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.

Post-Steelers vs. Colts thoughts

August 27, 2017
Indianapolis Colts linebacker John Simon (51) knocks the ball out of the hands of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) for a fumble during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

Ross Cockrell, William Gay and Robert Golden were on the field to start Saturday’s 19-15 loss to Indianapolis.

But they rotated every other series with Coty Sensabaugh, Mike Hilton and Jordan Dangerfield.

You don’t often see teams considered Super Bowl contenders still trying to figure things out in their starting lineup this late in the preseason, but that seems to be the case with the Steelers.

The Golden vs. Dangerfield situation seems to be a battle for the No. 3 safety spot. And both will likely be on this roster behind Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis, unless the Steelers feel they can move Gay there in a pinch and have to save a roster spot for rookie corner Brian Allen.

The Steelers took a look at Gay at safety this week and Hilton can play there, as well, which could make things interesting.

Sensabaugh vs. Cockrell and Hilton vs. Gay also are interesting.

And we also saw rookie Mike Sutton finally get onto the field in this one. He also was used in the slot and made some plays.

At this point, I’d go with Sensabaugh and Hilton. The Steelers also used a dime package where Gay comes in and plays the inside linebacker spot next to Ryan Shazier.

Hilton has been a playmaker throughout this process. He needs to be on the field somewhere.

Cockrell is a smart guy. And he’s solid when facing the quarterback. He knows the defense and doesn’t miss many tackles.

But his confidence seems to be shaken right now. That might only be natural given the lower tender the Steelers put on him as a restricted free agent, their free agent flirtations and acquisition of Sensabaugh and then the selection of Sutton and Allen in the draft.

@ I don’t foresee any of those players being cut, by the way.

@ We saw Saturday night what happens when you’ve had a lot of guys in and out of the lineup throughout a preseason.

While the Steelers’ offense as a whole has been relatively healthy, the one area where they haven’t been has been on the offensive line, where Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster and Alejandro Villanueva all missed some time.

That was very apparent on a missed assignment by Villanueva, where it did not appear he heard Roethlisberger check out of a run play and call a pass.

Villanueva blocked down, allowing linebacker John Simon a nearly free run at Ben Roethlisberger.

@ The Steelers went into this game wanting to take a long look at Knile Davis as a runner.

He got off to a nice start on the opening possession, getting to the outside. But once the Colts figured out that all Davis wanted to do was bounce outside, it was tough sledding for Davis.

To me, Terrell Watson is just a much better player.

He runs downhill, gets what he can and always falls forward.

Roethlisberger chided Davis after one run for no gain when he tried to get outside instead of just hitting it up inside and picking up a yard or two.

Davis also hasn’t shown much as a return man.

Again, I’d keep Watson, but the Steelers might not want to go into the season with a pair of unproven running backs - rookie James Conner would be the other - behind Le’Veon Bell.

And I don’t see Fitzgerald Toussaint being the guy, either. He’s as ordinary as grits - to steal a Mike Tomlinism.

@ Given his lack of practice time over the past month - he only started throwing the ball again in the two practices leading up to this game - I thought Landry Jones performed well.

The interception he threw in the end zone was more about JuJu Smith-Shuster stopping on the route than it was a bad pass by Jones.

Then again, the way Watson was running, you could just as easily put that on Jones, who checked into that play instead of just handing the ball off.

Watson said after the game that it was the right play call given what the Colts had on the field, but the Steelers needed a yard.

There was no need for a replay of the Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl play.

@ If there was any doubt about Ryan Shazier’s importance to this defense, his interception and quick exit from the game afterward should end that.

Shazier is the most athletic inside linebacker in the NFL. And he has great hands and a nice feel in the passing game.

Shazier said after this game his goal is to play in all 20 games this season.

But if he stays on the field for all 16 regular season games, the Steelers would only need to play 19 games to have a shot to win the Super Bowl.

But the Steelers can’t afford for Shazier to miss any time. He’s a game changer and potential NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

@ Justin Hunter didn’t play much in this one, while Sammie Coates did.

But that could have been because the Steelers kept Martavis Bryant in well into the second half.

@ Rookie T.J. Watt started and played most of the first half with the starting unit.

James Harrison saw his first action and played with the second-team defense.

Does that mean that will be the case when the regular season starts? No.

But that’s where this thing is headed, as outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said two weeks ago.

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