold onto the ball better.