Monday, August 6, 2007

1st Preseason Game: Steelers vs. Saints

As I told Pat last night, all is right with the world. Steeler football is back. This isn't going to be anything fancy, I'm just going to list some thoughts from last night's game. I encourage you to check out Sam's thoughts as well, right below my post.

- Ben looked sharp last night. The deep throw to Cedrick Wilson was a little underthrown, but nothing to really worry about. I liked his second pass better, a nice slant route to Wilson that was right on the money and allowed Ced to catch it in stride and almost take it to the endzone. Batch was fine. St. Pierre started slow, but gained confidence. His deep pass to Santonio Holmes was also a little underthrown, but he followed it up with a beautiful fade to the corner of the endzone that Holmes hauled in for a TD.

- LaMarr Woodley had a nice pass defense off a Drew Brees throw over the middle. That's encouraging because the main thing he has to work on to crack the starting lineup is his pass defense. We know from college and from reports out of Latrobe that he's just fine rushing the passer, but that he has to work on dropping into pass coverage and breaking on the ball. So this play was especially encouraging.

- The runningback position was a mixed bag. Najeh was okay, but he's pretty much a lock to make the team so I wasn't really looking for much from him. Kevan Barlow did not look good at all. He looked hesitant and slow, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't even make it to the final round of cuts so that our other backs can get more playing time in the preseason. Speaking of the other backs, both Carey Davis and Gary Russell are making real bids for the opening day roster. Davis was especially impressive on his 56 yard scamper in the 2nd quarter. Russell looked decisive. He hit the hole and went. We didn't get to see much of John Kuhn. Looks like we have some nice runningback talent to choose from.

- I was expecting more from Willie Reid in the return game. He muffed the first punt, and then almost fumbled the second. I still have high hopes for him, though. The guy was a beast returning punts at Florida State. The rest of the special teams had good and bad moments. Sepulveda is a clear improvement over Gardocki, and as Pat's dad mentioned, it seemed like he was always able to keep his punts away from the middle of the field, directing them to the sideline instead. Jeff Reed missed a relatively easy field goal. Not good from our favorite Deadspinner.

- Happy now Ced? Wilson bitched this week about not getting the ball enough, but he had no such problems last night. And honestly, he did look pretty good. He made an outstanding double move on Saints CB Mike McKenzie on his first catch. Nate Washington, on the other hand, had a horrendous game. He continues to drop the easy passes. Right now, it might be a good idea if Wilson is the #3 and Nate the #4. The only problem is that Cedrick has never really played the slot, and when we go to three receiver sets it's usually Ward and Holmes on the outside. Holmes was especially impressive yesterday. This is a guy who pretty much just started practicing last week, and then he goes out and torches one of the Saints prized free agent signees, CB Jason David. Santonio is gonna do big things this season.

- One guy who shined last night was William Gay. He absolutely destroyed Saints rookie WR Robert Meachum on a crossing route, and almost got him again a short while later. He followed that up with a nice interception off of Tyler Palko. I know it's early, but Gay looks like the real deal. He just seems like a smart, heady football player, a guy who just gets the job done. Kind of like a younger Deshea Townsend.

- The offensive line was okay, for the most part. I didn't notice any mistakes from Kendall Simmons, so that was good (PiSoNC kept referring to him as Rick Ross). Trying Max Starks at left tackle was an absolute train wreck. He got abused there. It's safe to say his spot is right tackle. I specifically keyed on Willie Colon when he was playing right tackle, for two pass plays, and both times he stoned his guy. We didn't get to see Sean Mahan play center (or guard, for that matter) because he didn't make the trip for personal reasons. I didn't really focus on Okobi, so I don't really want to make any judgments on him.

- Lastly, the new coaching regime looked impressive. We'll see less emotion from Tomlin than Cowher, but I like that. I like a guy who's calm and collected, and doesn't have to keep saying "Let's Go!" to rally his football team. LeBeau had the defense looking good. I definitely saw a difference in the offense with Arians running the show. Much more aggressive. How often did we see a fade to the corner of the endzone under Cowher? Once every blue moon? Let's remember, though, that it is the preseason, so the playbook is vanilla. Still, a good first showing.

And that's all I have. Leave your thoughts in the comments section, if you please.
End of Post


Stanley said...

That was probably the best start we could have imagined.

Why was it so difficult for Starks to switch sides? Isn't he doing the same thing no matter what side?

Anonymous said...

That underthrown BSP pass to Santonio had to be underthrown because there was a safety coming up on him (and made the tackle). It was thrown too softly.

Stanley, right defensive ends are typically better than left ends (defenses want their best guys going after the quarterback's blind side, and most QBs are rightys). Starks has had problems with bigger, more athletic guys in pass defense.

Stanley said...

I see now, thanks Josh.

One more comment on your article wannstache. We saw a lot of fades to the endzone when we had Plaxico. I don't know if I like running it with short WRs that much, only because the pass has to be a lot more perfect to drop in. But I do like having it in the arsenal...its the perfect compliment to the slants across the middle we usually run. Think of Cedrick Wilson burning Champ Bailey in the AFC championship game with the fake to the inside.

Dave Wannstache said...

Thanks for the comments. We did see it from time to time when we had Plax, but not enough in my opinion. I should have been a little more specific. The point I wanted to make was how often did we see the fade inside the 5 yard line? Usually we would just pound it in, even if there was one on one coverage outside.

Witness Hines Ward's comments in today's Post-Gazette:

"You see we threw a fade down in the end zone!" Ward said as if the Steelers had pulled a rabbit out of a hat.

In the past, "we'd pound it. On second down, we threw a fade into the end zone!"