Monday, August 06, 2007

Preseason Impressions: Saints v. Steelers

Like all of you, joy reigns supreme at Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic as the 2007-2008 season begins. However it is difficult to put too much emphasis upon the final score (Steelers win!!) of what amounts to a glorified scrimmage. Despite that fact, to paraphrase Sports Illustrated's Peter King, here's what I think I saw:

#1. It's amazing what not hitting a car while riding a motorcycle can do for a player: Sure he only took six snaps, but Ben Roethlisberger looked sharp. He was 3-for-3 on his throws (the drop by Nate Washington hit him right in the hands), and showed good pace and accuracy on his deep throw to Cedric Wilson. In the first preseason game of 2006 Ben Roethlisberger was 3-for-4 in passing attempts for a grand total of 29 yards. In 2007 he was (officially) 2-for-3, for 73 yards.

#2. I hope Willie Reid and Nate Washington have their degrees: The first roster cuts will not be made until August 28, 2007 but if these two young receivers/punt returners/kick returners cannot do a better job of holding on to the football then the guess here (actually, it's more of my silent hope) is that they will both be selling insurance . . . or real estate somewhere other than Pittsburgh.

#3. Play fast? Indeed: Who wasn't pleased by the performance of the defense? Troy Polamalu looked as though the ill-effects of his knee injury in 2006 are a thing of the past, LaMarr Woodley looked as though he had been playing in the Steelers' defense for years rather than weeks (or was that impression created by his jersey number? The feeling here is that, if possible -- the NFL rules are very prescriptive as to what positions wear which numbers -- a number change would be appropriate). Even Ricardo Colclough made his presence felt defensing passes and batting away a pass attempt while blitzing. As always the numbers never lie: with 8:54 left in the second quarter (i.e. the point at which the Steelers went up 14-0) the Steelers defense had given up 1 first down, and 24 net yards on 14 Saints offensive plays.

#4. It wasn't much but it may be the only time I mention Greg Warren all season: On a punt early in the game a hustling Greg Warren got a hand on the returner sending him stumbling out of bounds. To see that kind of effort from the long snapper was absolutely beautiful!

#5. Carey Davis?: According to the Steelers' radio announcers Mr. Davis was a member of Pittsburgh's practice squad last season, and while hesitant to allow our enthusiasm to rum amuck his performance was the highlight of the game. Also impressive, in the second half, was running back Gary Russell, the rookie out of Minnesota. Between the two of them they rushed the football 15 times for 109 yards.

Odds & Ends: Jeff Reed . . . you cannot be missing field goals (is 42 yards really too long for an NFL kicker?). Daniel Sepulveda . . . so far you're not Chris Gardocki, and that is a good thing (did I see a New Orleans punt returner take a fair catch?). William Gay, a wicked hit on Robert Meachem AND an interception? That's how a young player makes an impression.

It was only a preseason game, against an opponent who didn't do anything especially exotic, but a win is a win; and this win will keep the wolves away from Mike Tomlin's door -- at least until next week.

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