NFL from the Sidelines

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O-R Sports reporter Dale Lolley gets you the insider scoop on the NFL.

After hobnobbing around the NFL in the press boxes and sidelines, sports reporter Dale Lolley will let you know the insider scoop. Dale can also be heard on the Steelers radio network pre-game show prior to every game. Follow him on Twitter at dlolleyor.

Thoughts on the Steelers’ preseason opener

August 11, 2017
New York Giants quarterback Josh Johnson (8) is sacked by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) during the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

That was a heck of a start for T.J. Watt, but we shouldn’t crown him just yet.

Remember Ryan Shazier’s first preseason game a few years back against Buffalo? He played that game like he was Jefferson in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, making every tackle, every play possible - reaching double digits in tackles in the first half alone.

Watt is good. That he’s a player isn’t in doubt.

But both of his sacks Friday night were more or less hustle sacks - particularly the second one when he came in unblocked.

On his first sack, on the Giants’ first drop back of the game, came when Cam Heyward flushed the pocket from the right side, forcing Josh Johnson into the waiting arms of Watt, who had driven left tackle Erick Flowers up Johnson’s back.

@ Josh Dobbs had the kind of game you’d expect to see out of a rookie playing in his first game. Some good. Some bad. A lot of up and down.

Dobbs had a good arm and his ability to push the ball downfield accurately is NFL level. But he struggles with short-to-medium-range passes.

That’s something, I believe, that can be worked on to improve.

But Landry Jones isn’t in any danger of losing the No. 2 job behind Ben Roethlisberger - at least not this year.

@ JuJu Smith-Shuster suffered a concussion covering a punt in the first quarter, providing a short night for a player I was looking forward to seeing more of.

Smith-Shuster had one catch for four yards and a nifty end around for nine yards before leaving, but had been coming on strong at training camp after sitting out the first few days.

We’ll see if Smith-Shuster is cleared in time to play next week against Atlanta.

@ Mike Hilton continued to play like, well, Mike Hilton.

Last week in an interview with Carnell Lake, I compared the 5-9, 185-pound Hilton to Willie Williams. Lake went with another teammate from that era, corner/safety Chris Oldham.

Lake went as far as saying he sees Hilton playing that dime defensive back role that Oldham played.

Hilton showed excellent instincts on his blitzes Friday night, getting to the quarterback one time, forcing a bad fourth-down throw on another and making a stop on fourth-and-short on a run play.

He’s just a football player.

@ Knile Davis looked better as a runner than he has at training camp. Davis finished with 34 yards on eight carries, a solid 4.3 yards per carry.

Terrell Watson also looked good, even showing the ability to get around the end on his 15-yard touchdown run that was keyed by a nice block from tight end Jake McGee.

Fitzgerald Toussaint had six carries for 19 yards but the first-team offensive line, minus center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, had its hands full with the Giants’ front four.

Part of the reason for that was because the Giants really showed little respect for Dobbs’ ability to throw the ball downfield.

@ It was a nice game for Cobi Hamilton, who has been the guy that has been something of an afterthought in the Steelers’ wide receiver battle.

Hamilton will still have a tough time making this team, especially with Martavis Bryant returning to practice Sunday and Sammie Coates likely to follow shortly.

But Hamilton is a guy who can play somewhere in this league. It just won’t likely be with the Steelers - unless they have a bunch of injuries.

@ Rookie long snapper Colin Holba’s snaps were solid in his first NFL action.

I’m not going to pretend to know if they were what was required. But there were no glaring mistakes.

@ The inside linebackers acquitted themselves well, particularly L.J. Fort.

Tyler Matakevich is the team’s top backup. But Fort is battling with Steven Johnson, who had an interception negated by a holding penalty, and Keith Kelsey for one or two more spots.

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