PITTSBURGH – In the first preseason game last week, it was rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins proving he belonged on an NFL field. In the second, it was Damarious Randall’s turn.
Getting his first preseason action Sunday in Pittsburgh after sitting out last week’s game in New England with a groin injury, Randall made an impressive leaping interception on the first play of the third quarter, snaring Landry Jones’ deep ball intended for Martavis Bryant along the sideline.
Noted for his ball skills as a safety in college at Arizona State, Randall showed the athleticism that made him a first-round pick back in April.
“I just knew the receiver was 6-5, so I had to go up and get it,” said Randall.
On the play, Randall said based on Pittsburgh’s formation and pre-snap motion, there were only a couple of routes Bryant could have run. He was ready for the go route, and like Rollins the week before, didn’t look like a rookie making his pro debut.
The day wasn’t perfect, as Randall appeared to get picked on a goal-line play on Ben Roethlisberger’s TD pass in the first half. Rollins also was beaten deep once, by rookie Sammie Coates, so there’s still plenty of work to do. But on the whole, there’s been a lot to like in the first two preseason games from the team’s top two draft picks.
“Coming from practice to being in a real game, it was a lot different,” said Randall, who was also credited with three tackles. “But playing against Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, with those guys being some of the most elite athletes you’re going to face this year, it helped slow the game down for me.”
Randall went to the locker room in the second half, but it was just for an IV due to cramping. He later returned to the game.
Another rookie cornerback, LaDarius Gunter, put together his second consecutive solid preseason outing.
Coming off an interception last week in New England, Gunter broke up two potential touchdown passes, one intended for Bryant and the other for Shakim Phillips. One play after the Phillips play on a deep ball, he prevented Phillips from catching a pass on a third-down crossing route with a well-timed break on the ball, forcing the Steelers to settle for a field goal.
Ups and downs: In the ongoing battle between Jeff Janis and Myles White on the Packers’ receiving depth chart, the two players left Pittsburgh with both good and bad moments on film. Both players, of course, may be getting more significant attention soon, depending on the test results on Jordy Nelson’s knee injury.
Janis caught back-to-back 9-yard passes from backup QB Scott Tolzien on the Packers’ two-minute drive at the end of the first half, and he made a tackle on special teams. He also nearly made a superb catch along the sideline but couldn’t quite get his feet down in bounds. But he also dropped a catchable pass on a third-down crossing route in the third quarter and lost track of a punt he failed to catch, almost resulting in a turnover.
“It was a really high kick with a weird spin on it, and the last 10 feet it took a weird angle,” Janis said. “Thankfully, I didn’t touch it.”
White had a similarly uneven day. As a punt gunner, he was flagged twice on the same punt, first for not coming back in bounds immediately after being shoved out, and then for grabbing an opponent’s facemask.
At receiver, White caught both passes thrown his way for a total of 12 yards. The most significant was a 6-yard grab on fourth-and-4 with the Packers just across midfield early in the third quarter that helped lead to a field goal.
“I just want to show the quarterbacks I can be a consistent target,” White said. “I think that’s what everybody wants on fourth down, have the ball come their way. I just made sure I converted to keep the drive alive.”
Two-point work: The Packers continued to get work on the two-point conversion on both sides of the ball.
On offense, the Packers went for two points after both of their touchdowns and converted on runs by James Starks and Alonzo Harris. Green Bay is now 2-for-4 on two-point plays in the preseason.
On defense, the Packers stopped two Steelers attempts for two, both on passes, with reserve cornerback Ryan White intercepting one in the end zone. Green Bay’s opponents are now 1-for-3 on two-pointers.
Watch: Randall talks first NFL Game
Watch: Randall grabs interception