With the first Pittsburgh Steelers preseason game of the year -- a 16-7 loss to the Washington Redskins -- in the books, let's take a look at the good and the bad.
Redman was terrific against Washington, rushing for 42 yards on just five carries (8.4 ypc). Most of Redman's production came on one powerful run where the second-year rusher spun through a cluster of defenders and took it down the sideline 22 yards for the score, Pittsburgh's only points of the evening. Redman had just 52 carries last year (4.8 ypc), but it's clear to anyone that he can play. The Steelers are really lucky to have him waiting in the wings in case Rashard Mendenhall's wheels fall off. Along with third-down specialist Mewelde Moore, Redman comprises one of the deeper backfields in the league.
With fellow second-year receiver Emmanuel Sanders rehabbing a foot injury, Brown had plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents. I don't want to want to get ahead of myself or anything -- it was just a preseason game, after all -- but Brown sure looked like a future NFL starter on Friday night. He made four grabs for 64 yards in limited action and would've had one more if not for a defensive pass interference penalty on a third-down hitch. Brown's routes were crisp, his hands were Velcro. He even had a great block downfield that helped spring Redman's long score. Assuming he keeps his head on straight, there's no reason this kid can't compete with Sanders in a year or two for the privelege of starting opposite Mike Wallace. And even if he only ends up third on Pittsburgh's depth chart, slot receiver is a crucial component in Bruce Arians' offensive scheme. Brown is bound to contribute for many years to come.
The Steelers' rookie first-rounder didn't get a lot of quality looks at defensive end, but there was a lot to like about his performance, even if it was against second- and third-string Redskins. Heyward showed excellent power while controlling his gap, disrupting lanes, and blowing up running plays, as well as admirable hussle rushing the passer. Along with fellow first-round defensive end Ziggy Hood, Heyward is the future of Pittsburgh's defensive front -- and that'll come sooner, rather than later. Expect Dick LeBeau to sprinkle Heyward into Pittsburgh's rotation up front, especially if old-timers Aaron Smith or Brett Keisel fall to injury.
The Redskins' Quarterback Controversy
Allow me to channel my inner Jeff Foxworthy for a moment. (Now there's a sentence I'm certain I've never said.) If your alleged quarterback controversy involves Rex Grossman, Kellen Clemens, and John Beck...you might be the worst team in the NFL. That said, the competition might be kaput if Grossman is as effective througout the preseason as he was against the Steelers Friday evening. Don't get me wrong, Rex still threw up some ducks, as per his usual. And he still did this thing I sort of admire him for where he just throws the ball to an empty area of the field, like some kind of like some bizarro performance artist challenging our aesthetic conventions. But all told, Grossman was uncharacteristically efficient, going 19-of-26 for 207 yards (7.96 ypa).
"Today Tastes So Good"
KFC's horrifying new slogan is truly one that only the mother of an ad executive could love. Seriously, this sounds something Gary Busey would come up with if he was charged with the task of crocheting an inspirational quote onto a decorative pillow.
Gay wasted no time getting his year off to the kind of look-Ma-no-coverage start we really ought to expect of him at this point. On his very first play from scrimmage, he was smoked on a 16-yard slant from Santana Moss. I really, really hope Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden can stay healthy throughout the season and third-year man Keenan Lewis steps up to fill the nickelback role. Gay has produced from time to time in the past, so while his celing is respectable, there's just no underestimating his floor.
The League's New Kickoff Rule
One of the league's many new rule tweaks requires teams to kickoff from the 35, not the 30. If the recent slate of preseason contests is any indication, this essentially signals the death of the kickoff return for the season. The NFL's reasoning, I guess, is that too many injuries take place on kickoffs, when special teamers have a lot of time and space to reach their top speeds. I get that, but this is a case of slightly improving safety at the cost of erasing an exciting and important part of football. Mark my words, this year we'll see less than half as many return yards league-wide as last year, just from an increase in touchbacks.
With James Harrison ailing, Worilds got the start at outside linebacker, getting abused throughout the first quarter in the run game. Recent Washington acquisition Tim Hightower racked up 52 total yards, most of which came when the Redskins ran stretch plays left, toward Worilds. If he wants to work his way into the linebacker rotation more in 2011 and pave his way to be Harrison's successor in a couple seasons, Worilds needs to prove that he's more than just a pure pass rusher.