I am generally not one to put too much stock into preseason games, especially after just the first one when the starters only play for a few series. Although this game was not exactly a thing of beaty, we did get some insight into the Giants and Steelers, two teams looking to get back to the postseason in 2013.
1. The Steelers have some playmakers on offense
LaRod Stephens-Howling looked very impressive running the ball with good vision and shiftiness and will be a good complement to rookie LeVeon Bell who did not play on Saturday. 3rd round draft pick Markus Wheaton also showed his speed with a nice run on a reverse in the 1st half. With Mike Wallace now in Miami and Plaxico Burress done for the year due to a rotator cuff injury, the Steelers will need a third receiver to step up and Wheaton looks like the kind of player who can take a short pass and turn it into a touchdown.
2. The Giants may have gotten a steal in Damontre Moore
Although he had an impressive career at Texas A&M, Damontre Moore, a.k.a "DaMonster," slipped all the way to the 3rd round of the 2013 draft and the Giants, always looking for pass rushers, gladly selected him. Talk out of training camp has been that Moore has impressed, but you can never truly evaluate a player until the first real live game action. On Saturday night, Moore validated that impression by showing quickness off the snap against the run and pass. He also showed some good athleticism by blocking a punt.
3. Bruce Gradkowski can win games if needed
Having a good backup quarterback is always important, but perhaps more so to the Steelers as Ben Roethlisberger has only played an entire 16 game season once in his career. Should "Big Ben" miss a few games, it looks like Bruce Gradkowski could step in and hold the fort so to speak. On Saturday, Gradkowski showed his ability to throw while on the run and had it not been for drops by Markus Wheaton and Jonathan Dwyer, his stat line would have looked pretty good. Given Roethlisberger's style of play, it is comforting to know that Gradkowski is there "just in case."
4. The Giants may have running back concerns
With the release of Ahmad Bradshaw in the offseason, the Giants look to 2012 1st round pick David Wilson and 2012 revelation Andre Brown to carry the load in 2013. On Saturday night, Wilson only had 16 yards on 5 carries and Brown gave away a fumbled pitch from quarterback David Carr that he should have secured. The bottom line is that the Giants could not run the ball effectively against the first unit of the Steelers.
5. The Steelers starters on the offensive line better stay healthy
The Steelers have a young, but talented offensive line and they looked the part in the 1st quarter against the Giants starting defense. The Pittsburgh coaching staff has been concerned about the lack of depth though and after Saturday night's showing, it appears they have every reason to feel that way. To be fair, the Giants do have a deep defensive line, but the Giants' second unit dominated the second unit of the Steelers as Pittsburgh could not do much of anything on offense, particularly in the running game.
Other game notes:
- Although I noted the lack of depth on the Steelers' offensive line above, it's not exaclty like the Giants second unit "set the world on fire." The Giants were missing starting right guard Chris Snee and 2013 1st round pick Justin Pugh however.
- Kicker Josh Brown, of the Giants, missed a field goal but he routinely put his kickoffs in the end zone, forcing the Steelers' offense to start on their own 20. Last year, Lawrence Tynes did not get great length on his kickoffs consistently.
- The Giants defensive line depth will certainly be a key to the 2013 season. They played well on Saturday overall, even with missing Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, but the first unit had some issues, specifically with stopping LaRod Stephens-Howling.
- The Steelers did a great job in the 2013 draft. Jarvis Jones is a playmaker on defense and the same can be said of Markus Wheaton on offense. 2nd round pick running back LeVeon Bell did not play on Saturday but expectations are high for him. 4th round pick safety Shamarko Thomas seems to be a natural fit for the Steel Curtain.