Monday, August 20, 2007

3rd Preseason Game: Steelers vs. Redskins

Another ugly game. It's preseason though, so don't panic yet. Here are some random thoughts:

- It’s been awhile since I’ve been this excited about a player. I really think Santonio Holmes is going to be a hell of a player for a real long time. The highlight of this game was the second catch he made on a hot route slant pass that he hauled in, then stopped on a dime and cut in the other direction to get an extra 20 or so yards after the catch. When he dropped all the way to us in the 2006 draft, I was surprised as hell. Thank God he did, cause he’s going to be a playmaker.

- Trai Essex got the start at left tackle, and anyone who watched the game knows he stunk up the joint. I think he’s in real danger of being cut. The Max Starks experiment at left tackle didn’t work out either, which means if Marvel Smith goes down there’s pretty much no one on the Steelers roster who could man the LT spot. Undrafted free agent Jason Capizzi, formerly of Pitt and IUP, has impressed and could make it to the 53 man roster, but he’s still too raw to give him the responsibility of protecting Ben’s blind side. If Marvel Smith goes down, this team is fucked. You could make the argument that after Ben and Parker, Marvel is the next guy this team could ill afford to lose.

- At the beginning of camp, if you had told me that Dan Kreider could be on the roster bubble, I would have told you that you were crazy. Now? Not so much. It’s a much more real possibility, what with the emergence of Carey Davis and less emphasis on the fullback position in the new offense. Still, as of now I think Dan makes the team. Just don’t be too surprised if you see his name on the official cut down list a couple weeks from now.

- Lawrence Timmons saw his first game action. I saw mixed results. On one hand, the first few plays he was in he looked lost and needed assistance from his teammates to get lined up correctly. On the other hand, go back and watch the last play of the game. Timmons lines up opposite a WR and stays stride for stride with him, and then makes a nice hit on the WR at the end of the play. Impressive speed. I think Timmons may have been drafted more for his coverage abilities than his pass rushing skills.

- With Anthony Smith out due to an abdominal injury, Ryan Clark got the start and played well again. This may very well be Tomlin’s toughest call in training camp: who to start at free safety. Clark gives you dependability and consistency, while Smith gives you a little more aggressiveness and playmaking skills. I have a slight bias towards Smith, but if Clark gets the call I won't be too upset.

- Verron Haynes (aka “Vernon Haynes”, “Vernon Hayes”, or “Verron Hayes”. Why is it so hard for announcers to get his name right?) got a lot of playing time Saturday night. He played like the Verron I’ve come to know and love, getting the tough yards and just making plays that win football games. It’s clear though that he was a bit hesitant and lacked the explosiveness we’ve seen in the past. This is probably a byproduct of not fully trusting his knee yet. I don’t know, it might come down to either Haynes or Davis for the final RB spot. Both can play special teams and both can play fullback, if needed.

As always, your comments are encouraged.

End of Post

8 comments:

Wieters said...

I think people are overreacting a bit to the state of the O-line. The right 4/5 of the line is at least adequate, and they have a competent backup for each position. The only area of concern is that they have NO backup left tackle. If Marvel stays healthy and plays well, there's no problem. If not, WATCH OUT! I wonder why it took them until now to realize they had no backup LT? I guess they did a poor job of talent evaluation before the draft. It's safe to say that their first-round pick next year will be the best LT on the board.

Concerning the RBs, I have no problem with "Vernon Hayes" making the team, as long as it is NOT at the expense of Gary Russell. I hope they do the right thing.

Overall, I feel pretty good about this team. They're at least adequate at every position, and they have capable backups at every position except LT.

Love the site, keep up the great work!

Dave Wannstache said...

I'm pretty much in agreement with all your points, Wieters.

I think Tomlin needs to set his starting five and let them start to gel, beginning Sunday against Philly. Barring injury to Marvel, I think the o-line will be fine. They might not be outstanding, but I think they'll be good enough. If Marvel goes down longterm, though, all bets are off.

And I'm with you on Haynes. Keeping Haynes over Barlow or Davis is fine by me. Keeping Haynes over Russell, I'll be disappointed to say the least.

Wieters said...

I actually prefer Davis over Haynes. He's younger, healthier, and has more upside. I'd keep Verron as my sixth RB, but if I only kept five, he'd be the odd man out.

The thing about Haynes is that if they cut him, I don't see any other team signing him. He'd only be a phone call away if the Steelers decided mid-season that they want him back. On the other hand, I don't see Russell and Davis clearing waivers if they're cut, based on how impressive they've looked in the preseason.

I'm a little concerned by Tomlin's criticism of Russell's blocking in his press conference. I couldn't tell if he was just trying to light a fire under Russell's ass, or if he was out-thinking himself and trying to come up with an excuse for cutting him. I think Russell could be the perfect compliment to Parker that everyone was wanting them to pick up in the draft. He would have easily been a Day One draft pick if he didn't flunk out of school, so I think they need to treat him like one.

The other "bubble" player I'm passionate about is Will Gay. The dude just knows how to make plays. I think he has a good chance of making the team, let's just hope they don't cut him in favor of Chidi or Coke-lee.

I hope Colon gets the RT job over Starks. Starks = soft and lazy, Colon = tough and nasty.

I don't know if Capizzi is the answer at LT, but the "experts" don't seem to think he has any shot at making the team. People think he might not clear waivers either. It couldn't hurt to give him a long look against Philly, could he be any worse than Starks or Essex?

Dave Wannstache said...

Davis vs. Haynes would be a tough call. Davis has been very impressive on special teams, which might give him the edge. I don't see anyway we keep six backs. Based on two games, I think five is more reasonable (Parker, Davenport, Russell, Davis, Krieder is what I'm leaning towards right now)

I'd be sick if they cut Russell. This guy is a talent, pure and simple. He put up unbelievable stats in the Big 10. Only reason he didn't get drafted was because of academic and weight problems. One of those problems is irrelevant now, while the other he seems to have corrected. I love the vision and how he picks the hole and goes.

I thought William Gay had a great chance to make this team from the outset, due to Louisville running many of the Steelers schemes. I read about how we was a smart, instinctive player, and all I have seen has reinforced this notion. I have no doubt he sticks, and I think it's pretty likely this team keeps 6 CB's on the roster (Madison or Chidi being the 6th guy).

I prefer Colon to Starks as well. Colon played well both games he started last year (vs. Baltimore and Cincy). Starks may be a better run blocker, but he's piss poor at pass blocking. Colon is more consistent across the board. I think it wouldn't hurt to let Colon try LT. Not saying I'm sure he could do it, just that it's worth a shot because there is no one else.

As for Capizzi, I don't think he'd clear waivers. A 6'9'' frame is something you can't teach. Reports out of camp have said that he has been impressive. Remember, he was recruited to play D1 ball, so it's obvious he has the talent. Still, the learning curve going from D3 to the NFL is steep, so I don't want him protecting Ben's blind side yet. I still want him to make the 53 man roster though, so no one else picks him up.

Wieters said...

It would be pretty hypocritical of the Steelers to cut Russell because of weight problems, considering a certain future-HOF running back that did pretty well for them in the recent past. And as for questions about Russell's intelligence, there's no way his IQ isn't higher than that of Ike Taylor. And as for questions about Russell's work ethic, there's no way his isn't better than that of Max Starks.

Anthony Madison looks like a maniac on special teams, I just wouldn't want him on the field with the defense!

I'm beginning to think that Marvel Smith may be the most indispensable Steeler. Not because he's necessarily all that great, but because the dropoff between him and his backup is greater than that at any other position on the team. I'd feel much more comfortable going a game or two with Batch at QB or Davenport at RB than with Essex at LT.

Sam said...

I agree they need to give some different guys a shot on the left side. Thy should at least try Colon, it can't hurt.

What about the lack of a pass rush? Edmond Nelson made a great remark (I know you don't believe me, 'stache) when he pointed out that if the only way the Steelers can get pressure is by blitzing then it will be a long night. It is just the preseason, but this was a problem last year as well and they tried to address it with Woodley and Timmons. But until one steps up and they can get pressure with just 4 guys I'm worried this could be the weakness in the defense.

Jay said...

The Steelers havent had a good lineman pass rusher since Ray Seals.

Dave Wannstache said...

I don't want to make judgments on the pass rush until the regular season because I'm pretty sure Lebeau is playing vanilla D so as not to reveal anything.

Is there a Shawne Merriman on this team? No. But there are guys who have some pretty good pass rushing ability. Woodley looks good. In terms of pass rushing, James Harrison might actually be an upgrade from Porter. It's Porter's coverage skills that could be missed. But as I've stated, in due time I think Timmons can make up for this void.

Ultimately, I think one of the problems last year was that the blitzes became stale and predictable. I'm hoping that Tomlin brings some fresh ideas that Lebeau can incorporate. Here's an interesting blurb from last Thursday's Post-Gazette:

Keisel estimated that the Steelers hold back 80 percent of their defensive schemes during the preseason so their regular-season foes can't get a jump on studying them.

"Our defense we run in the preseason is basically pretty vanilla. We try to save our 'secrets' for when it really counts. We do practice them and work on them. About every week we get something knew he comes up with and see if it works."

One of those secrets is special, Foote said.

"We have a big wrinkle. Not a little wrinkle, a big wrinkle. We'll see it in September."