Winners and losers of the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-15 beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in Saturday night’s preseason game.
Kenny Pickett: It’s impossible to deny the work Pickett has done over the past two weeks. While the Steelers’ attack seemed lifeless for the first 29 minutes, Pickett led the show to close the half. In situational ball almost identical to what you would see in camp, just over a minute on the clock and about 60 yards to the end zone, Pickett was excellent. He went 4/5 for 63 yards and a touchdown, his only incompleteness a spike and he threw a touchdown to Diontae Johnson who was swept away by a penalty. Pickett was at his best against the blitz, effectively attacking the center of the field, standing upright against the A and B gap pressure. He put points on the board. That was all Mike Tomlin needed to see and Pickett didn’t start the second half.
Terrell Edmunds: Edmunds didn’t necessarily play at a high level, but he was active in scrimmage against the point. He finished the night with five tackles, four of which were solo. If he can be solid against the run and no liability in coverage, that’s a win for Pittsburgh.
Chase Claypool: Claypool mainly ran the slot, which reflects what he did all summer while he was healthy. That poses a challenge for DBs in this “big slot” world, especially vertically. Claypool found the ball fading into a slot early in the game and jumped over the defender’s back to pull in the pass for a 29-yard gain. There are doubts about his ability to run short option routes and make touch catches in traffic, but he could be a downfield weapon this season.
Pat Freiermuth: Freiermuth was his typical, confident self, nothing new there, but what? is new are his downfield catches. He finished the day with two catches for 35 yards, both in the two-minute practice, one of which was a 24-yard completion. That would have tied his long last summer. Freiermuth has been used more in the middle of the field this summer and he should be able to increase his meager yards per catch from his rookie season.
Mark Robinson: Solid play for Robinson whose run attacks were good and he stayed clean in the run game. He ended the game with a monster hit across the middle and didn’t look as awkward in the coverage as he did on his NFL debut last weekend. He plays with the mentality that all good Steelers linebackers have had.
Tyler Vaughns/Tyler Snead: Good outings for the Tyler wideouts. Vaughns created space by selling vertically, while Snead was an effective option from the slot, catching the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Both guys are fighting for a spot on the practice squad and helped their goals tonight.
Dan Moore and the Offensive Line: Mike Tomlin wanted to see how the Steelers’ o-line would react to the Jags’ varsity pass rush. Pittsburgh’s front five were JV. Mitch Trubisky was besieged all through the first ride and it didn’t get much better over the course of the day. Moore was the most notable weak link, but there was no strong chain in this group. Again, Chukwuma Okorafor was arguably the best offensive lineman on the team. More played well into the third quarter, a sign of his struggles and coaches eager to give him as many reps as possible. Starter Kendrick Green substituted for Kevin Dotson and played well into the fourth quarter. And when someone calls John Leglue, his pressure resulted in a Mason Rudolph deliberate safety on the ground.
Pittsburgh struggled with the Jags’ line stunts and twists. Run-blocking was no better with linebackers running free. James Daniels also continues to struggle. It’s a good thing the Steelers have mobile quarterbacks. They will have to use their legs this year. A lot.
It will be difficult to find starters at this time of year, but expect Omar Khan and the Professional Scouts to add more o-line help before week one.
Chris Boswell: Nitpicking here and this is no cause for concern. But Boswell hit the post from 53 yards on his first try of the season, barely taking in an extra point later in the game. Let’s just call it summer rust.
Anthony McFarland: Evaluating his play is difficult behind a sad front line, but the pecking order didn’t work in McFarland’s favor. He was the third rider in the race and didn’t see regular snaps until the second half, right behind Benny Snell and Jaylen Warren. McFarland was little used for the last week of camp and there’s a good chance Warren passed him. Warren offers more special value to teams, is better at pass protection and fits the profile of a powerful runner that the team is drawn to.
QB contains: Jacksonville has a few quarterbacks who are mobile enough and they played with their feet. Pittsburgh’s rush struggled to connect things around the edges and center. Starter Trevor Lawrence rushed the ball twice over 13 yards, while CJ Beathard had a short rushing square early in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh will see mobile quarterbacks all season, especially in their division, so improvement will be key.
Tre Norwood: While Norwood didn’t look terrible tonight, he certainly didn’t build on his strong debut. Norwood missed several missed tackles in the pass game tonight and will likely show up quite a few in Josh Carney’s missed tackles report, an article you don’t want your name in. Norwood has shown more physicality than his rookie season, but he lacks the size to knock and falls off too easily if he can’t get down and hit a runner square.