The Steelers take the field tonight with a heavy heart, the first game since the passing of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, and many in his position group are warming up in shirts emblazoned with his phrase for this season: Shut Out the Noise.
The team has done an overall good job of doing just that since the offseason has really gotten underway, focusing instead on themselves and those around them rather than worrying about the outside. That sort of focus is what they hope will drive them to a better season than a year ago.
In the second preseason game, Mason Rudolph will get the start, and we should see a number of players who missed the first game, whether due injury or coaches choice, out on the field. I don’t want to try to offer a comprehensive list since Tomlin hasn’t said who will and will not play, but at the very least, we should see rookie Diontae Johnson for the first time.
Following a weather delay, the game is expected to kick off at 8:30 PM.
Johnny Holton fielded a short kickoff and returned it to about the 28. James Conner gained a few yards on first down, his first touch of the preseason. On second down and six, he got the ball again, following a Ramon Foster pull off the right side for another three or four yards to set up a third and short scenario. Mason Rudolph tried the play-action pass on a short out to JuJu Smith-Schuster, but his touch was a bit off, incomplete. Jordan Berry’s punt bounced and was fielded at the 16, returned beyond the 30.
Tyler Matakevich started at linebacker with Mark Barron with Devin Bush and Vince Williams not playing. He mad the tackle on Travis Kelce for a gain of five. A slot blitz helped influence a Patrick Mahomes scramble for close to 10 yards. At the 44, a short pass to Tyreek Hill saw Artie Burns make a good open field tackle for a short gain. Watt got pressure on second down, forcing an overthrow down the field to Hill. On third and long, with Barron in coverage, Mahomes couldn’t float the ball on a wheel route to the back, incomplete. Diontae Johnson was on the punt return for a short gain.
Rudolph’s first completed pass went to Vance McDonald, but he fumbled the ball out of bounds. Conner got the pass on second down and juggled the ball between his legs before securing it for a first down.
At the 35, it was Conner again up the middle for three. On second and seven, Rudolph flushed out to his left, looking for time, ultimately settling for a pass out of bounds in Smith-Schuster’s direction. Now third and long, he was sacked by Alex Okofor, beating Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle. Ian Berryman’s directional punt traveled only 37 yards, out of bounds at the Chiefs’ 30.
The Chiefs go to the ground for the first two plays of their second drive for a first down. At the 41, Mahomes threw out of bounds in Hill’s direction. Another run with a hole, but the Steelers forced the ball out and Sean Davis recovered. It was Burns on the initial hit and Terrell Edmunds on the follow-up, so the offense takes over near midfield.
From the 47, Rudolph fired a short pass to Donte Moncrief, who also lost the ball, quickly giving it right back.
Chad Henne quickly went down the seam on the first play, falling incomplete, midway through the first. Steven Nelson made the tackle on second down on a short pass as the receiver slipped trying to turn back upfield. On third and four, Henne was dropped for the sack, brought down by Dupree primarily, I believe, but the pocket pressure overall was strong to force another punt. Johnson muffed the punt but was able to recover it, inside the 10.
Conner following his blockers around the right side picked up seven on first down. He picked up the first a play later in the other direction. Following a false start, it was Conner on the carry again, who was able to shoulder his way forward for about six yards. On second and nine, Rudolph looked for Xavier Grimble over the middle but dropped the ball. The shirt-down pass was bobbled up into the air in traffic. Berry’s punt didn’t travel far, but the returner was chased back, first by Justin Layne, then tackled deep by Benny Snell.
The Chiefs were quickly put in third and one on the ensuing drive, but before they could run the play, they were hit with a delay of game. Now third and six, Henne found his tight end down the field over Matakevich for a big completion. The fourth-year linebacker was behind the play all the way.
Now across midfield, Carlos Hyde was limited to a few yards to the left, but an illegal motion penalty was called. Following a miss down the seam that bounced at Davis’ feet, Matakevich stuffed Hyde after a one-yard gain. Now third and long to start the second quarter, Watt had the pressure to force a throwaway and a punt. Johnson fielded this punt but was tripped up quickly.
Jaylen Samuels took a swing pass for a short gain on first down deep in Steelers territory, but a penalty made it first and 15. Samuels got four off the right side on a carry on the following play. On second and 11, he went down at the line of scrimmage. Rudolph pushed the ball down the field on third and 11, finding James Washington for the big completion, an important play for both second-year players.
From the 32, Eli Rogers got his first touch of the preseason, a short pass over the middle. Washington snagged another nice high pass outside the numbers for the first down. Near midfield, Snell was buried for a loss on the screen pass. He was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on second down. On third and 11 again, Rudolph again pushed the ball downfield, finding Grimble, with a bit of redemption for his first drop.
Samuels made a tackler miss for nine yards after the conversion. Rudolph showed encouraging mobility on the following play, but threw it to Rogers in traffic into the end zone for an incompletion. On third and two, Snell was able to fight for the hard yardage to get a new set of downs.
Johnson got his first offensive touch a couple of plays later on a short pass for a first down, then Samuels, with a good play fake, had the left side wide open for the rushing score, the first points of the game.
Following some back and forth on the following drive, Mike Hilton was beat down the seam for a big down inside the 25. Henne took a shot into the end zone that fell incomplete. Dupree jumped offside on second down. The Chiefs converted close to the 10 two plays later, well inside of scoring position as the two-minute warning hit. From the 12, Dupree got his second sack of the game back to the 17. Burns batted down the pass at the line on second down. Despite the pair of nice defensive plays, however, Henne threaded the pass for the score in front of Hilton.
Joshua Dobbs immediately went for the big play and connected with Washington, his third catch of the game and the third nice one, to quickly push the ball past midfield. After a short completion, Dobbs had to throw it away on second down. He threw behind Grimble on third down and at his feet. He threw into double coverage deep to Johnson, which had no chance, resulting in a turnover on downs.