Written By: Roy Countryman @PreacherBoyRoy
The Steelers had a tumultuous start to their work week with the sudden death of WR coach, Darryl Drake. With that unexpected passing, the players have been playing with a heavy heart leading up to this second tune-up of the preseason. All in all, though they were able to tune out the noise and put up a perfomance that would have made coach Drake smile. Here are the players whose stocks are up and down after the first week of action:
Bud Dupree (OLB)
Stats: 3 Total Tackles (3 Solo), 2 Sacks, 2 TFL, 1 PD, 3 QB Hits.
This spot could have easily been Dupree and Watt, but it was Bud who was the one who got home for two sacks this week, but it was not only about the stats, it was the manner in which he was attacking. Dupree seemed to be getting unleashed with a more slanted and straight-lined approach to the QB and LOS, and if that is the type of approach he brings to the regular season lookout because we could see him put up some big sack numbers. He also had a few impressive run stops thrown in there as well with his pass rush. A complete game and we need to keep seeing this type of performance.
Mason Rudolph (QB)
Stats: 10/15, 77 pass yds, 5.1 Avg, 0 TD, 0 INT.
In his first start of the preseason and playing with the starter the stats may throw you initially because Rudolph did not throw for a TD, but it was his poise and decision making that showed the progress he has made in his second season. He also had an impressive play where he escaped the pocket to buy more time for his WRs, and even though the play failed due to a lack of effort to work back to him it was a play he wouldn’t have made last season. He threw the ball with confidence and anticipation, including a key completion through a tight window to his long-time friend James Washington. This performance made the statement that he should be the #2 QB on this team!
Diontae Johnson (WR)
Stats: 3 rec. on 5 targets, 46 rec. Yds., 1 TD, 3 Punt Returns for 11 yds, 3.7yd avg.
Aside from a questionable decision to field a punt with coverage breathing down his neck you could see why the recently departed WR Coach Darryl Drake just gushed about Johnson’s skill set. He ran crisp routes, and gained separation easily with quick footwork as well using savviness that most rookies could only with they had. He had one receiving TD called back due to a terrible Offensive Pass Interference call because he had to adjust to an underthrown pass, but he procured another TD grab later off an impressive touch pass by Devlin Hodges. This was a good building block game, and with more game experience watch for him to be a breakout player by the time midseason rolls around.
Artie Burns (CB)
Stats: 1 Total Tackle (1 Solo), 1 PD, and 1 FF.
Burns the CB that all Pittsburgh fans love to dump on actually came out and made a statement with this game. From the get-go, he made an impressive open-field tackle on the elusive Tyreek Hill which seemed to help boost his confidence. Playing with that confidence he came up with a key pass defensed, forced a fumble where he put his helmet on the ball, and even knocked down a pass from a CB blitz. If Burns can keep up this kind of performance the coaching staff will like the depth behind expected starters Haden and Nelson.
Tuzar Skipper (OLB)
Stats: 3 Total Tackles (2 Solo), 1 Sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit, and 1 FR.
Skipper was amongst our honorable mentions for the first week of the preseason, and he had some motivation to put up another big time performance this week. That motivation was the unfortunate injury to teammate Ola Adeniyi who had been having an impressive camp himself, but with Adeniyi having surgery to his Meniscus it may crack the door for Skipper to break camp on the 53 man roster. Skipper displayed his impressive strength and heavy hands as well as quality bend around the edge. He also showed good awareness to jump on a FF that fellow standout Mike Hilton forced. This is two straight impressive performances, and with another I think it would be safe to say he has at least a practice squad spot secured on this team.
Mike Hilton (CB)
Stats: 4 Total Tackles (3 Solo), 2 PD, and 1 FF.
Mike Hilton has a swiss army knife style skill set, something you could see all the way back when he was playing at Ole Miss. The last few seasons Hilton basically only played Nickel CB, but in an effort to allow fellow CB, Cameron Sutton who has had a quality camp, and maximize his value they chose to play him from the FS position. He rewarded the coaching staff with terrific play that flashed time and time again with big hits, quality run defense, and breaking on the ball with ferocity. With this kind of performance I would propose the question that maybe he should get some first-team reps at FS, because it was obvious he has playmaking ability.
Honorable Mentions: T.J. Watt (OLB), James Washington (WR), Diontae Spencer (WR/PR), Devlin Hodges (QB), James Conner (RB), Jaylen Samuels (RB).
Josh Dobbs (QB)
Stats: 6/11, 95 pass yds., 8.6 Avg, 0 TD,1 INT, 1 rush for 5 yds.
Dobbs had a few plays this game that impressed you. A couple of nice deep passes, and flashing escapability from the pocket when under pressure, but he continually fought accuracy issues, especially in the short area that made it hard on his WR corp as well as led to a lot of plays left out on the field. With his down performance and the efforts of Rudolph this may lead him to being the #3 WR this season.
Donte Moncrief (WR)
Stats: 1 rec. On 1 target,1 rec. Yard, 1 Fumble lost.
Having missed some time in camp with a hand injury you have to wonder if he hasn’t regained full strength with the way he easily fumbled the ball on contact, but what was most disappointing is that that target was the only one he seen all game. James Washington has been standing out all preseason and you must start to wonder if this may put him behind the proverbial eight ball in playing time with him.
Honorable Mention: Chucks Okorafor (OT), Kevin Rader (TE), Brian Allen (CB), Eli Rogers (WR).