Pittsburgh Steelers running back Dri Archer (13) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Canton, Ohio, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
CANTON, Ohio -- Despite sitting several offensive starters, the Pittsburgh Steelers kept many defensive players in the game for much of the first half of the Hall of Fame Game against the Minnesota Vikings, looking to find a rhythm under new coordinator Keith Butler. They looked prepared and stout, delivering big hits and negating big plays until the second stringers took over.
QB Depth Chart: Holding Steady?Landry Jones had a meh night -- not many glaring errors but nothing overly impressive as he completed 12 of his first 22 passes for 113 yards. He did nothing to change his No. 3 quarterback standing behind Ben Roethlsiberger and Bruce Gradkowski. The Steelers need to see more, though he was throwing to second- and third-stringers. Jones threw a pretty deep ball to Shakim Phillips, who snagged the catch with one hand, but missed third-round receiver Sammie Coates on a confusion play in the end zone that should have been a score. Jones also missed on three straight passes from inside the 5-yard line, one of which was dropped by tight end Jesse James.
Maybe That Dude Could Start: Corner Brandon Boykin was expected to earn significant playing time since the Steelers traded a fifth-round pick to Philadelphia for his services, but Boykin already looks comfortable in Pittsburgh’s system -- breaking up a short pass at the line of scrimmage and shooting into the zone to clean up a screen pass. This trade should work out just fine. Boykin played mostly in the slot but he wants to earn starter’s playing time outside. He might just do both.
Who Got Hurt? Kicker Shaun Suisham headed to the locker room with a knee injury after the opening kickoff of the second half. That’s one to monitor. Suisham is crucial. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert got poked in the eye in the first half but the injury does not appear serious. Running back Cameron Stingilysuffered a knee injury from a hit in the second half and did not return. Otherwise, the Steelers got away fairly clean. This is when it helps to sit so many starters.
A Surprise Performer Who Looks Amazing: Outside linebacker Shayon Green is a third-stringer on the depth chart, but he played a lot Sunday night and consistently showed a quick pass rush. On a few plays, he looked amazing at doing that. He looked anything but on a 34-yard touchdown catch by Vikings tight end Mycole Pruitt. Green might have busted coverage on that play. Also looking impressive (aside from a fumble) was receiver C.J. Goodwin who got himself open several times.
Rookie Watch: Coates outmuscled the corner on a 12-yard catch but was on the wrong page with Jones on many plays, including an end zone sequence that should have been a score. Coates beat his man with a stutter step, then stopped short in the end zone when Jones threw him deep. Coates showed enough promising signs but has one catch catch to show for it, though he did draw a pass interference on an attempted deep ball.
When It Was Starters v. Starters, Steelers Looked …: Fast and opportunistic on defense, thanks largely to inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier and Sean Spence. That’s an impressive group that’s setting the tone defensively. The front seven looks eager to tackle, which is a good sign this early.
One Reason To Freak Out, Good or Bad: Let’s go ahead and freak out about defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt, whose didn’t deliver any significant stats but looked great not delivering them. Tuitt wrecked the Vikings line on back-to-back plays, helping stuff a run and dragging two linemen with him toward the backfield to open rushing lanes for teammates. Tuitt has enormous potential despite his one-sack rookie year. On the bad side, not a good look for special teams to give up a 62-yard punt return to Stefon Diggs in the first preseason game.
First-round update: Outside linebacker Bud Dupree entered the game with the second-and third-string defense and didn’t create any splash plays but didn’t look out of place. He helped chase down a running back 20 yards from the line of scrimmage and almost reached the quarterback on a wide edge rush.
Mr. Sideline: Running back Dri Archer isn’t expected to bruise with linebackers at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, but Archer shouldn’t avoid contact, either. Several times, Archer looked to head toward the sideline prematurely, instead of cutting up field.