Pittsburgh Steelers: A Packer Preseason Preview


It is still preseason in the NFL, but this Sunday there should be some fireworks when the Green Bay Packers pay a visit to Heinz Field and face the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Both the Steelers and the Pack will most likely be throwing their starting units on the field to begin the game. That means Ben Roethlisberger and weapons will be firing up the engines that in 2014 had the second best offensive production in the National Football League.

The Steelers trailed only the Indianapolis Colts in total offensive rankings. The Steelers totaled 301.6 yards of passing per game which was just 5.3 yards less than what Andrew Luck and the rest of the Indy offense amassed.

Green Bay ranked eighth offensively last season and Aaron Rodgers and the tools he brings to the gridiron can be considered nearly as dangerous as Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller, and the rest of Pittsburgh’s offense.

“I’m a lot quicker, a lot more explosive now” Le’Veon Bell

Defensively last season, the Black and Gold did not have a typical season for which they are known, finishing with an overall ranking of 18th in the league. New Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler will look to make a huge jump this year on that mark. A top 10 defensive ranking is the norm for a Steelers defense.

The Packers were 15th in the NFL  in 2014, so the focus on Sunday will be primarily on both offenses. For Green Bay, they take the field for the second time this preseason while Pittsburgh has dropped their first two games to Minnesota and Jacksonville.

Facing the world champion New England Patriots last week, Aaron Rodgers stayed in the game long enough to attempt 19 passes and connected on 11 for 117 yards. With the Packers winning 22-11, the most talked about player in the league right now, Tom Brady played much less. Throwing the ball four times, Brady completed just one. Then it was Jimmy Garoppolo in relief.

Eddie Lacy ran the ball five times for Green Bay and picked up a hefty 36 yards. Alonzo Harris backed up Lacy with an additional 41 yards including a touchdown from 25 yards out. Come Sunday, watch for the Packers’ 2015 draft class. Led by overall first round draft choice free safety Damarious Randall, nearly all of the Pack’s class contributed in the preseason opener.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers /

Pittsburgh Steelers

In round order from the second through the sixth, Green Bay drafted Quinten Rollins, Ty Montgomery, Jake Ryan, Brett Hundley, Aaron Ripkowski, Christian Ringo, and Kennard Backman. Hundley, coming to the NFL from UCLA, completed four of six passes in the Green Bay victory including a touchdown toss. He had a remarkable 138.9 rating in his short debut. In the air, Montgomery hauled in two passes for 28 yards with a long of 15.

Backman added two more for 10 yards. Defensively, Ripkowski made two tackles on special teams while Jake Ryan was second in tackles with six, three came solo and he added a sack. An outside linebacker and University of Michigan product, two of Ryan’s tackles were for losses.

Once Ben Roethlisberger comes out of the game Sunday, fans are likely to see backup Bruce Gradkowski for the first time this preseason as he has been removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP). Landry Jones will probably get more playing time following Gradkowski’s time in the game and should be there when the final gun sounds. That’s because Tajh Boyd is no longer a Steeler having been released earlier this week.

In his place, former Syracuse wide out Jarrod West joins the team. In 2014, West caught 49 passes for 700 yards but failed to score a touchdown. Another player receiving a pink slip was Jordan Zumwalt, drafted in the sixth round last year. Zumwalt missed the entire campaign last year because of a groin injury and this week he was placed on the waived/injured list.

Another new member of the Pittsburgh Steelers is L.J. Fort. A linebacker, Fort was waived by the New England Patriots and has been in the league for the two previous seasons. An undrafted rookie in 2012, Fort is 6’2″, 230 pounds and was a member of the Cleveland Browns in his rookie season. That year he played in all 16 games but since that time he has been on and off the rosters of six different teams including his newest.

This week in practice, Ross Ventrone returned from an ankle injury. Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, C.J. Goodwin, David Nelson, Cam Clear, and Josh Harris sat on the sidelines nursing an array of minor injuries.

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  • As Steelers Nation continues to watch for the performance of stud running back Le’Veon Bell, it is well-known that he won’t be playing in the first two games. But once he returns, watch out.

    This week Bell was asked about how he can still improve as he enters his third season, and he responded with: “I watch myself now and I look at last year like I wasn’t really quick. Feels like it was slow motion. I’m a lot quicker, a lot more explosive now.” If that becomes reality, then all the better for Pittsburgh’s offense that is already highly dangerous with the passing game.

    Sunday’s game will be a 1:00 pm. kickoff and the first 10 minutes should be intriguing and fun to watch. After that, the competition for roster spots will continue with the next preseason game scheduled for a week from Saturday.

    The fourth preseason game for Pittsburgh is in Buffalo against the much hyped Bills and their new head coach Rex Ryan. But for now, Sunday presents two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and a true passing showdown of sorts.

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