2021 Corridor of Fame Sport: The nice, the not so good and the ugly throughout Steelers’ 16-3 win over Cowboys

CANTON, Ohio — Many questions hovered over the 2021 Steelers as they took the sphere for Thursday night time’s Corridor of Fame recreation towards the Dallas Cowboys Whereas successful is at all times a precedence, Pittsburgh’s 16-3 win was of minimal significance. The Steelers got here into the night time trying to reply a few of these urgent questions. 

The Steelers managed to seek out some solutions in entrance of hundreds of their followers inside Tom Benson Stadium in addition to a nationwide TV viewers. These watching noticed a number of optimistic debuts from gamers the Steelers acquired the summer time. In addition they noticed the emergence of a specific defender who’s trying to maintain off a three-time Professional Bowler. To the chagrin of their followers, the Steelers additionally confirmed a few of the flaws that plagued them in the course of the last six video games of 2020. 

With their first preseason recreation within the books, let’s check out what was the great, the unhealthy and the ugly relating to the Steelers’ efficiency within the 2021 Corridor of Fame Sport. 

The nice

Najee Harris: The primary-round decide was strong in his preseason debut. He ran seven instances for 22 yards that included a 6-yard run on his first carry. His 3-yard catch on the following play gave Pittsburgh its first first down. Harris, operating primarily via the inside of the Steelers offensive line, had consecutive runs of 5 and 6 yards on Pittsburgh’s second possession. Harris’ one adverse run was a reminder of a few of the rising pains the younger operating again will expertise whereas taking part in behind a younger offensive line. 

The offensive line: This unit confronted probably the most query marks coming into this recreation. It was only one recreation, however the group confirmed appreciable promise towards the Cowboys. Enjoying with 4 new starters that included rookie Kendrick Inexperienced at heart and fellow rookie Dan Moore Jr. seeing time at left deal with, Pittsburgh’s offensive line did not enable a sack of beginning quarterback Mason Rudolph. For probably the most half, the unit cleared clear operating lanes for Harris, Anthony McFarland and Kalen Ballage, whose 4-yard landing run gave the Steelers a 6-3 lead simply over 4 minutes into the second half. 

Alex Highsmith: Bud Dupree’s departure has opened the door for Highsmith, who picked up the place he left off final season. His first-quarter sack of Garrett Gilbert pressured the Cowboys to accept a area objective. He and teammate Isaiah Buggs mixed to stuff Rico Dowdle for a 2-yard loss on the Cowboys’ subsequent offensive possession. Additionally recording sacks Thursday night time was defensive finish Cassius Marsh and rookie Quincy Roche. The collective play of this group ought to has answered any questions on Pittsburgh’s outdoors move rush. 

Dwayne Haskins: He did not make a big assertion in his quest to supplant Mason Rudolph because the No. 2 quarterback, however Haskins did not damage his case, both. The previous first-round decide was an environment friendly 8 of 13 for 54 yards whereas main the Steelers on their first two scoring drives. Haskins additionally took care of the ball, a big milestone after he threw extra interceptions than touchdowns throughout his two years in Washington. 

Talking of quarterbacks, Josh Dobbs, who got here into the sport initially of the fourth quarter, threw a formidable 5-yard landing strike to Tyler Simmons. Dobbs has probably the most at stake this preseason, because the Steelers should shelf one in every of their quarterbacks on the observe squad when the common season begins. 

Diontae Johnson: In restricted work, the Steelers’ main receiver final season caught each of his targets for 19 yards. Whereas he’s a part of one of many NFL’s deepest receiving corps, Johnson confirmed why he’s primed to have his first 1,000-yard season in 2021.  

Pressley Harvin III: Pittsburgh’s seventh-round decide actually made his case to win his place battle towards Jordan Berry. He had a 48-yard punt downed on the Cowboys’ 1-yard-line close to the tip of the primary half. The reigning Ray Man Award recipient adopted that up with a 51-yard punt three minutes into the fourth quarter. 

The not so good

“Popcorn”: It could be a preferred film theatre snack, however popcorn has a adverse connotation in Pittsburgh’s locker room. Mike Tomlin refers to popcorn as huge performs allowed by his protection. And whereas they did not enable many factors, the Steelers protection gave up their share of popcorn on Thursday night time. Among the many huge performs allowed was a 25-yard run, a 36-yard completion and two different completions of greater than 20 yards. The Cowboys particularly took benefit of linebacker Robert Spillane on a key third-down completion (a 12-yard completion to Dowdle) that arrange the sport’s first rating. The Steelers will definitely look to fill these leaks previous to their subsequent preseason recreation towards the Eagles. 

Move protection: There have been shades of the 2015 Steelers protection, a bend-but-not-break unit that attempted to masks its lapses in move protection with move rush and turnovers. Just like the offensive line, the Steelers secondary has query marks after dropping Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson this offseason. Enjoying with out Joe Haden, the unit allowed Gilbert and Cooper Rush to finish 17 of their 26 makes an attempt for 174 yards. In addition they yielded 13 first-half first downs whereas permitting the Cowboys to transform on greater than half of their first-half third-down conversions. 

Pittsburgh’s secondary bent however in the end didn’t break. It additionally got here up with the Steelers’ first two turnovers: a fumble restoration by Antoine Brooks (that was pressured by Justin Layne) and a decide by Donovan Stiner. Shakur Brown, an undrafted rookie who’s within the combine to interchange Hilton at nickleback, had a notable night time as a particular groups gunner. 

The ugly 

Rudolph’s blunder: Rudolph’s misplaced fumble on Pittsburgh’s first possession muddied an in any other case strong efficiency from the fourth-year veteran. The fumble, which occurred as Rudolph was attempting at hand the ball to Chase Claypool, abruptly ended a promising opening drive. His greatest play was his 45-yard completion to Claypool two possessions later. Rudolph eschewed a straightforward beneath throw to James Washington for his deep completion to Claypool, who obtained hit laborious after dropping a move earlier within the half. 

Extra drops: Drops had been one of many greatest the reason why the Steelers’ 2020 season went south after an 11-0 begin. That subject reared its ugly head on just a few events on Thursday night time. Claypool’s drop ended the Steelers’ second drive of the night time. Washington additionally dropped a move on the Steelers’ last drive of the primary half. It was only a preseason recreation, however the sight of extra drops was certainly unnerving for Pittsburgh followers. 

Kicking woes: It was a tough night time for kicker Sam Sloman, who missed a 49-yard try within the first half and a point-after within the third quarter. He rebounded with a 48-yard area objective that prolonged Pittsburgh’s result in 9-3 with lower than 5 minutes left within the third quarter. 

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