The 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame game goes into the books and the Pittsburgh Steelers go back to the drawing board. While few expected the Steelers would use the opening preseason game of 2015 as anything more than an real-time examination for most of their young, untested players, the final score isn’t what will stick in the gut. The Vikings took advantage of errors and walked away as 14-3 victors. The Steelers walk away with plenty of question marks and at least one significant injury.
Landry Jones started at quarterback for Pittsburgh and head coach Mike Tomlin opted to let him show how he could manage an entire game. The answer: not well. Struggling to keep throws from floating off of his release at times, Jones went 15-for-32 passing for just 128 yards. His single interception came off of a pass that hit his target in the chest, bounced off and was grabbed by Minnesota. There were a few more tosses that could have had similar results. Jones showed a lack of tempo, settling for several delay of game penalties and never finding a rhythm with his receivers. Jones has a right to be upset with the number of drops those receivers had, but may have just helped seal his fate in Tomlin’s mind.
Rookie tight end Jesse James was the social media goat of the game, battered by Twitter messages, as he had issues controlling passes thrown his direction. It is a bit early to toss his overall athletic ability under the bus, but he’ll be challenged to improve his concentration and ball control if he wants to remain in the heavily contested battle at his position.
On the positive side, two players that showed a good upside in a rather sleepy game were Alejandro Villanueva and Stephon Tuitt. Villanueva, the former US Army Ranger and Bronze Star recipient played a solid game, further illustrating that what he has been executing in camp can transition to a real game. With a decent base, Villanueva kept separation against edge rushers with his arms effectively. Tuitt was able to shoot the gap several times to get between Minnesota offensive linemen into the backfield. He showed good speed and looks healthy.
B.W. Webb and Kevin Fogg made a case for their making the roster to defensive backs coach Carnell Lake. Webb consistently converged on the ball, creating an opportunity at one point for Fogg to grab an interception. The play was nearly the only one that energized the Steelers sideline during the game.
The Steelers still have four preseason games ahead of them. While the Vikings allowed many of their first-teamers to take more snaps and faced only a handful of Steelers starters, Pittsburgh chose wisely to use the Hall of Fame game as an exhibition – putting players through paces in real-time that they’ve been practicing for weeks.
Cameron Stingily may have played his last game in a Steelers jersey. After displaying slow feet and a lack of overall power, Stingily was forced from the game with a knee injury.
Shakim Phillips may have had the Steelers’ play of the game with a nice one-handed grab that looked like he wanted to move from the shadows that is a deep wide receivers group.
Place kicker Shaun Suisham injured his kicking leg (knee) when making a tackle and was forced to the leave the game. Considered ‘significant’, it would not be surprising to see the Steelers make a phone call to bring someone in until they know his status.