Watching the second half, so you don't have to
I focused on the four backups who are likely to make the roster, so Barrett Brooks was safe to imitate a traffic cone, or turn into Anthony Munoz, without being noticed.
After watching three possessions in the third and fourth quarter, a total of 23 plays (counting two false starts), the results were better than week one, but still not comforting if you're wondering what happens if a couple of linemen go down.
The best of the lot from what I saw was Trai Essex, who seemed to have few problems sliding over to a guard spot, which could help him become the first guy of the bench at any of four spots this year. He had only two miscues in the 23 plays, once he failed to block anyone when pulling on a running play, and once he failed to lock up on a linebacker, which led to a tackle for a short gain. At tackle, Essex's scouting report has been that he has good feet, but he needs to improve his strength, but against the Vikings, Essex's only troubles came when he was asked to lock up a blocker in space, whenever he was lined up against a defensive tackle, he handled him, including one play where he set up a big run with a nice block, and another where he pancaked a linebacker.
The next best? Chris Kemoeatu lived up to his scouting report. He showed the ability to lock up on defensive tackles, turn them and show off his strength on running plays. He also showed good ability to help out on a defensive tackle, then free himself to lock up a linebacker. Against the pass, he resembled Keydrick Vincent on a bad day. Kemoeatu had three pass plays where he was beaten badly enough to force a bad throw, but he had only one running play where he failed to adequately block his man.
The Steelers current backup center Marvin Philip managed to show a decent ability to get to the second level and lock up on linebacker early in the third quarter, but by the fourth quarter, he was twice left just running around looking unsuccessfully for someone to block. He was driven back into the pocket once, forcing Omar Jacobs to scramble once, and twice he missed his block, or was unable to move his man, who made the tackle on running plays. He is very much a work in progress it appears.
And Willie Colon? In some ways he had the easiest job of the bunch, as the defensive ends facing him seemed content to speed rush on almost every snap. Colon was happy to help them out, as he simply ran them on by Jacobs on passing plays, and out of the play on running plays. But it wasn't all pretty for the Steelers left tackle project. He had a false start, and followed that up with being beaten by his man to flush Jacobs, then missed another block on the following play. The highlight of his night was when he showed the ability to work in space on a toss to Cedric Humes, running five yards downfield to lay a solid block on a safety.
Overall, watching most of the second half again emphasizes the need for Chukky Okobi's speedy recovery. Trai Essex seems to have taken some steps forward from last year, and Chris Kemoeatu could make an impact in the running game, even if he's not nearly ready to battle Kendall Simmons for the starting job, but if too many injuries strike, we could be remembering the ugly days of 2003.