“He was in command,” said Schwartz. “I thought Matt was in control, I thought we did a good job protecting him. He was on his feet back there and I was impressed.”
He finished with 29 yards on six carries and a nine-yard reception, showing his ability to cut back and turn negative plays into positive yardage.
But one thing Schwartz was impressed with was his ability to pass protect.
At 5-10 and 199 pounds, critics question Best’s ability to be an every-down back. But he handled the load on Saturday and was able to pick up on the Pittsburgh blitzes and protect his quarterback.
“They blitzed an awful lot,” said Schwartz, “and he did a good job in protection.”
After an offseason of talk regarding all of Detroit’s offensive weapons, Stafford was also able to spread the ball around to many of them.
“It felt good (to get back out there),” said Stafford. “First time I’ve been out on the field since Cincinnati and I felt good. I felt like I was in the flow of the game.”
Stafford capped off his playing time with an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive that ended in a two-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson.
He hopes finding Johnson in the end zone will be commonplace this season.
“He’s a mismatch for everybody,” said Stafford. “The first one I threw to him, I didn’t throw a great ball, but they were just overplaying the fade on it big time. I’m trying to play on top, and if they’re just going to do that then I’m just going to keep throwing them to the back shoulders.
“It’s tough for guys to defend him, especially if they’re not committing anyone over the top. They’re blitzing both safeties in the V-gaps. If they’re going to do that then we got to put it up to the big guy.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the starting front four looked the way the coaching staff had hoped. They applied consistent pressure from all angles.
Rookie defensive tackle
“We’ve got to get a feel for each other,” said Avril of the defensive line. “All four of us have to work together, but we are coming along pretty good. (We’ve been) practicing pretty good together and I think we are developing something good.”
The line definitely had good chemistry going at Pittsburgh.
The hope throughout the offseason and training camp has been the interior line creating pressure to open things up for the ends.
Vanden Bosch and Avril capitalized on that against the Steelers; Vanden Bosch ended two drives with quarterback pressure while Avril notched the team’s only sack.
“The thing we’ve got to do is get everybody going,” said Vanden Bosch. “We’ve got to keep that consistency throughout the game. In order for us to be a really good defense this year, we’re going to need to go two to three deep at a lot of our positions.”
Schwartz shares Vanden Bosch’s concern, citing after the game that, “the problem is we fell off significantly after (the starters) left the field.”
“I like what I saw from the first defense,” said Schwartz. “Even after the turnover, (they) went out, held them to a field goal (and) did their job. Really good pass rush. I thought they did a good job clogging the run up for the most part.”
With injuries being a reality in the NFL, Schwartz knows he will ultimately have to count on non-starters in critical situations throughout the season.
With one preseason game officially on film, Schwartz and his coaching staff can correct and move forward before the regular season begins.
“We had a hard time handling the scrambling quarterback – (it) made us look bad at times,” said Schwartz. “(We) blew a couple coverages that were really, really easy coverages.
“Guys that were in there in those second, third and fourth quarters, we need to be able to count on them at some time this year. The way we went today, they haven’t proved they can be counted on yet.”