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PITTSBURGH (AP) — The matchup was a mismatch. And it ended predictably: with Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Heyward shedding Tennessee Titans rookie guard Aaron Stinnie and driving quarterback Blaine Gabbert into the ground.
Heyward popped up and turned to the Pittsburgh sideline with his palms raised after picking up his first sack of the preseason early in the second half of a 16-6 victory on Saturday.
Asked if the pose was his way of asking the coaching staff if it had seen enough [url=http://www.raiderscheapstore.com/jordy-nelson-jersey-cheap]Jordy Nelson Jersey[/url] , Heyward just laughed.
“No, but it was something close to that,” Heyward said. “Because I should have got the sack way earlier and I was messing around.”
A not uncommon sentiment for the defending AFC North champions. A week after getting pushed around a bit by Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers in a lopsided loss in Green Bay, Pittsburgh’s defense responded by limiting Tennessee to 52 yards in the first half and keeping them out of the end zone until well after Heyward and the rest of the first stringers had departed.
Was it the “varsity” football coach Mike Tomlin was looking for? Heyward isn’t quite sure. But it’s as close as it gets in August.
“We game-planned a lot more this game,” Heyward said. “This is something you continue to do as preseason goes along. You start to add more and more. This was a dress rehearsal (but) it was one game. We don’t put a lot of stock into it, but just a good showing.”
Pittsburgh, which set a franchise record while leading the NFL with 56 sacks in 2017, never let Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota get comfortable.
Vince Williams, fresh off signing a new four-year contract last Thursday, took Mariota down in the first half.
So did defensive end Stephon Tuitt as the Steelers mixed and matched their defensive alignment far more frequently than they did in either of their first two preseason matchups.
“We don’t show all of our cards, but that’s part of the game,” Heyward said. “We’re putting little tidbits out there, stuff we’ve been working on. We’ll just keep evolving. That’s not something we’re set with but that’s part of the game. We have so many different fronts. Everybody has to be willing to play different spots and we’ll be ready to go next game.”
Tomlin has stressed the need for better fundamentals during training camp, particularly when it comes to tackling.
The Titans did little on the ground to take some of the pressure off Mariota. Running backs Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combined for just 23 yards rushing.
“We are just trying to get after it,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “We are just trying to make plays. As long as our communication and stuff is right, we have the talent.”
Including, Haden believes, on the back end. Rookie first-round pick Terrell Edmunds showcased why the Steelers took him with the 28th overall selection, stepping in front of Mariota’s pass late in the second quarter and returning it 30 yards.
Edmunds wasn’t focused on his electric pick as much as the resiliency showed by the starters after Green Bay moved the ball with relative ease.
“Last week we took a bad ‘L [url=http://www.seahawkscheapstore.com/delano-hill-jersey-cheap]Delano Hill Jersey[/url] ,'” Edmunds said. “We don’t want to take any ‘Ls’ even if it is preseason. It’s a big practice. It’s a big open practice you could say.”
There’s one more to go before things start to get serious. The Steelers (2-1) finish up their exhibition schedule Thursday night against Carolina. Heyward and the rest of Pittsburgh’s bold-faced names will get the night off.
For rookies such as inside linebacker Matthew Thomas — an intriguing prospect whose speed has caught the attention of the coaching staff and who ran with the starters for a handful of snaps on Saturday — it will be one last opportunity to show Tomlin they’re worthy of one of the 53 roster spots. For the starters, it will be one last chance to catch their breath before the real grind begins.
“I think (Saturday) was a good stand for us to be able to have as many defensive players out there and play pretty well,” Haden said.
“I think it’s just the standard. This is something we want to continue to do and as long as we get more and more reps and everybody is healthy going into the season, we should be fine.”
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (16-3)
OPEN CAMP: July 25, NovaCare Complex, Philadelphia
LAST YEAR: Won first Super Bowl title and franchise’s first NFL championship since 1960, defeating Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Patriots. Overcame losing several key players to injury, including QB Carson Wentz, LT Jason Peters, LB Jordan Hicks and others. Backup QB Nick Foles led way after Wentz tore ACL in Week 14, earning Super Bowl MVP honors. Coach Doug Pederson’s offense was balanced yet aggressive. Players bought into team-first attitudes. Defense thrived under coordinator Jim Schwartz. DT Fletcher Cox anchored deep line that included Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham. Special teams were solid despite losing PR Darren Sproles. Rookie K Jake Elliott showed strong leg.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DE Michael Bennett, DT Haloti Ngata, WR Mike Wallace, LB Corey Nelson, TE Richard Rodgers, rookie TE Dallas Goedert.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Offensive coordinator Frank Reich, QB coach John DeFilippo, TE Trey Burton [url=http://www.giantscheapstore.com/carl-banks-jersey-cheap]Carl Banks Jersey[/url] , RB LeGarrette Blount, DE Vinny Curry, CB Patrick Robinson, LB Mychal Kendricks, WR Torrey Smith, DT Beau Allen, TE Brent Celek, P Donnie Jones.
CAMP NEEDS: Wentz will be closely monitored but there’s no urgency to rush him with Foles still on team. His rehab will be biggest story this summer. Other key players returning from injury include Peters, Hicks, Sproles, special teams ace Chris Maragos and DT Tim Jernigan. Defense needs LB to emerge as replacement for Kendricks and CB to replace Robinson at nickel spot. Both QBs need to build chemistry with new Nos. 2-3 TEs.
EXPECTATIONS: Trying to become first Super Bowl champs to repeat since 2003-04 Patriots, and anything less will be considered disappointment. Wentz, Peters and other star players who missed playoffs last year are determined to win it all and won’t let teammates get complacent. Overall, team improved on paper but it’ll be difficult to match unique bond last year’s group had.
DALLAS COWBOYS (9-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Oxnard, California
LAST YEAR: Cowboys missed playoffs year after dynamic rookie tandem of QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott fueled Dallas to NFC-best 13 wins. Elliott’s six-game suspension during season over domestic violence allegations was big reason. Prescott’s performance dipped after winning NFL Offensive Rookie of Year in 2016. Offensive line was less consistent than usual. Defense was solid but not spectacular.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: LB Leighton Vander Esch, WR Allen Hurns, G Connor Williams, WR Tavon Austin [url=http://www.patriotscheapstore.com/john-hannah-jersey-cheap]John Hannah Jersey[/url] , WR Michael Gallup, TE Dalton Schultz, T Cameron Fleming, secondary coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: TE Jason Witten, WR Dez Bryant, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB Orlando Scandrick.
CAMP NEEDS: Cowboys need to sort out jumbled picture at receiver and tight end after dumping Bryant in cost-cutting move and somewhat surprising retirement of Witten, who went into broadcasting. WR Terrance Williams broke foot and was arrested during tumultuous offseason when Cowboys needed to know if he could take Bryant’s place atop receiving depth chart. Barring unexpected resurgence from six-year veteran, replacing Bryant will fall to Hurns and collection of rookies, other young players. Geoff Swaim likely to get first crack at replacing Witten, but Dallas likes Blake Jarwin. LB Jaylon Smith needs to show explosiveness in second season since recovery from major knee injury in college. Sean Lee needs to stay healthy. Without those developments, heavy responsibility could fall on Vander Esch as rookie.
EXPECTATIONS: Coach Jason Garrett has two playoff appearances and one postseason win in seven full seasons. Elliott saga and untimely injuries, particularly to offensive line, gave him pass last season. Hard to imagine owner Jerry Jones sticking with him if Cowboys miss playoffs again, particularly after offseason overhaul of coaching staff. Healthy and eligible Elliott figures to be factor in NFL rushing race after leading league as rookie two years ago. Elliott still led league in yards rushing per game during suspension-marred season. Prescott wasn’t as good at protecting ball year after rookie record for passer rating. Cowboys want him to feed off Elliott-powered running game. Dallas believes young talent in secondary can help defense make difference. Cowboys could use repeat from DeMarcus Lawrence, who finished second in NFL with 14 sacks last season and will play on franchise tag. Lawrence needs help, and prime candidate would be Taco Charlton, last year’s first-round pick.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7-9)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Richmond [url=http://www.49erscheapstore.com/aaron-burbridge-jersey-cheap]Aaron Burbridge Jersey[/url] , Virginia
LAST YEAR: Injuries, ineffective running game and porous run defense derailed playoff hopes. Nine starters were on injured reserve by end of season, including left tackle Trent Williams, tight end Jordan Reed, and linebacker Mason Foster. Quarterback Kirk Cousins surpassed 4,000 yards for third straight year, threw for 27 touchdowns and ran for four, but had three interceptions in season finale that turned out to be final game with team. Blowing 31-16 lead at New Orleans in November ended realistic postseason hopes before Thanksgiving. Receiver Josh Doctson showed hope for future with 35 catches for 502 yards and team-high six TDs. First-round pick Jonathan Allen flashed elite ability on defensive line before foot injury halted season five games in. Defense allowed 348 yards and 24 points per game. Offense couldn’t keep up while down several key weapons.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Alex Smith, WR Paul Richardson, LB Pernell McPhee, CB Orlando Scandrick, rookie RB Derrius Guice, rookie DL Daron Payne.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Cousins, WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Ryan Grant, TE Niles Paul [url=http://www.officialhockeyusashop.com/washington-capitals/evgeny-kuznetsov-jersey]Adidas Evgeny Kuznetsov Jersey[/url]
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