Preseason Rewind: What We Learned From the Steelers 34-17 Loss in Denver


Sunday night the Steelers fell in Denver for the first time in the preseason, dropping a rather lackluster game 34-17. Below are the good and the bad from a game that the Steelers and their fans would like to rather forget.

The Good

1. The Steelers franchise QB was the best of the bunch, as Ben Roethlisberger was 4-for-6 for 67 yards. While the other three QB’s bumbled and stumbled at points in their game, Roethlisberger was the only Steeler QB to really have the offense under control. His first pass to Mike Wallace was a thing of beauty, and about the only downfall to his night was the team not scoring on their first drive. Ben looks ready, it’s a shame he’ll be gone four weeks.

2. Another running back stepped up, as Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers rookie back, played the best he has at any point in camp. He rushed for 89 yards on 13 carries, a 6.8 yards per carry average with a 40-yard gain and a touchdown. The running game had 175 yards on 30 carries, and it’s a shame that some of the better carries came once the game was out of reach and a lot of people turned the game off.

3. Good to see some guys in the defensive backfield, Crezdon Butler and William Gay pick off passes. Gay picked off a Kyle Orton pass, while Butler ran back a Tim Tebow pass 40 yards to the Broncos five to set up a score. Last season the teams backfield had way too many drops, and hopefully two picks is a good sign for things to come.

The Bad

1. Let’s start with the obvious, which is the two pick 6’s which turned what could have been a close game into a blowout. The first was Dennis Dixon’s mistake, which turned a 10-3 game into a 17-3 game with :11 seconds left in the half. Then while the game was likely over, Charlie Batch threw a second pick six that Syd’Quan Thompson took back 47 yards for a score that put the game totally out of reach. While Roethlisberger is out, the backup QB’s cannot make mistakes like they did in this preseason disaster.

2. It seemed like the team came out and played out of control, putting up four personal foul penalties on the night. Two went to Keenan Lewis, who likely earned a pretty strong talking to from Mike Tomlin and the other coaches. Again, if this team is going to win early in the season without Ben, stupid mistakes like free yards on penalties cannot be allowed.

3. There’s got to be concern when Byron Leftwich is in the game about the fact he can’t get away from pressure whatsoever. That happened again on Sunday night, when pressure was in on him, he was a dead duck. Same thing happened in the first preseason game against the Lions. While Dixon was sacked twice, he does a decent job getting away from pressure. The same can’t be said for Leftwich, who can’t escape anyone.

About the Author

Matt Loede
Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.

7 Comments on "Preseason Rewind: What We Learned From the Steelers 34-17 Loss in Denver"

  1. Do you guys realize the batch pick resulted from the wr running the wring route.

  2. Bfrank is right. Why is everyone overlooking Batch being the starter for the first 4 games? He filled in a few years ago in a season opener against the Dolphins and did good. Dixon can’t play with the starters and Leftwich takes too long to release the ball.

    • Batch’s pick was Emanual Sander’s fault.

      The knock on Batch is that he is fragile and may not survive 1 game much less 4-6.

      Also, who’s to say that Batch would have done any better with the starters given the circumstances.

  3. The Bad must include the realization that our defense didn’t stop the Broncos ground game or their anemic passing attack. The two picks by Burnett and Butler were nice, but the over all defensive play was subpar: we didn’t pressure the QB nearly enough, we gave up rushing yards, and the first unit didn’t defend the short passing routes well. With or without Ben, we can’t win most games with a defense this porous. LeBeau may have to play Butler, ready or not, for his speed at CB.

    Batch played the best of the three back-up QBs and received better protection from the second string line than Ben or Dixon got from the first string line. However, even the second string line, which played well last week, did not execute as crisply with Hartwig at center. The first string O-line remains a work in progress; Starks, Essex, and Adams all have footwork problems in pass protection. We continue to pay the price for not drafting a franchise LT over the past five years. The good news is that the O-line did run block well, and Dwyer’s emergence was hopeful.

    It looks like the Steelers will have to rely on the run this year, at least until Ben gets back, in order to minimize errors in the passing game and to keep the defense rested for that 4th Qtr. passing barrage every opponent will throw at them this year. But the key to season remains the defense, and right now, it just isn’t good enough.

    • DrGeorge, I totally agree with you on the defensive side of the ball. Our porous pass defense is going to be the undoing of this defense. The short route and the over-the-middle stuff that the Cardinals exposed in SB 43 is still a major concern! I also think Butler should get a fair look at starting. His speed might be able to hide some sins in that area. I am a bit optomistic about the offense. The line is what it is and with Pouncey’s emergence, it can only get bettter. The team has weapons in the apssing game and the run game will improve with continous reps. I say Mendenhall/Redman/Moore, in that order should be the rotation on the ground.

  4. Pouncey looked good as the center

  5. Personally, I think that it was hard to evaluate anyone with this game because the Steelers changed too much.

    Emanual Sanders was not ready in his first try at outside WR. He ran the wrong route on the Batch interception and did not play the ball correctly on Dixon’s 2nd interception (he was supposed to come back for the ball).

    Dixon did not look good at QB, but I’m not sure how fair an evaluation it was. The 1st interception in the back of the end zone was his fault, but how much else was? The O-line penalties did not help. At one point in the game, Hines Ward said that this game was the first time he caught a pass from Dixon. Emmanual Sanders also got a lot of snaps with the first team and Hines Ward seemed to only come in on 3rd and long. Dixon did stink it up, but it is hard to evaluate when he is playing with some players that he hasn’t practiced with and others that are playing outside WR for the first time.

    Leftwich looked bad with the 2nd team…….but lets face it…… Until this week, Leftwich hasn’t practiced with them much and neither has Hartwig at center.

    Batch looked decent, but Denver wasn’t gameplanning by the time he was in and were playing a lot of off-coverage (and most of the other players on both sides wont be making the teams).

    There were things that I noticed very quickly were:
    1. Pouncey can and will start at center.
    2. Redman looked good when they ran him from the FB position.
    3. Discipline was lacking. Lewis’ personal fouls. Timmons roughing the passer (he was only called once, but did it multiple times way after the play was over). The O-line multiple false starts.
    4. The Steelers still can’t play coverage. When Denver went to shotgun or no-huddle, the CBs let opponents make plays.
    5. Practicing (and REPS) are really important, especially for QBs and WRs.

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