Notepad Extract: First Pittsburgh Steelers QB Contest Winner and 8 Other Observations


Football is back. The Pittsburgh Steelers came out of the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium 1-0 with a lot to look back on.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said ahead of the game he wanted to watch everyone. Thursday night was about finding out what players can do in live game situations. Some with new roles, others looking for their first role.

When you look at the notepad following the game, nine notes stand out. Names kept appearing that impressed or did not impress. Either way, they were worth sharing.

All eyes are on the alternate quarterback’s competition, but there was a lot to observe and remember by the end of the Hall of Fame game.

Pressley Harvin won the post

The betting position battle is the most entertaining part of Steelers training camp. Not really, but a little at the same time.

Before Thursday night, it looks like Jordan Berry and Harvin were neck and neck. However, anyone can look great in shorts and headphones.

Once the game clock started, Harvin came to play. He pulled off a perfect punt on the one-yard line that silenced all enemies. It was his second punt of the game – the first landing inside the 10.

Then he went into the second half and landed one inside the 15.

Even a normal punt turned into a fumble.

It is no longer a competition. Give Harvin the job.

Tre Norwood has potential

Norwood started in free safety for Minkah Fitzpatrick and he played well for a sixth-round rookie. He almost had an interception and was credited with a field goal.

Not a bad start in the NFL.

There is some concern about his tackle. He didn’t seem like the strongest guy on the pitch and missed a tackle or two. It is something that could come with comfort. Once he’s less in his head on the pitch, more natural tackles could come.

It wasn’t a bad first game, however. Definitely a player to watch.

Alex Highsmith is that guy

The Smitty Spin is a registered trademark in Pittsburgh. Bud Dupree? Yes, he was replaced.

The Steelers knew what they were doing when they drafted Highsmith. They put a very good learning player in a room with TJ Watt and Dupree. Are you telling me that it is not destined for greatness?

In the Hall of Fame Game, Highsmith was the only starting rusher on the court. So we haven’t gotten to see Melvin Ingram yet. But judging by Highsmith’s performance, he’s the starter – and rightly so.

This three-headed monster looks scary. And only one of them played.

Side note: Cassius Marsh doesn’t look bad. He had some pressure in the first half and worked well against Highsmith. When the pads lit up, Marsh came over to play.

The team seems lost with Rudolph

Mason Rudolph looked a little nervous in the pocket, which is becoming a trend for the fourth-year quarterback.

It was an opportunity for him or Dwayne Haskins to take the lead in the alternate quarterback competition, but neither did. Rudolph had no chemistry with his receivers, and apart from a through pass to Chase Claypool – which Claypool dove in to catch – there was no spark of passing play.

Time is running out for Rudolph to prove he’s a starting NFL quarterback. This team just doesn’t seem to click with him on the pitch.

Stat Line: 6/9, 84 yards, 0 touchdown

James Pierre proves he’s the backup

Pierre was one step behind on a few passes thrown in his direction, but there were times when he shone.

At this point, Pierre is a player who is going to play a decent size role on this defense. He will be the first cornerback on the field behind Cameron Sutton and Joe Haden, and could start a few games if Sutton moves inside.

It wasn’t a bad start for someone going from an undrafted rookie to some serious playing time. There is more to come, and his development should grow with every game.

Side note: Justin Layne had a nice streak in the second quarter, but it came after a catch from over 20 yards. It was an impressive recovery, but not something the Steelers could, or should, count on.

Donovan Stiner continues to impress

Stiner came into play after an exceptional week at training camp. He finished the team’s last practice on Tuesday with an interception on a Josh Dobbs pitch. Then he walked into the game and grabbed one from Ben DuNucci.

Stiner is fighting hard for a place behind Miles Killebrew and Tre Norwood. It will be a challenge but it is not impossible.

If he’s going to be in the roster this season, it will come from his special teams game. Making plays in defense will certainly increase his odds, however.

This is a player at the bottom of the list of players, but who has done enough to put a pin on his name. Keep looking at # 26.

Kalen Ballage on Someone

Look, it doesn’t matter who Ballage beats to make this list (besides Najee Harris and Anthony McFarland), but he has to be one of the 53 men.

Ballage has more power and vision than Jaylen Samuels. Benny Snell Jr. still has the potential to thrive well if used correctly, but Samuels may have peaked – and it’s not a high climb.

He entered this game doing just about every “sleeper to do list” story. He only improved that stock in this game.

Stat Line: 5 rushes, 19 yards, 1 touchdown

Give this man a shot!

Dwayne Haskins was fine but showed potential

Haskins didn’t have a great game but he behaved well. Most of what Tomlin and the coaches were looking for was his ability to protect the ball. He did that well.

Haskins had a few plays where you watched him go through all of his progressions. There were also times when it would pop out of its pocket, or take off, as needed.

“I liked his behavior,” said Tomlin. “He was a very good communicator. He was present and cerebral as you like the position of quarterback. But there is so much ball in front of him and the others.”

All around, the third-year quarterback showed why he got caught in the first round. That’s not to say he overtook Rudolph, but if you think about the future, Haskins showed a lot more promise.

Sadly, Tomlin said on Tuesday that next season will play no part in his battle with the quarterback. We’ll see how true that is when Haskins starts the next game.

Stat Line: 8/13, 54 yards, 0 touchdown

Josh Dobbs gets in the race

Dobbs lined up on third and goal and found Tyler Simmons on a quick run that I don’t think Rudolph does. Haskins doesn’t lose his place on this team, but Rudolph could – as crazy as it sounds.

Dobbs has to do a ton to beat Rudolph for the final quarterback spot. This is by no means impossible, and judging by the comfort, it is by far the most relaxed of the three.

In addition to his playing on the field, Ben Roethlisberger likes Dobbs’ intelligence. The Steelers could use it as a third option and keep him on the sidelines to continue calling games like he did last season.

“This guy won’t back down from the competition,” said Tomlin. “You keep asking me about Rudolph and Haskins, he’s not going anywhere. We’re in training camp several years ago and it was [Landry] Jones and Rudolph and Dobbs, and nobody asked me about Dobbs – and he came out. “

Who won the first look at the quarterfinals competition?

“Keep watching,” said Tomlin.

Stat Line: 4/6, 37 yards, 1 touchdown

Noah Strackbein is an editor at AllSteelers. Follow Noé on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.

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