The Pittsburgh Steelers second preseason game did not quite go the way in which many Steelers fans would have liked. However, the results mean absolutely nothing. What we are looking for is individual performances by players who can move up the depth chart or onto the roster. Who are some players who won and lost in preseason Week 2?
Daniel McCullers started over Javon Hargrave. What? It was something we noted on our podcast as it happened in practice but we put little stock into it. The fact of the matter is that McCullers is playing well.
Javon Hargrave in the game.
So McCullers really started over him?
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) August 17, 2018
Not better than Hargrave well, but he is playing well. He followed up a strong Week One with an even better Week Two against tougher overall competition. While we should not start the starter debate, there is no debate about his roster status. He is making the 53-man roster. Something we did not say two weeks ago.
Another player who was on the edge of making the 53-man roster was Fitzgerlad Toussaint. Through two weeks, it appears as though he has a job. He came out after James Conner and ran tough and decisive. He had seven rushes for 26 yards. Toussaint was also the starting kick returner and had a couple of good repetitions in pass protection. He seems to be affirming his name as the third running back behind Bell and Conner.
To the surprise of nobody, James Washington was making contested catches in the air. It was his calling card in college, and in the second half of a preseason game, Washington showed that he does not belong with this level of talent. Washington caught five passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns to help aid his quarterbacks.
Dupree has hardly played in past preseasons for a variety of injuries but was finally cleared for Week Two. In a new role, Dupree rushed everywhere from up the middle, to the blind side which is his new side. He provided pressure up the middle and finished a sack from the blind side. The Steelers said that finishing sacks was the reason for the move, so at the moment they tend to look pretty smart.
James Conner was electric in a game where the Steelers were blown off of the field. On five carries for 57 yards and a touchdown, Conner ran with quick feet, explosiveness and decisive running. It was a more dynamic Conner than we have ever seen. After fighting back from cancer, it is no surprise to see him finally in great shape again. This could lead to the Steelers finding a steal.
The rookie first-round pick got the start and did not look too sharp. He did force a fumble on special teams, but from there, he struggled. It is fair to mention that he has been practicing in the strong safety role but started at free due to the injury status of Sean Davis. Still, his coverage was questionable. He got welcomed to the NFL by Jimmy Graham and gave up another touchdown to practice squad candidate Ryan Tonyon. He took the wrong angle on another pass and was a clear target of the Packers passing attack.
It was a learning experience and a base to build off of. However, it was fair to say that Edmunds struggled.
Rudolph made his first career start in the NFL and was quickly welcomed into the NFL. His very first pass was a pick six. It was clear that the speed of the NFL was a rude awakening for Rudolph who finished 5-12 for 47 yards with a touchdown, an interception, and three sacks.
His performance was similar to the debut of Dobbs last season.
This presents a high mountain to trek up considering Dobbs is now fighting for his roster life. Rudolph will get a limited chance next week and then should see a lot of time in Week Four against players who will be cut. There will be little to learn from, but we need to see growth and confidence from Rudolph going from starters to bench players over the next few weeks.
With the emergence of McCullers into the starting lineup, Hargrave has to be considered a loser. What is weird is that it does not appear to be due to his play. Hargrave has flashed against weaker competition and proved he does not belong with this group. Still, he played deep into the second half again on Thursday. He seems to be seeing a punishment of some sort. The question now is what did he do?
Tyler Matakevich/Jon Bostic
The middle linebacker situation has not been pretty. Bostic got the start next to Vince Williams and started into the second half. He seemed to have the substantial lead on Matakevich but showed a lot of issues in coverage next to Williams.
Matakevich came in but played next to Bostic as a reserve for Williams. Nonetheless, he looked uncomfortable in coverage as well. Matakvich saw himself playing deep into the fourth quarter in this game, as Bostic rested. Despite Bostic playing poorly, it feels like his lead over Matakevich in the pecking order grew. That is not a good sign for anyone.
In our last couple of podcasts, we speculated whether or not Marcus Allen was in line to be a practice squad player. After two weeks that is apparent. He cannot climb over Jordan Dangerfield or Malik Golden in the pecking order. Dangerfield has shown on special teams and Golden in moments on defense. Allen has done little and will clear waivers to head to the practice squad.