Labriola On

Labriola on the end of preseason

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • That opening sentence also could apply to Steelers with regard to the start of the 2015 NFL regular season, because there wasn't a whole lot on display last night against the Carolina Panthers to indicate they're going to be heading into it on a roll.
  • The 23-6 loss to the Panthers had been preceded by a 43-19 loss in Buffalo, and in those games the Bills scored the final 30 in their victory and the Panthers scored the first 17 in theirs. That's a dramatic statistic, a 47-0 disparity over the course of four-plus quarters spanning two games, and the 47 casts the defense in a poor light.
  • No argument there, but it also should be understood that the 0 put up by the offense included only three first downs, a 1-for-11 conversion rate on third downs, and 67 total net yards over the same four-plus quarters. A frightening team effort.
  • The Steelers offense opened training camp without enough experienced depth along the offensive line, and the unit completed the preseason with even less. Mike Adams (back) never got onto the field and will open the season on PUP, which means he's out of the equation until Oct. 19 at the earliest. Maurkice Pouncey is expected to be placed on the IR-designated-to-return list, and a guesstimate as to his return date would be Nov. 29, which is when the Steelers play their 11th game of 2015, in Seattle. Then against the Panthers, injuries claimed tackles Kevin Palmer (knee) and Mitchell Van Dyk (ankle), and guard/center B.J. Finney (ankle).
  • The Steelers kept nine offensive linemen last September, and it was generally assumed they would go with only eight this time. Eight also happens to be the exact number of healthy offensive linemen the Steelers employ right now, and since Pouncey has to start on the 53-man roster before he can be slotted to IR-designated-to-return, they may have to keep nine to make sure they secure the eight who are healthy.
  • Just for the record, those eight are Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Cody Wallace, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, Chris Hubbard, and Doug Legursky. Based on what was on display offensively throughout this preseason, the Steelers better hope those first five can stay on the field together for the next couple of months, anyway.
  • It was popular to ridicule Landry Jones this summer, but when he had time to throw – which wasn't all that often – he was able to make some plays. Jones wasn't good enough in the face of pressure, however, to give the Steelers any confidence they could enter the regular season with him as Ben Roethlisberger's backup, and that's why Mike Vick was signed.
  • If forced to predict which units could end up being fortified with players off the waiver wire, the guesses would be running back and maybe wide receiver. They also will be looking at some offensive and defensive linemen, but no team has an excess of those and having an 11-5 record in 2014 puts the Steelers into the bottom third when it comes to waiver wire priority.
  • But maybe they get lucky.
  • The Panthers are going to be cutting some running backs, and the bottom of their depth chart sure looked good last night at Heinz Field. Carolina came into the game with five running backs on their roster, and the bottom three on the depth chart – Jordan Todman, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Brandon Wegher – gained 203 yards on 34 carries, which is an eyelash short of 6 yards a carry.
  • For a team that had a live tackling period in just about every training camp practice, the Steelers have had an issue with missed tackles at some point in each of their five preseason games. And there also were too many instances of a player taking a bad angle to the football and setting the table for a big gain.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field for the team's final preseason game of 2015.

  • The way it turned out this summer, the only legitimate competition for a starting job was at punter, where Brad Wing and Jordan Berry went after each other on a daily basis. Wing finished his second preseason with a 48.8 average on 12 punts with one touchback and four inside the 20-yard line. Berry, the rookie, averaged 49.8 yards on his 19 punts with one touchback and five inside the 20-yard line. A strong case can be made for either guy, and maybe it all comes down to the competition being largely even with Wing's edge being his year of actual NFL experience.
  • Stephon Tuitt worked out with trainers during the pregame vs. the Panthers to test his ankle, and then he was in uniform and was introduced along with the rest of the defensive starters. Tuitt didn't play, though, and his presence for the opener can be described as critical because the Steelers are wafer-thin along the defensive line.
  • There are the three starters – Cam Heyward, Steve McLendon, and Tuitt – and then who-knows-what. The Steelers figure to keep six defensive linemen, and your guess is as good as mine.
  • Five preseason games felt like a punishment for the Steelers, and the cumulative effect did punish a roster that wasn't all that deep to begin with. All NFL teams have been weakened for the regular season by injuries sustained during the preseason, and so it truly is as much a part of the game as blocking and tackling, as Mike Tomlin maintains.
  • Still, is just seems like such a waste. As Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after wide receiver Jordy Nelson tore his ACL: "It's difficult to lose a guy like that in a meaningless game."
  • There turned out to be a lot of guys lost in this summer of meaningless games.
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