Not much goes Steelers' way in exhibition loss to Redskins
LANDOVER, Md. — The Steelers can only hope the preseason isn't a preview of the season.
It certainly hasn't been pretty.
In Game 1, it was the special teams. In Game 2, it was the offense. After one of the most desultory exhibition performances by their starters in recent seasons in a 24-13 loss to the Redskins on Monday night, the Steelers have only two more games to get it right.
And with so much going wrong, it is nearly enough time?
“There's no reason to panic,” backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski said.
There are lots of reasons for concern.
“We're going to watch some tape and grow from it,” a dissatisfied coach Mike Tomlin said. “We need to get better in a hurry, and we'll start that on Wednesday (in practice).”
There were offensive line penalties aplenty, turnovers aplenty and plenty of nothing on offense. Normally, they have plenty of running backs, but only Jonathan Dwyer and Baron Batch were left standing after rookie Le'Veon Bell was injured early in the first quarter. And then Batch went down with a pinched nerve.
Yes, another injury for Bell, his third in two weeks — a right foot injury to go with his left knee injury. It was that kind of night; LaRod Stephens-Howling and Isaac Redman didn't even dress.
Asked if he's concerned he can't get his prized rookie on the field, coach Mike Tomlin said simply, “No.”
Bell didn't get many carries (four) before being forced out, Ben Roethlisberger didn't get much time to throw, and the starters didn't produce a touchdown again — except for the pick-six interception return by Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan in the first quarter.
Kerrigan later said he knew what was coming on a play in which Roethlisberger threw the ball directly into his hands while trying to flip it to Dwyer.
Kerrigan might have known what the offense was doing, but the Steelers' regulars didn't act much like they did, even as they outgained the Redskins, 85-23, in the first quarter.
“We're not playing with enough detail to win, to win in situational football, when the field gets short,” Tomlin said. “When you're not scoring touchdowns but moving the ball and possessing the ball but not ringing up the scoreboard, we're lacking the detail that is going to be required to finish drives and finish games.”
The roll call of offensive line mistake-makers was long: Mike Adams, illegal formation call; David DeCastro, holding; Maurkice Pouncey illegal use of hands; Adams, holding.
“Every one kept getting one,” DeCastro said.
“Poor execution,” Tomlin explained. “I just told the guys we're not going to provide lip service, we're going to practice how we intend to play. Maybe an official or two will be at our practices this week.”
Even receivers coach Richard Mann had a bad night — he was run over by Antonio Brown after DeJon Gomes hit him out of bounds and was penalized.
Roethlisberger was forced to scramble and improvise on nearly every play and managed to go 5 of 6 for 66 yards despite getting little protection or help. Pouncey had a particularly rough night against Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield.
Roethlisberger's explanation for all the failed execution?
“We're saving all our touchdowns for the regular season,” he said.
Gradkowski took over early in the second quarter, but it didn't get any better. Gradkowski was sacked by Kerrigan with Cofield recovering the fumble, although the Redskins immediately turned it over themselves.
So, of course, Dwyer, who gained 78 yards on 16 carries, promptly fumbled it back. Aided by a 30-yard pass interference penalty on Ike Taylor, the Redskins converted one of three first-half turnovers into Rex Grossman's 10-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson and a 14-3 lead.
The Steelers were the better team after that Hankerson score, particularly when Landry Jones was at quarterback and there were numerous players on the field who won't be there in September. At least in Pittsburgh.
Exhibition games mean nothing, but the Steelers' only two preseason losing records in the past 10 years — 0-4 in 2006 and 1-3 in 2003 — were followed by disappointing regular seasons. They can do no better than 2-2 in this preseason.
Especially troubling was how the offensive line — supposed to be a strength — looked so mismatched.
And because of the short work week, the Steelers have only two practice days (Wednesday and Thursday) to start patching up myriad problems before a Saturday night home game against the Chiefs.
“We've got to work together in all three areas — force more turnovers, make more splash plays on offense and make some splash plays on special teams, too,” Troy Polamalu said.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ Pouncey to file countersuit against nightclub accusers
- Steelers notebook: Mitchell to miss beginning of training camp
- After year off, Steelers’ Pouncey ‘ready to go’
- Steelers cut linebacker Kion Wilson, sign cornerback Toler
- Steelers won’t negotiate Roethlisberger extension until after season
- Five questions facing Steelers entering training camp
- Despite fulfilling promise to mother, Steelers’ Tomlin not yet satisfied
- In open AFC North, it’s anyone’s game
- Timmons feels pressure to transform Steelers back into contender
- Polamalu enters training camp as Steelers’ longest tenured player
- Steelers defensive back Thomas isn’t conceding starting position yet