Is Damoun Patterson the Steelers’ next Antonio Brown – or the next Terrell Watson?
If there is any at all, the fun of the preseason is defined by an unheralded new face doing something unexpected.
But when an undrafted or lower-round draft pick makes you notice him? Therein lies the value of the preseason from a fan’s perspective.
So after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 31-14 preseason-opening victory against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday , much of the chatter surrounded a pair of undrafted rookies from smaller Ohio college programs: Youngstown State receiver Damoun Patterson and Toledo linebacker Olasunkanmi “Ola” Adeniyi.
The latter had a strip sack, the former game-highs with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown (followed by an impressive back flip, to boot).
Patterson has the size (6-2, 190), the speed (sub-4.5 seconds in the 40) and the attitude (“I love special teams,” he said) that if he impresses in the preseason, he very well could make the Steelers’ roster.
The analogy is far from perfect, of course. But want to know another relatively-unknown player who was also the star of his first preseason game? On Aug. 14, 2010, Antonio Brown had a 68-yard touchdown among his team-high three catches in a Steelers’ victory against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field.
Brown was the Steelers’ second sixth-round draft choice that year and the second receiver they took in that draft. In other words, as difficult as it is to believe now, in some ways he was the Damoun Patterson of the 2010 preseason opener.
However, far more likely than the first preseason game’s previously-unheralded star becoming a future Hall of Famer is him essentially peaking as a pro in that game.
Like Patterson (and Adeniyi) Thursday, here are players from the past four Steelers’ preseason openers who might have laid claim to “Player of the game” status:
2017 – Terrell Watson had a game-high 44 rushing yards, and the game’s longest carry: a 15-yard touchdown
2016 – Doran Grant had a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown
2015 – Dri Archer was the Steelers’ leading rusher and receiver; Kevin Fogg had an interception and Jordan Zumwalt was their leading tackler
2014 – Derek Moye caught twice as many passes as anyone; Dan Molls had a team-high nine tackles
Other than starring in a recent Steelers’ preseason opener, what do all of the seven above players have in common? Each was cut by the team by the end of that season (all but Archer and Watson were cut before the end of the preseason).
Maybe Patterson (and Adeniyi) are different. The fun of the preseason is finding out.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.