Sunday, August 24, 2008

Steelers v. Vikings: The Good, the Bad & the (Really) Ugly

After watching the Steelers and Vikings muddle through their preseason tilt Saturday evening there is only one thing that need be said.


An an ugly game and an ugly win, here are a few observations for your consideration.

The Good
  1. Larry Foote wasn't seriously injured. After watching him go down and taking in the "dramatic" shots provided by CBS (not to get off on a rant here, but is there any commentator more hateable than Dan Dierdorf?) it was a huge relief to see him hop up and trot off the field. Injuries have been a big part of this preseason for the Steelers, fortunately this one wasn't something catastrophic.

  2. Rashard Mendenhall is going to make more than a few teams regret not selecting him while they had the chance. He showed great speed, and more importantly a terrific ability to run between the tackles. The stats (79 yards on 15 carries) do not adequately express the energy he infused into what was otherwise a moribund offense.

  3. Willie Reid's performance was encouraging and showed just how much this young man is capable of as a receiver. We've been pretty critical of Mr. Reid, and like nearly everyone we believe that this is a make-or-break preseason for him. Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians gave Mr. Reid ample opportunity to showcase his receiving skills (he ended up as the Steelers' leading receiver ~ 5 catches, 55 yards) and, though he was unable to elevate above defensive back Marcus McCauley on a jump ball play (third quarter, first-and-10) and was whistled for an illegal formation penalty, he acquitted himself well.

  4. Obviously the field goal team was terrific ~ and that is no small accomplishment considering that the battle for the punting position on the Steelers' roster between Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster may come down to which of those men works best with Jeff Reed and Greg Warren (though Mr. Berger did not punt at all Saturday night). Mr. Reed's 4-for-4 performance was the only bright spot in an otherwise miserable evening offensively.
The Bad

The starting offense was horrible ~ a shocking revelation we know, but it's true. A few pertinent facts to support this claim:
  • Minnesota's starting defensive front seven limited the Steelers' starting offense to a first half performance of 76 net yards on 33 plays (2.303 yards per play).

  • In the first half Willie Parker carried the ball 10 times for 18 yards.

  • The Steelers' starting offense was 1-for-7 on third down conversions.

  • In the passing game Ben Roethlisberger was hounded on nearly every play that required more than a three step drop.
Certainly the offensive line deserves its share of the blame, however when it comes to passing the ball Ben Roethlisberger needs to get rid of the ball more quickly. This has been a criticism of ours since Mr. Roethlisberger ascended to the starting QB position, and he just doesn't seem to understand that dumping the ball off is preferable to getting hit. Additionally, running backs need to be able to pass block and if Mewelde Moore is going to be the featured back in third-and-long situations he had better pass block more effectively than he did Saturday.

The Ugly
  1. Rashard Mendenhall achieves a rare "Good, Bad, Ugly" double dip. Two lost fumbles is a thousand too many.

  2. Limas Sweed improved his vision by heading over to the ophthalmologist and being fitted for contact lenses. Who does one go to in order to improve the gripping ability of one's hands? It got so bad that Byron Leftwich could be seen expressing his frustration to the rookie wide out.

  3. Who does Byron Leftwich think he is to be yelling at anyone? Out of the league until the Steelers rescued him from oblivion, from our perspective it seems as though he would do well to be a tad bit more encouraging ~ i.e. a team leader. While we understand that he is striving for a long-term place on the Steelers' roster, Mr. Leftwich should remember that it's only preseason and everyone is trying to improve.
It wasn't much to look at, but if we thought Saturday night's game was ugly just wait until this Thursday when the benches will be emptied against Carolina.

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