By Tyler Sweet
The Pittsburgh Steelers have shown very little for fans to get excited about through the first two weeks of preseason play.
Between the injuries, penalties, and flat out horrible execution, the week 3 “dress rehearsal” preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs will be a good indication of what Steeler Nation can expect to see when they open the season against the Tennessee Titans September 8th.
With the first team offensive and defensive units expected to play much of, if not the entire first half, there will be plenty for fans to observe.
Tonight’s matchup with the Chiefs is not going to be an easy one. Despite a 2-14 record last season and an 0-2 start to this preseason, this Chiefs team is prepared for a major turnaround this season.
Andy Reid has left the Philadephia Eagles and taken over as the head coach of the Chiefs. Alex Smith left the Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco 49ers to take the reins as starting quarterback.
A new head coach and a new starting quarterback are just the start for a team looking to change a culture of losing and move into playoff contention in the AFC.
Watching the Steelers starting offensive unit this preseason has been very painful (no pun intended). With all sorts of hype and excitement surrounding rookie running back Le’Veon Bell, it was unfortunate to see him limp off the field with a foot injury.
With Bell out for several weeks, and the other running backs not exactly impressing anyone, the Steelers went out and got former Dallas Cowboy Felix Jones from the Philadelphia Eagles.
With Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin looking to get back to “Steeler Football” with a strong, effective run game, the addition of Felix Jones was not a major addition but at the very least it gives fans a chance to see someone else take a crack at the starting role. Early reports say that Felix Jones will get some playing time on both offfense and special teams.
Like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Steelers are 0-2 this preseason and look as bad as the record suggests. The offensive line has been terrible in giving up sacks and allowing Ben Roethlisberger to repeatedly get hit and scramble outside the pocket.
The Chiefs have played exceptionally well on defense and gave Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense fits last week.
Maurkice Pouncey and the rest of the Steelers offensive line will be tested early and often by an aggressive and well rounded Chiefs defense. Although Bruce Gradkowski has been a great addition, the success of the Steelers will ultimately depend on the health of Big Ben.
The offense needs to not only prevent sacks and keep quarterback pressure to a minimum, but they need to move the ball and put points on the board. After all, that is how you win football games, right?
The Steelers defensive unit as a whole have played fairly well this preseason. The secondary, especially William Gay need to play mistake free and prevent the big plays.
Up front, the defense will be tested on their ability to stop the run and prevent the big plays out of the backfield. With screen passes a significant part of the Kansas City offense, it will be imperative for the defense to take on blockers and not allow the running backs to gain momentum.
With special teams an early concern for the Steelers, the Chiefs look to continue their preseason success in the return game. So far this preseason, the Chiefs have had a 74 yard kickoff return and a 104 yard return for a touchdown. Punt returns have been just has successful with two returns over 50 yards. The struggles of the Steelers has Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub anxious to take advantage. Toub stated earlier this week that his special teams unit will, “be an attacking-style special teams”.
Like we saw against the New York Giants, special teams can dictate the outcome of a football game. I will be looking to see how the Steelers will perform on special teams and put the struggling offense in good starting position, as well as keeping the opposing offense deep in their own territory.
I understand the frustration Steeler fans, but we must stay optimistic. No need to panic yet, but if the Steelers perform the way they have the past couple weeks, their will be justifiable concerns regarding this season.