The Tennessee Titans visited Heinz Field as they squared off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in their “final dress rehearsal” of the 2018 preseason schedule. Here are my instant reactions & biggest observations from the 1st half of Saturday afternoons exhibition game:
1. Ben Roethlisberger made his preseason debut. His top two running-mates, Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell did not play. Opening series for Big Ben and Pittsburgh, they converted (3) 1st-downs against the Titans 1st team defense. Wesley Woodyard and Adoree Jackson making plays on the Steelers opening series. Tennessee forces a punt after a handful of 1st downs.
2. On the Titans opening offensive possession Matt LaFleur dialed up (2) play-action passes on the 1st two plays of the game. 1 resulted in a 1st down to Tajae Sharpe. The next play-action, on the very next play, resulted in a sack. 3rd & 10 on the opening series resulted in another 1st down to Sharpe. Titans also pick-up (3) 1st downs (one via penalty) and then stall out and are forced to punt after Mariota misses a wide-open Corey Davis on a deep square-in.
3. Former Vols WR Justin Hunter beats Adoree Jackson for a TD. Great separation by Hunter late in the route and a good throw from Ben beats Jackson for the score. Not a good look. 7-plays, 80-yards, 1:45 drive.
4. Mariota misses Corey Davis on the 2nd drive, for a 2nd time. This time he just didn’t throw it to him in the flat, instead he scrambled and slid for no-gain. Then Mariota on 3rd down sailed Davis and misses him for a 3rd time in the game.
5. Adoree Jackson bounces back on 4th and 1 and breaks up a pass covering JuJu Smith-Schuster.
6. Mariota sacked again off of play-action. Do the Titans have enough offense if they fall behind the chains and have 2nd and 17’s?
7. Ben 11-18, 114-yards and a TD. Ratings just under 100. Ben looked like he played all 3-games. Marcus looked like it was his exhibition debut.
8. Mariota INT. Just a brutal day for him. Missing wide open receivers, mostly Corey Davis. Then gets picked off. Finished the day 5-for-8, 43-yards and an INT.
9. Agreed with Vrabel to bring Gabbert out for 2-minute drill. Marcus had nothing. Wasn’t going to lead a 2-minute drill successfully. September 9th vs Miami is what matters most. Charles Davis said it best: “Discretion is the better part of valor.”
10.Year 4. Preseason game 3. These mistakes were on Mariota. No excuses. Has nothing to do with Walker and Matthews out. Nor is it on Matt LaFleur. Flat-out missed Corey Davis 3-times and showed poor decision making.