GREEN BAY – Rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins had a big game in the Packers’ preseason opener last week, a 22-11 win in New England. At least, it was thought he had a big game. His position coach has a different opinion.
“Rollins made good plays, not great plays because we didn’t catch them. We’re not going to be satisfied. We dropped two balls. He hasn’t caught many balls in this camp. He’s got to catch the ball. If he doesn’t, somebody will,” Cornerbacks Coach Joe Whitt said in previewing this Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.
Much is expected of Rollins, the Packers’ second-round draft pick, and first-round pick Damarious Randall, a rare one-two cornerback punch at the top of the Packers’ draft. Much is expected because much is needed after losing cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency. The Packers need Rollins and Randall to develop quickly, for they represent the depth every team needs at cornerback.
Rollins was involved in three pass breakups in New England. Randall missed the game due to injury, but undrafted rookie cornerback LaDarius Gunter provided a game-changing interception in the third quarter.
“You saw they were close in the coverage against the Patriots,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said of Rollins and Gunter. Randall is expected to play in Pittsburgh.
Against last season’s No. 2 pass offense in the league, how might the Packers’ young cornerbacks fare? How much playing time will they get against Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and company?
Those are topical questions heading into this game because it’s the Steelers’ third preseason game and the Packers are coming off more than a week of rest. Will this game be the equivalent of a game three of the preseason, largely considered to be the best of the preseason?
“We’ve had a couple of extra days of work. This will be the only time in the preseason we’ll have a full week to go through our game work. We’ll have to wait and see how long they play their frontline guys. It’ll be a great evaluation for us,” Capers said of Sunday’s game, a noon (CDT) kickoff.
“The challenge this week is their offense is extremely talented. They have a veteran quarterback, they run the ball well and they have real speed at the wide receiver position. Ben (Roethlisberger) has the arm strength to get the ball deep late. I have a feeling their guys will play longer because it’s their third preseason game,” Capers said.
Second-year defensive lineman Mike Pennel was impressive in New England. He was credited with a tackle for a loss and he was forceful in holding the point of attack. Will he get playing time against Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, considered to be one of the best at his position in the league?
“Big man, good movement for a big man,” Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac said of Pennel. “He’s just starting to learn the fundamentals of the game. With more technique, he can be a good player.”
At 6-4, 332, Pennel has prototypical nose tackle size and strength, but Trgovac is also playing Pennel at end.
“He has the height and length to move out to other positions. You don’t play pure nose that often, because you’re in nickel so much,” Trgovac explained. “We have to keep getting better. (Thursday’s) practice was spirited. The big thing is take steps forward. We’re honing in on our technique and fundamentals.”
Photos: Studying for the Steelers