On August 19, 2012, the Pittsburgh Steelers played their home preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers won 26-24, but the in-game details were more important than the final score.
The first team offense was intent on working on the run game. With their top two running backs out with injuries, Jonathan Dwyer started the game. Because of a consistent push by the offensive line, Dwyer had all positive carries and a nice 23 yard burst off the left side with some second team linemen in (including 2nd round pick Mike Adams). Speedy RB Chris Rainey is a weapon-in-waiting. He got the ball on an end around and had a nice run until he was popped and fumbled. Except for a bad interception, Ben Roethlisberger looked comfortable with the offense. Antonio Brown looked like the $42.5 million receiver with a nifty open field run to turn a receiver screen into a 57 yard touchdown.
Among the non-starters, long time backup QB Charlie Batch is battling for his position. Except for a couple late plays, he looked his age (37) and inaccurate. Jerrod Johnson, a young, developmental QB, looked smooth in mop up duty. He drove the Steelers 65 yards for the final field goal. At this point, I think Batch or Byron Leftwich will get cut to make room for Johnson. The most impressive player was receiver David Gilreath. With four catches for 78 yards, he may earn a spot as a 5th receiver.
The Steelers defense took the field against former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and the overall number one draft pick, QB Andrew Luck. The Steelers took early advantage with solid tackling and some confusing looks. Then, cornerback Ike Taylor (not known for great hands) undercut Reggie Wayne and picked off Luck for a touchdown the other way. The Steelers, who did not generate many turnovers last season, got another interception of Luck, when receiver T.Y. Hilton batted a good pass up into the air. Luck settled down and moved the Colts into a 17-14 lead by halftime. The Steelers second team players did not generate much pass rush and didn't cover very well in the secondary. The Steelers certainly need James Harrison back in the line-up to create some havoc for opposing quarterbacks.
The special teams play of the night was turned in by backup linebacker Mortty Ivy. He fought through an attempted block to get his hands on a punt. He gave the steelers the ball on the Colts' 10 yard line. Camp kicker Daniel Hrappman hit four field goals, including a 43 yarder, though the game winning chip shot was partially blocked. His last two kickoffs went out of the end zone. Free agent punter, Drew Butler, looked solid. I think he makes the team. Between Chris Rainey and Marquis Maze, neither returner distinguished himself.
The Steelers won, did not appear to endure any serious injuries, and demonstrated talent in all phases of the game. However, there is room for improvement and competition, especially with the backup defenders. That's a great preseason game. Here we go Steelers, here we go!
Sean Durity is a Terrible Towel twirling Steelers fan living in Atlanta. He grew up cheering the 1970s dynasty and appreciates the organization's excellence even more as an adult. Follow him on Twitter @SeanDurity
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