An August Body Of Work

Shamarko Thomas (LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

The Steelers deserved to lose their preseason opener, as Mike Prisuta points out with his list of mistakes. But it's nothing that can't be corrected.

Perhaps the air went out of the balloon when it was announced shortly before kickoff that Le'Veon Bell wouldn't be playing on Saturday night after all.

Bell was held out with a sore knee, so we'll have to wait until Aug. 19 at Washington, presumably, to see the presumptive nominee at running back.

As for those who managed to make it onto the Heinz Field turf and battle the New York Football Giants, as Bill Cowher might have said, it was no Mozart.

The mistakes the Steelers made were the type that would make Mike Tomlin boil after Labor Day.

Despite the preseason-opener circumstances, he was still less than pleased.

"Obviously, it was not an acceptable performance on a lot of levels," Tomlin said.

A quick screw-up review:

The Steelers committed a holding penalty (offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert), leaked a sack, committed a penalty on special teams (linebacker Marshall McFadden down the field illegally on a punt), and suffered a blocked punt on the re-punt, after which New York took over on the Steelers' 5-yard line.

That was all during or at the end of the Steelers' first possession.

Subsequent miscues included the burning of two timeouts in less than a minute on the same opening-period drive, a missed open-field tackle by safety Ryan Clark that converted a third-and-9 for New York, and the hemorrhaging of a 57-yard touchdown pass on which wide receiver Victor Cruz eluded cornerback William Gay, Clark and safety Troy Polamalu.

All of that occurred before the end of the first quarter.

Safety Robert Golden dropped what could have/should have been a pick-six in the first minute of the second quarter.

In the last minute of the second quarter, linebacker Jason Worilds was flagged for a pair of personal fouls in a three-snap sequence, the second of which got him yanked to the sidelines.

"It wasn't good times," Worilds acknowledged of the conversation he had with Tomlin upon exiting. "It wasn't a good time at all.

"I'm a veteran. I should know to make smarter plays."

There was also a false start against slot receiver Markus Wheaton prior to a third-and-10 from the Giants' 44.

The first half ended with the Steelers having been penalized six times for 47 yards and the Giants zero times for zero yards.

In the third quarter, quarterback Landry Jones began his career by adhering to the safety-first approach. Yep, he was tackled in the end zone for a safety on his first NFL snap.

That fiasco had been made possible by wide receiver David Gilreath fielding a punt inside the 5-yard line and by a subsequent illegal block penalty against wide receiver Justin Brown.

The play did nothing for the bid of either to take a shot at stealing the roster spot vacated by the injury to Plaxico Burress.

The next time Gilreath settled under a punt he muffed it, allowing the Giants to take possession at the Steelers' 28.

You'll have this stuff in the preseason.

That the Steelers succumbed to so much of it all at once shouldn't be taken as representative, but nor should it be viewed as much of a surprise.

Given the state of the depth chart on the offensive line, at tight end, in the secondary and at quarterback after Bruce Gradkowski, to name a few positions, it's likely to happen again in August, presumably on Aug. 19 at Washington.

The positives included the quick-change stand by the first-team defense after the blocked punt, the way running back LaRod Stephens-Howling operated behind the work-in-progress outside-zone stuff and the bootleg completion Gradkowski executed off an outside-zone look. Ben Roethlisberger is going to be lethal doing that in the regular season.

That's what should resonate from Giants 18, Steelers 13.

We should also see the top end of the draft class continue to spread its wings in the coming weeks. Linebacker Jarvis Jones, Bell, Wheaton and safety Shamarko Thomas are going to do a lot of good things this season, much more than they accomplished on Saturday night. The momentum they've generated at St. Vincent College is real, and they've impressed their veteran teammates on and off the field.

Clark described the foursome as "the most humble group of guys we've had come through here as far as young guys who want to help, want to work, want to be a part of the organization.

"I've never seen a group accept it the way they have and accept leadership the way they have."

So that's one big problem from last season that's already solved.

As for the rest of what we saw Saturday night, swallow hard and digest it while counting the days until September.

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