Steelers beat themselves, fall to Giants in preseason opener


Aug 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by New York Giants running back Andre Brown (35) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

And so it begins, folks. Football season is finally back (even if it is preseason). I’ve got to say, I was pumped for Saturday night’s game. There’s just something about seeing black and gold out on the field.

Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers fell to the New York Giants 18-13 in their first preseason game at Heinz Field. And it seemed like many of their same old problems from last season are still haunting them, particularly the problem of the Steelers beating themselves with sloppy play and silly mistakes.

Let’s start with some of the bad. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t really see much play, but in the short time he was on the field, he was sacked once in eight snaps. As with much of last season, Roethlisberger looked rushed. The offensive line last year didn’t really give him much time to think about where to throw, mostly due to the number of injuries. I was hoping that some time off would do the O-line some good, but it seems as if there’s still some tweaking that needs to be done.

Likewise, Bruce Gradkowski looked nervous and rushed during the first few series he played. Despite that, it’s clear that he has the ability to put the ball where it needs to be, given that the receivers can hold on to it. And Landry Jones, despite coming out of the gates looking like one of the Three Stooges during his attempted handoff to Baron Batch, was able to complete 5 of 9 for 48 yards.

OK, now on to some of the good. Big time SEC shout-out to linebacker Jarvis Jones, who had two tackles and recovered a fumble. He’s definitely one of my favorites to watch for, and I’m excited to see what else he can do this season. I was also very impressed by LaRod Stephens-Howlings’ performance: he carried six times over seven plays for 36 yards. Does anyone else agree that No. 17 looks much better this year? At least it’s not accompanied by the new friendly-looking Miami Dolphins logo.

The defense also played well for the most part. For example, the defense was able to hold the Giants to a field goal after their blocked punt at the beginning of the game and played well in sudden-change situations. I like that that the defense scored the first touchdown of the season, and I think they did well overall.

As with last season, I would like to see more out of the secondary. And I was sad that we didn’t get to see Le’Veon Bell in action, although I would much rather see him 100 percent healthy at the start of the regular season than risk irritating his knee further. I foresee good things in his future.

I think coach Mike Tomlin summed up the game best: “Just the Steelers beating the Steelers. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can be characterized as part of August football but I’m not buying that. I think we can set the bar higher than that for the first time out.”

The Steelers take on the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Monday, Aug. 19 at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. It may just be preseason, as Michael Wilbon likes to say. But it’s still football.