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"The News" from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 14-3 Preseason Loss to the Minnesota Vikings

Mike Tomlin

Mike Tomlin

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been known to address his team collectively in the locker room with often-critical assessments he calls "The News."

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Here's "the news" following the Steelers’ performance in their first preseason game, Sunday night’s 14-3 loss to Minnesota Vikings in the Pro Football Hall of Game in Canton, Ohio.

Landry Jones

It's hard to imagine a third-string quarterback having any significant impact on any team. The fact is if Ben Roethlisberger were to miss any significant time in 2015, Pittsburgh's Super Bowl hopes would likely be doomed.

But the longer Bruce Gradkowski is on the Physically Unable to Perform list, the more likely the quarterback who would figure to be third-string in 2015 will be only a play away from guiding the team. And Jones has shown nothing to make fans feel he can fill in capably, a la Charlie Batch.

Related: Sunday's Hall of Fame Game is Make-or-Break Moment for Steelers' Landry Jones

In his last two preseason starts, Jones has produced a grand total of three points. He showed little accuracy in throwing a ball of any distance; his one completion of 35 yards to Shakim Phillips in the second quarter came only after Phillips made a spectacular one-handed catch. While a 12-yard completion to rookie Sammie Coates in the first quarter showed Jones' arm strength, as it came after the ball was tipped but still stayed on target.

One dropped pass is the fault of the receiver. Consistently dropped passes indicates the quarterback lacks touch. The latter seems to be true in the case of Jones, who only completed half of his 32 passes for just 4.2 yards per attempt.

Tomlin coached the game as if he lacked confidence in Jones; calling for a draw play on 3rd and 9 in the first quarter and initially going with Tyler Murphy, attempting to become a wide receiver/quarterback hybrid, behind center in the third quarter after the Steelers fell behind 14-3.

Tahj Boyd must play at Jacksonville on Friday. If the Steelers wish to make Murphy their third-string quarterback (having to play a third-stringer is an act of desperation in the first place; at least Murphy or fellow hybrid Devin Gardner would provide a wild card), a traditional backup must be found if Gradkowski can't begin the season. Boyd, at least, has a history with Martavis Bryant at Clemson.

Ryan Shazier
Now we see a bit of what the Steelers saw in him when they picked him in the first round last year. His ability to take out the lead blocker allowed Steve McLendon to stop Minnesota running back Jerick McKinnon for a slight loss on 4th and 1 in the first quarter, and his two stops in the final minute of the first half forced a Vikings punt.

Front Seven

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Nice performance. While there was only one sack, the front seven consistently closed the gaps and put pressure on all three Minnesota quarterbacks. This game could have theoretically been a 3-0 Steelers victory but for a breakdown when Mike Pruitt beat Sean Spence over the middle on a crossing pattern for a 39-yard touchdown pass from Mike Kafka. Another mistake came when Brad Wing outkicked his coverage on a 59-yard punt in the third quarter that led to a 62-yard return from Stefon Diggs to give Minnesota the ball on the Steelers' three-yard line.

Shaun Suisham

Tomlin calls his knee injury made during kickoff coverage "potentially significant." Heinz Field has historically been murder for kickers, but just two years ago Suisham missed only two kicks all season. Suisham is a known commodity. If he is to miss any regular season time, thankfully there is still a month to find a suitable replacement.

Dri Archer

Fast. Could have better hands. Could he find his way on the field on first and second downs, too?

Kevin Fogg

Great hustle in tackling Diggs before he could score on the punt return. And the interception, though a case of being in the right place at the right time, deserves praise as Fogg was in the right place at the right time to catch the deflection. Could be a special teams ace, which often leads to bigger and better things.

Secondary

No safety to pick up Pruitt on his touchdown catch shows there's still much room for improvement.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

We presume he is still on the team. But after Phillips' and Coates' emergence, how much longer?

Jesse James

Rookie tight end dropped two passes, including a potential touchdown in the second quarter that could have put the Steelers up at the half. No matter. More Dottie West and less Wiz Khalifa over the Heinz Field loudspeaker and tailgate parties is a good thing.

— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson has been a contributor to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 15 years. He has covered the Steelers, Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.