The Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos closed out the most important week of the 2010 preseason during the Sunday evening tilt on FOX.
Both teams have some important decisions to make as we head into the fourth week.
Here are some thoughts and observations after watching both teams compete:
- Neither Dennis Dixon nor Byron Leftwich was impressive against Denver's defense. Dixon made some mental errors (see his two interceptions), but did make a great throw to first-year WR Tyler Grisham where he squeezed the ball between two Broncos defenders for a 13-yard gain.
- Third-year RB Rashard Mendenhall looked impressive during his five carry performance during the first quarter. But the back who really stood out was Steelers rookie Jonathan Dwyer. The sixth-round pick was very decisive on his 13 carries and displayed a surprising burst. Because of the restrictive offensive scheme Dwyer played in at Georgia Tech, scouts had trouble evaluating him. That's part of why he fell in this year's draft.
- Some personnel evaluators have questioned whether WR Mike Wallace is really ready to be a starter in just his second season. Much like the questions some have about Arizona Cardinals fourth-year WR Steve Breaston, who is going through in his first year as a starter, is Wallace more than a speed threat? Wallace had an amazing 19.4 yards per catch average as a rookie. But he won't get those same matchups he got last year when he was a backup. As a starter, he will get tougher matchups against starting quality defensive backs. It will be interesting to see if Wallace can add some more facets to his game.
- It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that first-round pick OL Maurkice Pouncey appears to be on the verge of becoming Pittsburgh's new starting center. Personnel sources said Pouncey was likely the only interior offensive lineman who was capable of starting right away. While nothing is official, most players who start in the third preseason game wind up staying in that role to begin the regular season.
- All eyes were on rookie QB Tim Tebow during his second-half performance. It was a typical showing by the southpaw. He made a few very strong power throws, but his elongated release resulted in some inaccurate throws. But the least talked about facet of the issues with his mechanics lies in the long stride into his passes. Because he has a long stride, he's unable to consistently match up his release point with his forward step. Meaning, his delivery isn't in sync. While many point to shortening up his release, what he needs to do his shorten up his stride into his throws. This is something that former NFL QB Scott Brunner pointed out to me recently.
- Veteran RB LenDale White got the start for Denver. It's amazing he went from out of the league after the Seattle Seahawks released him to starting in an important preseason game. He'll likely stick on the roster for a while since RBs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter are just coming back from their injuries.
- With OLB Elvis Dumervil (pectoral) expected to miss at least half of the regular season, Denver is desperately looking for pass rushing help. Second-year OLB Robert Ayers, who posted five sacks as a rookie, posted two sacks in this game. He will be expected to pick up the slack in Dumervil's absence. Denver likely will be scouring the transaction wire this coming Saturday when teams have to set their 53-man rosters.
- While finding a pass rush is going to be a problem for this team, Denver's secondary will not be the issue for the defense. While all four starters are in their 30s, all of them have something left in the tank. Fifth-round pick CB Perrish Cox, who had an interception in the game, is very polished for being a rookie. Personnel sources said he dropped in the draft because of a low character grade, but the defensive back clearly has enough talent to play right away.