Getting the win: It’s the preseason, and it doesn’t count in the standings, but it’s always good to put one in the win column and the Steelers did that with a 31-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
“First of all it’s great to get the win. Whenever we step into a stadium, regardless of circumstance, that is our singular focus,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “And then the evaluation of the play comes after that. We wanted to focus on some really fundamental things tonight, putting our conditioning on display, trying to play clean football from a technical standpoint to minimize penalties and to win the possession of the ball. To take better care of it on offense and to hunt it on defense. And largely those things happened throughout the game. There will be a lot to learn from the video. There always is.
“Generally I was pleased with the fundamental things we collectively focused on as a group. Simply in a nutshell it’s just good to step into a stadium and get a win. First time for a lot of guys. A lot of good effort out there.”
A combination of Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph worked at quarterback, an opportunity for Coach Mike Tomlin to make the evaluations he was hoping to. Rudolph, the Steelers third-round draft pick, completed seven of 12 passes for 101 yards and a quarterback rating of 85.8.
“I thought he did a solid job,” said Tomlin of Rudolph. “Largely I was pleased.”
Starting off: It was no surprise that some of the big names didn’t see any action in the Steelers preseason opener, as both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown didn’t play.
Instead it was Landry Jones and JuJu Smith-Schuster that got the Steelers off to a strong start, connecting in the first quarter to put the black and gold on the board first.
Jones found Smith-Schuster with one-on-one coverage, and with a flag thrown on the defense had a free play and went for broke. He hit Smith-Schuster, who broke it for a 71-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Jones completed four-of-four passes for 83 yards and the touchdown, for a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Jones, though, was sacked twice, both for nine-yard losses.
QB rotation: The plan was for Jones to play one, maybe two series at most. But when the offense went three-and-out on the first two series he stayed in for a third. After that, though, it was Joshua Dobbs who would finish out the first half.
Dobbs completed nine of 13 passes for 83 yards, a touchdown and an interception, with a passer rating of 82.5.
Dobbs led the Steelers on a two touchdown drives, including engineering a nine-play, 75-yard drive that took just 1:40 and culminated in a 29-yard pass to Damoun Patterson, who has been a standout this camp. Patterson put the exclamation point on the score when he did a backflip after the touchdown.
Patterson, who was named the Steelers Digest Player of the Week for his performance, finished the game with six receptions for 77 yards and the touchdown.
Picked off: The defense loves takeaways, and they had their eye on the ball against the Eagles.
Coty Sensabaugh intercepted Nate Sudfeld on the Eagles first offensive drive, and then Cameron Sutton picked off Sudfeld in the second quarter.
The Steelers also came up with a fumble recovery, when Ola Adeniyi stripped the ball from Joe Callahan and Keion Adams recovered at the Eagles 16-yard line.
Staying in there: As the first preseason game of the year wears on, it’s not often you see veterans still on the field after the first quarter, let alone the first half.
But Stevan Ridley is focused on showing what he can do at the running back spot, and the sixth-year back was out there into the fourth quarter.
It doesn’t come as a surprise, though, as Ridley indicated during training camp that he wanted to make the most of every opportunity and get as many chances as he could to show what he can do, especially with Le’Veon Bell not reporting to camp and the competition stiff there.
“Every rep I can get, it counts,” said Ridley. “I know that. Coach (Mike) Tomlin has stressed that. There are 90 guys on the roster right now. Every time you get the ball in your hands you have to go out there and be productive. I am focusing on when my number is called being productive. That is my main focus right now, being the best Stevan Ridley I can be. That’s off the field, that’s on the field. Really just trying to grow and getting better. I want to be a player that plays double digit years, I want to play in this league a long time. For me that is capitalizing on every opportunity that comes my way.
“To be here now, I have a preseason, and hopefully a season to show what I can do. I have plenty of life left, plenty of tread on the tires. I know I can be beneficial to a squad, and I hope that is here. They gave me a chance not just once, but twice when they called me back. I want to return the favor and come in here and be as productive as possible.”
Ridley had three receptions for 45 yards and 10 carries for 14 yards. Ridley had a few nice plays on scoring drive that ended with Patterson’s 29-yard touchdown grab. He converted on third-and-one, and then had two catches on the drive, one 13 yards, the other where he broke free for a 17-yard gain.
Tidbits: Some quick hits from tonight’s game against the Eagles.
* James Conner, seeing his first game action since suffering a knee injury late last season, had four carries for 25 yards. He also had one reception for nine yards.
* The competition at running back is intense, and Fitzgerald Toussaint got a lot of work with seven carries for 29 yards. He also scored on a three-yard touchdown run and put the ball in the end zone on the ensuing two-point conversion.
* Chris Boswell is someone who can always be counted on, and he was his usual dependable self against the Eagles connecting on all three of his field goal attempts in the second half.
* B.J. Finney left the game in the first half and didn’t return. Finney has been working at guard with Ramon Foster out injured. Finney was diagnosed with a quad contusion.
How They Scored:
First Quarter: Steelers 7, Eagles 0
Scoring Play: Landry Jones 71-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Scoring Summary: 4-88-2:02
Second Quarter: Steelers 7, Eagles 8
Scoring Play: Nate Sudfeld 15-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert. Two-point conversion is good.
Scoring Summary: 6-46-3:07
Second Quarter: Steelers 15, Eagles 8
Scoring Play: Fitzgerald Toussaint three-yard touchdown run. Toussaint added the two-point conversion.
Scoring Summary: 11-75-6:08
Second Quarter: Steelers 15, Eagles 14
Scoring Play: Nate Sudfeld 63-yard touchdown pass to Shelton Gibson.
Scoring Summary: 3-82-1:17
Second Quarter: Steelers 22, Eagles 14
Scoring Play: Joshua Dobbs 29-yard pass to Damoun Patterson.
Scoring Summary: 9-75-1:40
Third Quarter: Steelers 25, Eagles 14
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 32-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 4-2-1:27
Third Quarter: Steelers 28, Eagles 14
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 41-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 8-58-4:54
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 31, Eagles 14
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 38-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 9-36-5:39