Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Preseason Impressions: Philadelphia v. Steelers

I wanted to watch the game a second time before unleashing my comments upon the world, and having done that here's what I I'm pretty sure I saw:

#1. Barring injuries, the Steelers defense may be the best in the NFL this season: How much worse could things have gone for the Steelers during the first quarter? A horrible interception, a Gardocki-esque punt from their own end zone, a goal line fumble -- the scoreboard could have been an ugly thing. Instead, following the interception and after an initial first down, the Steelers' defense pushed Philadelphia's offense back towards midfield. Building upon that early effectiveness the front line defense limited the Eagles to 89 total yards in the first half, and a third down efficiency of 14%. But beyond the numbers what has been especially impressive has been the way the unit is hitting (see William Gay in preseason game #1, and Anthony Smith in preseason game #3). It appears that the defense is developing into not just an effective group, but a nasty group as well -- something that all fans of the Black & Gold would celebrate.

#2. The different faces of Ben Roethlisberger: At times the Steelers' quarterback showed some good decision-making skills (e.g. checking off to underneath receivers, using his feet to avoid pressure, throwing the ball away when nothing was available) and was fairly accurate with his passes. Then, at other times, he flashed the poor judgment (i.e. one pass intercepted, and a second "pass" seemingly thrown -- from inside the Philadelphia 20 yard line -- while falling backwards) that ruined his 2006 season. Ben Roethlisberger's performance against the Eagles illustrated what fans have known for some time: when he'good, he's as good as anybody. When he's not . . . he begins to resemble something akin to David Klingler.

#3. Speaking of inconsistent, ladies and gentlemen please welcome Santonio Holmes: On a number of occasions Mr. Holmes could be seen vigorously blocking downfield on running plays -- a wonderful sight to behold! His second quarter, 22 yard catch (on 3rd and 4) demonstrated his fearlessness in going across the middle, and good hands. However, in the first quarter (following Daniel Sepulveda's 14-yard punt) he failed to recognize an impending Eagles' blitz and the fact that he was the hot receiver. Mr. Holmes never looked back for a quickly thrown ball, and Mr. Roethlisberger's pass nearly hit him in the back. Then, in the second quarter, on a deep route Mr. Holmes seemingly quit on the play, only to have the pass thrown in his direction. Despite a seemingly half-hearted attempt to get to the ball, the pass fell incomplete. Mr. Holmes has the physical skills to be an impact player in the NFL, but it seems apparent that his education as a professional player still has a long way to go.

#4. The offensive line would like to know why everyone is so worried: Zero sacks. Seventy-six yards rushing. Perfect blocking on a numerous screen passes. Here's hoping that the performance versus the Eagles augurs well for the upcoming season.

#5: Willie Reid and Ricardo Colclough -- separated at birth?: As punt returners go, someone tell me what the difference is between Willie Reid and Ricardo Colclough. Fair catches despite having room to run, muffed punts . . . Cedric Wilson has been the most effective returner of the preseason, and Mr. Reid has three catches as a receiver -- how patient should an organization be in waiting for potential to translate into performance?

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