2022 Dynasty/Fantasy Preseason Week 3 Game Report: Steelers 19, Lions 9
The Steelers ran their 1st-team for an entire half…facing (mostly) the Lions future-to-be-cut squad on both sides of the ball. You would want there to be more dominance from the Steelers offense here, against this weakened foe…but there wasn’t. The Steelers are in for a rude awakening come the regular season -- they don’t have the O-Line or QB play to compete at the level they’re accustomed to. They should be rebuilding, but they think they’re contenders. They’ll pivot in November when the season has gotten away from them.
The Lions did run some of their 1st-team weapons on offense against the Steelers for a bit…but with QBs (Blough, Boyle) who were cut by the team this week. The fact that the Lions to-be-cut QBs looked semi-decent vs. the Steelers 1st-team defense…another bad sign for Pittsburgh.
As we wrap the preseason, I am sure the Steelers are gonna be below .500 this campaign…and I would bet the Lions to have more wins than the Steelers, for sure. The Lions have a way better O-Line and QB with solid weapons all around the offense with a sketchy but gritty defense, a defense that will be better or equal to the (bad) Steelers’ defense.
If the Lions catch a few breaks, they might sneak into the wild card this season. I usually loathe all NFL head coaches and their staffs, but Dan Campbell is the right coach for that city/team and he and his staff have the full attention/engagement of the players. In a few years, it will wear thin…but Campbell is building something his way right now.
I think Mike Tomlin is also building something ‘his way’, and that’s the problem. This team is getting progressively worse in talent and wins -- while the division that has been pretty easy for a decade+, with previously awful Cleveland and Cincinnati, is now getting tougher and the Bengals have blown way past the Steelers. Having a lot of cool WRs doesn’t make the Steelers ‘contenders’.
In the past decade, Tomlin is (3-7) in the playoffs. In the past five years, he’s (0-3) in the playoffs. The offense and defense both finished bottom half of the league last year for the first-time in Tomlin’s 16-year HC career -- and they didn’t get any better this offseason (for 2022).
Dynasty/Fantasy Player Notes…
-- The Steelers WR report…
Chase Claypool (DNP) didn’t play as a precautionary move from an upper body injury sustained last week.
Diontae Johnson (1-38-0/1) hurt his shoulder on his big catch of the game and left the game to not return...it was a cautionary move as well.
Then there was George Pickens (3-35-0/5)…the odds-on favorite for league MVP, at this point…I think. The new hyped man by the mainstream. The media burned themselves out on Romeo Doubs, and they’ve found a replacement rookie love.
I’ve been watching Pickens closely for three weeks and I have no idea why Pickens has launched into the stratosphere of media attention. No different than the Isaih Pacheco nuclear heat for August…that had zero substance to it besides a tweet that he was ‘running with the 1s’ sometimes in practice. He didn’t do anything major on tape in the preseason, but that didn’t stop his rocket ship ride from a nonexistent ADP to a top 100 redraft option in some redrafts a week ago. At least Romeo Doubs had a long TD catch or two on tape…that people saw…on highlights in preseason games…but they failed to watch all his drops.
Pickens caught a nice TD in Week 1 of the preseason, a nice grab over a Seattle #4-5-6-7-8-9 corner, and note that Seattle has the worst corners in the league. You know what you didn’t see on Pickens TD catch? Something you could see but didn’t want to -- Pickens tightly covered but made a great catch. I’ve watched Pickens closely for three preseason weeks -- he’s always tightly covered.
In this game, Jeff Okudah had his way with Pickens. With Mitch Trubisky playing an entire half and with Claypool out and then Diontae quickly out…Pickens played almost all the 1st-team snaps but did not see a target until the 2nd-quarter…when he was defended tightly by Okudah and the pass his way on a slant to the end zone was easily knocked away by Okudah.
All I’ve seen of Pickens so far is -- run deep down the sidelines and usually not see a target, and then walk/meander back to the huddle and rinse-repeat. Claypool is present in the slot…the most freakish slot WR in football. Diontae has made plays with Trubisky in various ways this preseason. Pickens runs deep down the sidelines and an occasional deep ball flies his way, where he’s not open but might make an adjustment to come back to the ball for a catch.
In this game, Pickens looked like a WR who already believes his hype…half-hearted routes, forgetting to block or giving a good ‘fake look’ like he was trying to block…just a general uninspiring game from Pickens…a rookie who needs to prove himself…a rookie who fell in the NFL Draft due to ‘issues’ with his effort and attitude. It looks like Tomlin might have to lean into/coach up Pickens like he had to with Claypool the past two years. Claypool was immature…Pickens is more immature and is a rookie.
Pickens is running Claypool’s lame routes from 2021…and Claypool was 10x built better to run those deep ball decoys than Pickens. Pickens isn’t separating on most/all of his routes, against decent or better corners. Anyone thinking he’s the Steelers secret #1 WR right now is out of their minds. The hype on Pickens is way out of hand, as happens with rookies, but I’m cool with it -- because it’s driving down Claypool’s ADP radically.
Just note…be very cautious of getting caught up in this current Pickens hype. It’s not real. Not saying he’s not good, he’s really got skills -- but why isn’t Drake London or Christian Watson or Skyy Moore, among other rookie WRs, getting this royal treatment? What has Pickens done to deserve all this heat…when he’s the 3rd-best WR on his own team playing on a bottom 3rd-of-the-league passing game?
-- Mitch Trubisky (15-19 for 160 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) started and played about the whole 1st-half…with Najee-Pickens-Freiermuth, etc. Once Pickett came in, I believe there was no more Najee or Freiermuth (but a little more Pickens for a bit).
If this were a real battle for starting QB, Pickett would have started here to show what he had with the 1st-team offense…but that did not happen. Trubisky is definitely starting Week 1, and likely starting for 3-8 weeks until the fans clamoring/blaming Trubisky for the losses gets to be too much and they go with Pickett.
-- The Steelers RB situation/notes was interesting-ish from this game…
For some reason, Najee Harris (4-10-0, 3-11-0/3) played almost all the 1st-half…coming off a supposed sprained Lisfranc. All I can tell you is…he looked totally fine/looked normal. The Steelers O-Line stinks, again, so Najee (who desperately needs interior blocking) has little room to run. It will be an issue again this season. But he’ll volume his way to RB1, regardless.
What was working -- Trubisky loved to dump it off to Najee. The bad O-Line works for Najee dump pass needs/wants.
Najee-Claypool-Diontae could all fight to lead the team in receptions -- working with Trubisky. Pickens a distant 4th battling Pat Freiermuth (3-45-0/4) for #4 in the pecking order.
3rd or 4th series with the 1st-team offense, Jaylen Warren (7-11-0) entered the game some, then Najee rolled back in. Bennie Snell (5-17-0) came in after that. Snell may have not been with the 1st-team, or if he was it was for a blink. I don’t care what the depth chart says, Warren is the Najee handcuff…and is so good, he’s gonna play some and take a few touches from Najee.
Jaylen Warren is one of the most ‘I didn’t see that coming’ talents at RB (or any positions) that I’ve seen this preseason among the rookies. Really impressive. Shockingly so. I didn’t catch this at all 1st/2nd looks at Warren pre-NFL Draft.
-- Detroit did run their 1st-team WRs/TE in this game, for some reason, with their backup QB (and RBs)…against the Steelers 1st-team defense, which led to not much offensive firepower happening.
I just wanted to note: I’m coming around on Amon-Ra St. Brown (3-34-0/5). It’s easy to spot the analytics/’Moneyball’ prospects with a nifty algorithm comparing past performances and projecting. It’s harder to find good old fashioned ‘football players’ using ‘advanced metrics’. And it’s impossible to really know the true heart and dedication to craft/body of individual humans…try as I do to research background and take that into consideration.
ARSB is just a ‘gritty’ (I will honor Dan Campbell with that Hard Knocks ‘grit’ theme he espouses, because it fits) WR talent and more mentally prepared/tougher than your average NFL WR. What he lacks in gaudy measurables he makes up for with all the little things.
If you respect Amon-Ra, and you see the value of D.J. Chark, and you know T.J. Hockenson (1-15-0/2) is solid and D’Andre Swift has a pass game role -- how is it that Jameson Williams will just walk in and be a star among them right away?
That’s a question I’m asking myself.
It’s a question I’m asking about a lot of rookie WRs right now.