Saturday, August 15, 2015

NFL Preseason Recap For August 14

Osweiler leads 5 scoring drives, Broncos beat Seahawks 22-20

 Brock Osweiler was composed and efficient, leading the Denver Broncos to scores on all five first-half possessions. An impressive effort, even if it came against a makeshift Seattle defense.
Osweiler was 15 of 20 for 151 yards and a touchdown playing the first half in the Broncos' 22-20 win over the Seahawks to open the preseason on Friday.
Starting in place of Peyton Manning, who went through pregame warmups but was just a spectator, Osweiler finished with a 112.7 rating. He capped his night with a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Virgil Green late in the first half for a 19-10 lead. Denver's offense finished with 240 yards in the half, although much of that came with most of Seattle's starting defense standing on the sideline.
"Things felt very smooth out there tonight. So from a personal standpoint it probably is my best performance to date, but I can't say that without those 10 other guys I was out there with tonight," Osweiler said.
While Osweiler picked apart Seattle's defense, Russell Wilson was left to scramble for safety during his two series in the first quarter. Wilson was sacked by Von Miller and fumbled on Seattle's second offensive play. He was sacked on third-and-goal from the Denver 8 and completed only one pass - a 12-yard connection with new tight end Jimmy Graham that elicited one of the biggest cheers of the night.
The biggest highlight for Seattle was the electric debut of rookie Tyler Lockett. Drafted primarily for his ability as a returner, Lockett took a kickoff back 103 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter after having a 46-yard return in the first quarter.
But there were more concerns for Seattle than highlights after seeing two important players taken to the locker room with injuries. Wide receiver Chris Matthews, who had four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl, suffered a sprain of his left shoulder on punt coverage diving for a loose ball after it was muffed by Solomon Patton.
And backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle's security should anything happen to Wilson, was taken to the locker room on a cart in the third quarter after his right ankle was rolled. Jackson was diagnosed with a sprain.
Both Matthews and Jackson are likely to be out at least 10 days to two weeks, according to coach Pete Carroll.
Even Carroll got dinged up. During Lockett's touchdown return, Carroll collided on the sideline with field judge Eugene Hall. Carroll was sent sprawling to the turf while Hall kept his balance and was able to throw the flag for sideline interference.
"I saw him and couldn't get out of the way," Carroll said.
Other observations from the preseason opener:
Denver's new look offensive line, with five players in new spots, played well with the exception of one play. Osweiler was sacked by Cliff Avril on Denver's second offensive play. Otherwise, Osweiler stayed upright and the Broncos rushed for 101 yards in the first half.
"Once they settled down they played well. They came off the ball well," Denver coach Gary Kubiak said.
Seattle defensive tackle Jesse Williams took the field with 11:30 left in the second quarter for his first play of the preseason, less than three months after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous kidney. Williams played in a rotation on the defensive line for the final three quarters.
Williams finished with two tackles.
Denver continued to split its kicking duties, with Connor Barth and Brandon McManus both getting multiple chances. Barth hit from 28 and 23 yards, while McManus was good from 52, 44 and 23 yards.
Undrafted free agent long snapper and ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer led the Seahawks out of the tunnel pregame carrying the American flag. Boyer handled all of the snapping duties in the second half after veteran Clint Gresham snapped in the first half.
Green led Denver with five catches for 45 yards and the touchdown reception. It's a good start as Denver tries to replace Julius Thomas.
Along with Lockett, rookie defensive end Frank Clark stood out for Seattle. Clark had a game-high nine tackles, one quarterback hit and one forced fumble playing a variety of positions on the defensive line.
"I thought Lockett's 83-yard touchdown was really good. See, I didn't see the last 20," Carroll on his collision with the side judge.

Broncos, Brock Osweiler impress in preseason opening win over Seahawks

The pregame preparation spared no detail. Peyton Manning wore tape on his ankles, a glove on his right hand and a towel on his pants to wipe his hands in the persistent drizzle. He threw short, threw long and then reluctantly threw the keys to Brock Osweiler.
Gary Kubiak's first call in his first game as Broncos coach turned out to be a wise choice.
In a frenetic, physical game more suited for November than August, the Broncos watched Osweiler grow before their eyes as they broke in a new offensive line.
The score? Denver won 22-20. Nobody will remember it next week. But it was an effective starting point, serving up equal doses of potential and anxiety.
"The mistakes are what jumps at you. I am very concerned special teams-wise with some things that happened. But I am really happy with how hard we played. That's all we've been talking about is effort, being physical, and I think we did that tonight," Kubiak said. "Now I think we have to go make a lot of corrections."
Preseason games don't count, but they matter. And no one entered with more to prove than Osweiler and the Baby Blockers up front. Osweiler took an encouraging step forward as the Broncos try to decide if he's part of their long-term future. He spent the last three seasons in the NFL's green room, waiting for an opportunity that will never exist as long as Manning is upright. Manning's health improved by watching Osweiler, who showed toughness in the face of consistent pressure, while finding a new favorite target in tight end Virgil Green.
Kubiak has pushed Osweiler all summer to improve his footwork, to release the ball more quickly from a higher arm slot. It was just one game, but the long hours paid off.
"The biggest thing I took away is that I couldn't be more proud of that offensive unit. There were a lot of young guys getting their first starts. It's a hostile environment, maybe the toughest place to play in the NFL," Osweiler said as he walked to the team bus. "Those guys came in and got us started in the run game, really got us going."
Osweiler led the Broncos on four first-half scoring drives, spanning 41 plays. The Broncos didn't punt once in the first 30 minutes. It didn't hurt that the defense suffocated the Seahawks, holding them to 29 yards at halftime.
Osweiler took over a short field on his initial drive after Von Miller continued writing his diary of havoc. Miller sacked Russell Wilson, forcing a fumble. Feeding off Miller's start, the Broncos finished with seven sacks from seven different players.
Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler
Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) leading the offense during their preseason game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Stadium August 14, 2015 Seattle, Wa. (Joe Amon, The Denver Post)
"I am just in a good place. It's all about football. I love football. I love the games. It's all I have to worry about it," Miller said. "Everybody should be able to see that."
The first impression left a mark on Osweiler, but he made one as well. He absorbed a big hit from Cliff Avril on a missed blocking assignment — and didn't flinch. Connor Barth then converted the first of the Broncos' four first-half field goals in the kicking derby between him and Brandon McManus.
Cassius Marsh and Bruce Irvin tagged Osweiler on subsequent possessions. Yet he remained patient — poised even — as the Seahawks' swarm claimed a victim in starting running back C.J. Anderson. Anderson jogged off with a sprained left ankle after just three carries and didn't return.
"It's no big deal. Nothing. I wanted to go back out there," Anderson said. "I am fine."
Osweiler played the first half, finishing 15-for-20 for 151 yards and a touchdown in arguably his best performance as a Bronco.
"I was really impressed. We tried to settle him down the first couple of series. Then we let him go and throw it around a little bit. Once he did that he got in rhythm. I thought he made some really nice plays," Kubiak said. "He made good decisions all night long."
Denver's 19-10 halftime advantage failed to hide a glaring weakness: kickoff coverage. The Seahawks gashed the Broncos for 236 yards on six returns. Rookie Tyler Lockett, looking like "a smaller Usain Bolt," Wilson said, punctuated the embarrassing performance with a 103-yard touchdown after receiving a low line-drive boot from Barth.
Solomon Patton and Jordan Norwood muffed a pair of punt returns. Only the field goals provided salvage for the unit.
"We have a lot of things to clean up," Kubiak said.
With Owen Daniels joining a group of veterans sitting out in the opener by design, Green became Osweiler's go-to guy. The tight end, who answers to the nickname "Hulk" because of his blocking prowess, caught five first-half passes for 45 yards. The two developed chemistry through spring and summer workouts at Kent Denver High School.
"I understand what he's seeing, and he understands what I am seeing," Osweiler said.
While center Matt Paradis, left guard Max Garcia and left tackle Ty Sambrailo — who have zero combined NFL regular-season starts — made early mistakes, their wide eyes eventually shrank. The Broncos moved defenders with double-tight end sets and efficient zone blocking. The Broncos rushed for 101 yards in the first half. Ronnie Hillman, continuing his strong camp, darted for 66 on eight attempts just days after Kubiak praised him as a "home run threat."
"We wanted to hit them in the mouth first, and I think that's what the line did," Hillman said. "They did a great job of making holes."
Seattle's third stringers posted fourth-quarter statistics that clouded Denver's overall performance. Quarterback R.J. Archer connected with Thomas Rawls on a 19-yard touchdown late, but the Broncos covered the subsequent onside kick.
"We knew it wasn't going to be perfect," Kubiak said. "But we played hard and some good things happened."

Looking back

The Broncos revealed promise and concern in their preseason opener Friday night at Seattle:
What about the new O-line? It's a work in progress. Rookie left tackle Ty Sambrailo struggled in the first half, leaving fourth-year quarterback Brock Osweiler to absorb big hits. But the Broncos ran the ball well, finishing the first two quarters with 101 yards rushing.
How did Brock do? Osweiler played well. He completed 15-of-20 passes for 151 yards, including a 17-yard TD pass to tight end Virgil Green.
How were Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman as backup backs? Hillman took advantage of C.J. Anderson's first-quarter ankle injury, darting for 54 yards in the first half. Ball displayed toughness with his runs, including a 12-yarder. Anderson's injury didn't appear to be serious, though he didn't return to action.
How did top pick Shane Ray fare? The rookie pass rusher from Missouri lived in Seattle's backfield over the course of three series, causing a fumble that led to a huge loss of yards for the Seahawks. His first-step quickness was terrific.
Any surprises? The Broncos' special-teams coverage was awful. Denver allowed a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Broncos went with a mix of starters and younger players, which made their coverage issues even more perplexing.

Ponder, McGloin Toss TD Passes in Raiders 18-3 Win Over the Rams

Oakland Raiders QB Matt McGloin completed 10 of 11 pass attempts for 104 yards and a TD, RBLatavius Murray carried the ball 6 times for 35 yards, the defense made timely stops, and the team played relatively mistake-free and penalty-free football in an 18-3 victory over the St. Louis Rams in the 2015 preseason opener for both team at Coliseum in Oakland. WR Brice Butler added 6 catches for 57 yards and a score.
The St. Louis Rams won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. WR Chris Givens watched KSebastian Janikowski’s opening kickoff sail over his head for a touchback. Nick Foles opened at quarterback for St. Louis as the Rams started at the 20. The Rams drove to the Raiders 13 before CBTJ Carrie broke up a would-be touchdown pass in the end zone on 3rd and 4. K Greg Zuerlein put the Rams on the board with a 31-yard field goal, which capped a 67-yard drive. St. Louis took a 3-0 lead with 12:28 left in the 1st quarter.

WR/KR/PR Trindon Holliday bobbled the ensuing kickoff and took the touchback. Derek Carr started at quarterback as the Raiders started their first drive at the 20. After a 3-yard RB Latavius Murray run, Carr connected with rookie WR Amari Cooper for the first time, a 12-yard pass for a first down. The Raiders drive stalled when Carr’s 3rd and 2 pass for WR Michael Crabtree was batted away. Janikowski tied the game at 3-3 with a 44-yard field goal that capped an 11-play, 54-yard drive with 7:20 left in the first quarter.

WR Chris Givens fielded KGiorgio Tavecchio’s ensuing kickoff 7 yards deep and took a knee for a touchback. The Raiders allowed one first down before DE Shelby Harris dropped Foles for a 14-yard loss on 3rd and 4. P Johnny Hekker came on to punt. After a delay of game call on the Rams, Holliday returned Hekker’s 59-yard punt 22 yards to the Oakland 42. A 10-yard holding penalty on the Rams during the kick tacked 10 yards onto the end of the return and the Raiders started at the Rams 48.
After a 15-yard pass to Crabtree, the veteran receiver drew a facemask penalty moving the Raiders to the Rams 18. The Raiders drive ended when CB Trumaine Johnson picked off a Carr pass intended for Cooper in the end zone. The Rams started their next possession at the 20.

Case Keenum took over at quarterback for the Rams. The Rams drove just past midfield before the Raiders came up with the stop on 3rd and 9. Hekker’s punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback and Christian Ponder entered the game at quarterback for the Raiders.

Ponder went up tempo and utilized the running of RB Trent Richardson and precise passes to rookie TEClive Walford and WR Brice Butler to set up 1st and goal at the 8.  On 3rd and goal at the 3, Ponder hit WR Andre Holmes with a quick strike for the touchdown. The two-point conversion was no good as Ponder completed his pass to WR Kenbrell Thompkins, but Thompkins didn’t cross the goal line. The score gave the Raiders a 9-3 lead with 5:50 left in the 2nd quarter. The TD pass capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Head Coach Jack Del Rio challenged the ruling on the field that the conversion was no good. The call stood leaving the score 9-3.
WR Damian Williams fielded Tavecchio’s ensuing kickoff 3 yards deep and ran it out, and was dropped at the 12 by LB Gary Wilkins. The Rams drive stalled with 1:49 left in the 2nd quarter and Hekker came on to punt on 4 and 14 at the St. Louis 37.
The Raiders started at the Oakland 41. The Raiders drove to the Rams 45. On 4th and 8, Ponder’s pass for WR Brice Butler was intercepted at the St. Louis 32. The Raiders took a 9-3 lead into the locker room at half time.

RB Taiwan Jones returned Michael Palardy’s opening kickoff of the 2nd half to the Oakland 22. Matt McGloin opened at quarterback for the Raiders.  Tavecchio capped a 9-play, 56-yard drive with a 39-yard field goal, which gave the Raiders a 12-3 lead with 10:17 left in the 3rd quarter.

WR Daniel Rodriguez returned the ensuing kickoff 23 yards to the 14. Palardy’s 48-yard field goal was no good and the Raiders took over at the 38 with 2:07 left in the 3rd.
McGloin hit WR Brice Butler for a 16-yard catch and run for the touchdown to cap a 9-play, 62-yard drive. The two-point conversion pass attempt to WR Kris Durham was knocked away and the Raiders led 18-3 with 12:15 left to play.
Tavecchio’s ensuing kickoff flew out of the end zone for a touchback. Austin Davis took over at quarterback for the Rams, down 18-3. LB Josh Shirley came on a blitz and hammered the ball loose from Davis and DTStacy McGee recovered for the Raiders. The officials overturned the call and ruled Davis down by contact. The Raiders forced a punt. WR Austin Willis called for and made a fair catch of a Palardy punt at the Oakland 25. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Raiders backed them up to the 13.
Cody Fajardo entered the game at quarterback for Oakland. The Raiders drive stalled and PMarquette King came on for the first Oakland punt of the night. Rodriqguez returned the 50-yard punt 5 yards to the ST. Louis 17. Sean Mannion entered the game at quarterback for the Rams.
The Rams drove to the Raiders 35 before the Silver and Black came up with a 4ht down stop and took over on downs with 1:24 left to play.
Fajardo took a knee twice to run out the clock and secure the victory. The Raiders improve to 1-0 on the preseason and head to Minnesota next week to take on the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium.

Sloppy Rams lose preseason debut

The start, however fleeting, was eye-opening for the Rams and new quarterback Nick Foles. There was a 26-yard completion on the first play from scrimmage to tight end Lance Kendricks down the right sideline.
Next came a quick screen to Tavon Austin, and by golly, not only did the Rams have blockers out there for Austin, but Austin cut it inside, accelerated, and raced 35 yards to the Oakland 19.
Two plays, two passes, 61 yards. Not too shabby. But that was about it for the Rams’ offense in a sloppy performance that fitted the description — preseason opener — in every way. The final result was an 18-3 loss to Oakland at Coliseum that left the Rams with plenty to work on.
"We played hard, we flashed at times, and then we had some mistakes," coach Jeff Fisher summarized.
They also had a couple injuries. Before that first series ended on a 31-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein, the Rams watched left guard Rodger Saffold leave the field after just four plays when he tweaked his shoulder.
"Don't have any information on Rodger right now, or Daren (Bates)," Fisher said. "Daren's sore.  Everybody that left temporarily (during the game) came back. Hopefully we'll have good news as far as that's concerned."
The Rams lost special teams ace and backup linebacker Bates to a knee injury in the first half, an injury that at face value looked more severe than Saffold's.
Bates was on crutches in the locker room after the game, and will undergo an MRI Saturday. Fisher indicated that Saffold also will undergo testing on the shoulder. It's not the same shoulder that was surgically repaired in the offseason for Saffold; it's the other shoulder.
After the initial burst the offense sputtered thereafter, managing a modest 224 yards in its final 59 plays after gaining those 61 yards on the first two. Foles completed three of five passes for 69 yards before giving way to Case Keenum after two series.
"We've got a ways to go," Foles said after his first action as a Ram. "But with these guys, we can do it. It was great being out there."
Fisher had stressed the importance of keeping Foles clean, not only in the preseason opener but this season in general. But Saffold’s replacement at left guard, Brandon Washington, gave up sacks on back-to-back plays to kill Foles’ second series.
The first sack was nullified by offsetting penalties. But the second, which came when Raiders defensive end Shelby Harris got around Washington, cost the Rams 14 yards.
Even with the troubles on that series, Kendricks said the first couple of plays were indicative of what might be expected from Foles in 2015.
“He’s just in sync with the whole offense — great rhythm, great timing with everybody. Easy to work with,” Kendricks said. “It’s going to be a fun season.”
It wasn’t too much fun Friday. The Rams didn’t get much going once Keenum and the second-teamers took over on offense, reaching only as far as the Oakland 49 in the second quarter on a series that ended with a punt.
• BOX SCORE: Raiders 18, Rams 3
Meanwhile, Oakland saw its second possession against the Rams’ first-team defense reach the St. Louis 6 only to be thwarted on a Trumaine Johnson interception. Johnson, flagged for a facemask four plays earlier, cut in front of a Derek Carr pass intended for rookie first-rounder Amari Cooper for the “pick” in the end zone.
“I just read the quarterback’s eyes and was able to make a play,” Johnson said.
Simple as that. That was it for the Rams’ first-team defense after two series against an Oakland offense that looks more potent this season with Cooper and former San Francisco 49er Michael Crabtree at wide receiver.
The Rams’ defense held at its 26-yard line, forcing Oakland to kick a field goal after a 54-yard drive on the Raiders’ first possession. Then Johnson provided the eraser with his interception on the second series.
“I think we handled the first 15 (minutes) pretty well,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “Teams usually come out and try to do a lot of different stuff, and they certainly did with reverses and stuff like that. There’s some things we need to correct, no doubt.”
Oakland made the most of its first series against the Rams’ second-team defense, driving 80 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Lamarcus Joyner was beaten by Andre Holmes for a 3-yard score. Oakland went for two points, failed, and thus took a 9-3 lead.
The Raiders tacked on a field goal to open the third quarter, and then pushed their lead to 18-3 early in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard pass from third-string quarterback Matt McGloin to Brice Butler. Safety Maurice Alexander slipped in coverage on the play, giving Butler enough room to reach the end zone.
Once again, the Raiders went for two points and failed.
All in all, if this was the night you were looking for crisp execution by the offense, a shutdown performance by the defense, and a minimum of penalties ... well, maybe next week when the Rams play preseason game No. 2 at Tennessee.
The Rams were flagged 10 times for 75 yards, and that's not including four penalties that were either declined or negated by offsetting flags. Even Pro Bowl punter Johnny Hekker shanked a punt, for just 22 yards late in the second quarter, so it was not a banner night for the Rams.
The defense did get another takeaway, in the form of an interception by undrafted rookie Imoan Claiborne. Claiborne was later shaken up and left the game but appeared to be OK.
"He's got ball skills and he's been productive," Fisher said.
But the offense simply couldn’t get much going. Keenum got another series to start the third quarter and finished 12 for 17 for 83 yards. But the closest the Rams got in the quarter was a missed 48-yard field goal by camp kicker Michael Palardy with 2:07 to play in the quarter.
Austin Davis took over for a series at quarterback in the fourth quarter, then gave way to rookie Sean Mannion, the third-round draft pick from Oregon State, on the Rams’ final series.
"We used the timeouts just so we could get Sean in," Fisher said. "We wanted to get Sean some work. It was extremely important to us. It was nice to put him in that pressure situation where he was in the hurry-up and making throws. He did have a couple drops."
Mannion threw 13 passes in that one series, completing eight for 53 yards, before the Rams ran out of downs at the Oakland 42 with 1:42 to play.
Before their next exhibition game _ a Sunday night contest Aug. 23 against the Titans in Nashville _ it’s off to Oxnard, Calif., for three days of practices in the Los Angeles area. The team will practice against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday and Tuesday, practice on their own at Oxnard on Wednesday, then fly back to St. Louis.

Jaguars 23, Steelers 21

The Jaguars got the preseason off to the start they wanted.
Second-year quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 118 yards in three series with a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and the Jaguars reserves rallied from a late deficit to finish a 23-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Friday night.
A crowd of 61,324 attended the 2015 preseason opener at EverBank Field.
Bortles scored the four-yard touchdown on a fourth-down scramble while diving, reaching ball out and hitting the pylon with the ball on his final play of the night. He completed 11 of 15 passes, including two passes to second-year wide receiver Allen Robinson for 25 yards, and a 27-yard pass to Arrelious Benn in the second quarter.
“We’re really looking at the management of the offense, and getting his reads right and the checks, and giving us the proper calls,” Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said at halftime. “I thought (Bortles) did a real nice job for the first game.”
Wide receiver Allen Hurns, tight end Clay Harbor and running back Bernard Pierce each had drops of Bortles passes inside the 20-yard line.
Tight end Julius Thomas lef the game after a two-yard reception on the second Jaguars play from scrimmage and was taken to the locker room to evaluate a left hand injury. He did not return.
Chad Henne replaced Bortles, completing 9 of 10 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Player of the Game
Blake Bortles. Bortles looked poised and confident while overcoming one overthrow and three drops to throw for 118 yards. He marched the Jaguars on two scoring drives and capped off the night with a four-yard scrambling touchdown run on a fourth-down play. “I think it (stat line) was a tribute to the guys up front and the guys running routes,” Bortles said on the sideline during the second half. “We had a ton of guys get catches, and guys worked their tails off to get open.”

After starting with a three-and-out, the offense had scoring drives of 13 plays for 45 yards and 12 plays for 83 yards in the next two drives, respectively. At halftime, the Jaguars outgained the Steelers 206-160.
The Jaguars defense gave up a 44-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Martavis Bryant on the opening drive of the game before Roethlisberger left for the night. The Jaguars then forced four punts on the final four drives of the first half. Defensive end Cap Capi collected the Jaguars’ only two sacks of the game.

Special teams
Josh Scobee hit a 37-yard field goal and two extra points with four touchbacks in four kickoffs in the first half. Rookie wide receiver Rashad Greene returned a punt 37 yards late in the second quarter, shortening the field for a 52-yard touchdown drive.

Standing out
-Offensive line. The starters on the line consistently pushed the Steelers defensive line off the line of scrimmage early, creating holes for the running game. “I thought they really set the tone,” Bradley said. “We extended their playing time a little bit, and they came out and gave those guys a chance to run the ball.” Steelers OLB James Harrison sacked Bortles in the first quarter.
-Toby Gerhart. The veteran running back had four carries for 13 yards, pushing piles forward in a couple of instances. He also had two receptions for 30 yards, including a 19-yard catch and run on a screen pass.
-Nick Marshall. The rookie cornerback returned a third-quarter kickoff 35 yards.

Defense can't hold lead in 23-21 loss

It was to be preseason game No. 2, and the general impression during the run-up was there was plenty of room for improvement based on what had happened five days ago in preseason game No. 1.

“I want to see guys take a significant step,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “The guys have been in a stadium, and wherever they were a week ago I want to see them take a significant step forward. I expect us collectively to do some of the things we talked about last week, that quite frankly we failed at doing. I want an elimination of pre-snap penalties. We had delay of game penalties on offense. We also had a false start by the punt team. We had a lining up in the neutral zone on defense. You make yourself an easy team to beat when you do things like that, and I’m not interested in being that type of team.”

The game was to serve as the 2015 preseason debut for Ben RoethlisbergerAntonio Brown,Heath Miller, Le’Veon Bell, Martavis BryantMarkus WheatonCortez AllenJarvis Jones,Shamarko Thomas, and James Harrison.

Coming into the game, the plan was to play Roethlisberger between 10-12 plays, but after he directed the first-team offense on a six-play 80-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a two-point conversion pass to Markus Wheaton, Coach Mike Tomlin decided he had seen enough. Roethlisberger exchanged his helmet for a baseball cap and was done for the night.


To start the game, the Steelers offensive line was as expected – from left to right, Kelvin Beachum,Ramon Foster,Maurkice Pouncey,David DeCastro, andMarcus Gilbert. After the first series, which ended in a touchdown and an 8-0 Steelers lead, Pouncey was replaced by Cody Wallace with the rest of the unit staying intact. When it came time for the second group, it was made up of, from left to right,Alejandro VillanuevaChris Hubbard, Wallace, B.J. Finney, and Mitchell Van Dyk.

It was the fourth quarter, and the Steelers had just taken a 21-17 lead on a touchdown pass fromLandry Jones to C.J. Goodwin. When the team needed a defensive stop, what it got instead was a slew of penalties. 

After the ensuing kickoff, the Jaguars began their offensive possession at their own 8-yard line, and before it ended with what turned out to be the deciding 1-yard touchdown by QB Stephen Morris, the Steelers defense had helped out with four critical penalties.

Jordan Zumwalt was flagged for roughing the passer; Gerod Holliman was hit with a personal foul for hitting a receiver above the shoulders; and then Jordan Sullen was flagged for defensive holding and then pass interference on back-to-back snaps.

Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams combined for 46 yards on eight carries (5.8 average) in limited playing time, but once they were removed the Steelers running attack disappeared. The rest of the game, the Steelers rushed for 29 yards on 12 attempts (2.4 average).

The Steelers were not penalized in the first half, but they were flagged eight times for 73 yards in the second half, with seven for 68 yards coming in the fourth quarter.

Two days before the game, Tomlin ruled out Robert GoldenDaniel McCullersRoss Ventrone,Vince WilliamsBruce GradkowskiMike Adams, and Senquez Golson. Gradkowski, Adams, and Golson remain on the physically unable to perform list. Lawrence Timmons was in uniform, but he did not play.