Over six months later, football has returned to the land.
There's a dual nature to the annual Hall of Fame Game. The results are meaningless and the starters don't break a sweat, but what's not to like about the NFL season being born on a high school field knee deep in the cradle of football?
- If you've been burning all offseason for your Landry Jones fix, Sunday was your night. Fighting for a roster spot, the Steelers third-string passer spent the evening tossing balls to guys like Shakim Phillips, Matt Spaeth and Jesse James (not the equine-riding criminal). Playing well into the second half, Jones missed his share of open targets and threw for just four yards per pass. Finishing 15 of 32 for 128 yards with a pick, Jones devolved as the game waged on. He couldn't deliver a touchdown on a first-and-goal from the Minnesota 2, but we'll blame that on a wide-open James dropping the ball on fourth down. Bottom line: If the Steelers are leaning on Jones in the regular season, it only means apocalyptic disaster has struck.
- The Steelers went out of their way to make this contest a low-octane affair for paying fans, sitting a swarm of starters, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell, wideouts Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant, pass rusher Jarvis Jones and defensive backs Cortez Allen, Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas. Coach Mike Tomlin also skipped the game to get the oil checked on his pickup -- OK, he was there. The upshot: Fantasy heads must wait another week for a better idea of who's ahead in the Wheaton-Bryant race.
- Teddy Bridgewater has plenty of weapons, fantasy or otherwise. We got our first look at the Vikings quarterback playing with the tandem of Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson. We didn't see much from either, with Johnson catching his only target for one yard and Wallace dropping an underthrown lob by Bridgewater. Teddy showed the most chemistry with tight end Kyle Rudolph, who punctured the middle of Pittsburgh's defense for a pair of catches for 22 yards.
- Jerick McKinnon will vanish the minute Adrian Peterson hits the field, but I like his game when they use him as a pass-catcher in space. He shed a tackler and picked up yards after the catch on a 13-yard grab in the first quarter, but McKinnon was shoved to the ground on a third-down run between the tackles. "If only they had another running back who could pick up that extra yard," NFL Media's Michael Silver deadpanned in the press box.
- Dri Archer Watch: The Steelers jitterbug was frustrating to watch on a first-quarter attempt that saw him dance toward the sideline instead of fight upfield, but he made up for it with a lightning-quick 15-yard burst on a third-and-13 run. He shed three Vikings tacklers by our count. Archer remains intriguing.
- One to watch: Steelers third-round wideout Sammie Coates. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound rookie has endured an up-and-down camp, but he drew comparisons to Martavis Bryant before the draft and gives Roethlisberger a big-bodied target with 4.43 wheels. The Steelers continue to draft raw wideouts with upside; it will be interesting to see where Coates is by the end of the season.
- Cordarrelle Patterson is battling for a first-string role and found himself playing in the second quarter of this snoozer. The enigmatic wideout finished with just one grab for six yards, leaving us more impressed with fifth-round tight end MyCole Pruitt, who got wide open on a 34-yard scoring strike off a "Cadillac" pass from Mike Kafka in the second-quarter.
Veteran end Stephon Tuitt and speedy linebacker Ryan Shazier played well into the second quarter. Shazier was a wonder last preseason and -- finally healthy again -- looked impressive again tonight. The question, though, is how that secondary will hold up without Troy Polamalu. Granted, half of Pittsburgh's starting defense roamed the sideline in street clothes.
Sidenote 1: First-round linebacker Bud Dupree made little impact.
- Yes, football is back, but we're already itching for September: