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GBMelBlount
08-10-2008, 06:10 AM
Between the lines: Preseason Game 1 Friday vs. the Eagles
A Steelers postgame analysis

Sunday, August 10, 2008

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazettte

Other than the injury to backup quarterback Charlie Batch, Friday night's game at Heinz Field was typical of preseason openers. There was good, bad, ugly and somewhere in between.

The kicking game

Normally in first preseason games, the area that suffers most is the kicking game because many backups are running down under punts and kickoffs and different candidates are returning them.

Yet other than the first-team offense, the Steelers' special teams turned in the most impressive performance of the night, and it has been awhile since anyone could say that.

"Special teams were solid, which of course was important to us," coach Mike Tomlin said. "Jeff Reed banged a kick home that he didn't bang home at practice up at Latrobe the other day. That was by design, to put him in that situation, and Jeff delivered."

Reed, though, was the coaches least concern. He hasn't made a Pro Bowl yet, but he had an All-Pro season in 2007 when he made 23 of 25 field-goal tries. His only misses came from 65 yards in Denver and 44 yards in the Heinz Field muck against Miami. His 50-yarder Friday night easily cleared.

What was unexpected, based on last season's performance and the season-ending injury last week to punter Daniel Sepulveda, was the play in other areas of special teams.

Paul Ernster averaged a decent 42 yards on seven punts with the Eagles returning four for only 15 yards. Two of Ernster's punts wound up inside the 20, something Sepulveda was so good at doing.

Ernster has an added quality in that he has kicked off in the NFL. Tomlin let him do it once Friday and he boomed his kickoff 9 yards deep into the end zone with no return.

Still, Tomlin sounded as if he might have other ideas on his punting situation.

"We have a long way to go in regards to that. He did a nice showing for himself tonight but we are still exploring options at that spot."
The punt return battle

Veteran return man Eddie Drummond, signed in the first week of training camp, returned his only punt for 21 yards and Mewelde Moore had the only other return for 9 yards. Rookie Rashard Mendenhall returned his only kickoff 28 yards. The kick coverage unit held the Eagles to a 22-yard average on four returns. All in all, the Steelers' special teams had a good night.
First action for No. 1

Mendenhall carried seven times for 34 yards; a few were impressive, some not so impressive. He made a nice cut to his left at the line of scrimmage to dart outside and pick up 15 yards in the second quarter. However, he turned his back into the line on another carry and did not look like short-yardage material, continuing a theme from training camp.
Stepping up at LB

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons continued to show why Tomlin was so excited about drafting him in the first round last year. He helped keep the Eagles out of the end zone with two excellent plays on their first drive. On first down at the 13, Donovan McNabb completed a pass on the right side to Correll Buckhalter that produced just 3 yards because Timmons closed quickly on the play and tackled him. Then, on third down from the 10, McNabb lofted a pass into the left back corner of the end zone to Jason Avant that Timmons knocked away.

"It was really what we expected," Tomlin said. "He showed us the things that he has been showing us in Latrobe and that he has been showing us even going back into the spring at the South Side facility. Lawrence is a run-and-hit guy. He did that tonight and made some plays for us."
The tall receiver

Rookie Limas Sweed had a nice debut. He caught three passes for just 23 yards but he showed his ability and his toughness on one particular 3-yard catch in the second quarter. Rookie quarterback Dennis Dixon threw high to him over the middle. The 6-4 Sweed jumped, caught the ball, was hit and landed on his head and shoulders. He hung onto the ball.
The red zone

Reed's field goals of 20 and 24 yards means the Steelers failed on two of three times they reached the red zone. They had a second down at the 5 on one, a first down at the 8 on the other. Both of those came with backup offenses and Dixon at quarterback.
The defense

The first-team Steelers defense allowed a score on the first drive of the night by Philadelphia, after the offense staked it to a 7-0 lead. The good news: The defense stiffened, thanks to Timmons, inside the 20 and held the Eagles to a field goal.

"I thought that we ran to the ball although we were sloppy tackling at times, which is kind of indicative of the first preseason game," Tomlin said. "There is a silver lining in those situations because you get put on the short field and you have to stand up in the red zone. We made them kick a few field goals; I thought that was good.

"All-in-all it was a productive outing the first time out."

First published on August 10, 2008 at 12:00 am

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08223/903203-66.stm

Galax Steeler
08-10-2008, 06:16 AM
I think we had a pretty good preseason game we still have a few kinks to work out but we will be ok.

Elvis
08-10-2008, 06:31 AM
Yeh Mendenhall needs to keep his head up and eyes looking forward on those goalline runs. But man did he look impressive to me running the ball, I love him and I look sooooo forward to seeing what he can do in real game action for our running game.
LB Fox really looked good in my opinion as well. The guy was all over the place making takles and being in on plays, pretty impressive to me.
But I think the most impressive thing about friday night's game was the performance of the Steelers Offensive Line. I still think that Max Starks can or could be our LT over Smith. The guy just does well there for some reason, and I think he deserves the chance to start at one or the other OT spot.
Over all I think the Steelers 1st team offense performed well, but our defense looks no different against the Eagles 1st string offense. They still aint getting alot of pressure and they give up passing yards which doesnt bode well with the schedule we have in '08
:coffee:

Texasteel
08-10-2008, 06:49 AM
I thought Mendenhall did great his 1st game. He did seem to hesitate a couple of times after he broke the line, but his is a rookie.
Fox looked real good to me, one less LBer spot for my guy from Iowa.

Mosca
08-10-2008, 09:46 AM
Re Mendenhall, one thing I DIDN'T like is the way at the end of his first decent run, instead of going low he stood straight up and got bulled to the ground. That is a fumble waiting to happen, either that or an injury. I'm sure that the coaches will point that out, and it won't happen again.

Preacher
08-10-2008, 10:21 AM
Mendenhall is a rookie... and played like a rookie that has a lot of talent. I am excited for him... but all that talk earlier in the spring about him replacing Willie this year was a joke.

Timmons is going to be a beast... Him and Woodley are going to light up QB's and WR's for years to come!

Mosca
08-10-2008, 11:03 AM
Mendenhall is a rookie... and played like a rookie that has a lot of talent. I am excited for him... but all that talk earlier in the spring about him replacing Willie this year was a joke.

Timmons is going to be a beast... Him and Woodley are going to light up QB's and WR's for years to come!



Yyyyyyeah, FWP is all there. RM has his work cut out for him... but, I think we might be seeing a full backfield and some "Mr Inside/Mr Outside" action. THAT would be awesome. And don't you think the line played more line a unit than as a bunch of individuals? I saw a lot more cohesiveness.

Shoes
08-10-2008, 11:56 AM
Re Mendenhall, one thing I DIDN'T like is the way at the end of his first decent run, instead of going low he stood straight up and got bulled to the ground. That is a fumble waiting to happen, either that or an injury. I'm sure that the coaches will point that out, and it won't happen again.


I think he knows he has to go low. If I remember right he did have some folks around his legs and his body was slightly twisted aft...not seeing what was coming. He is going to be a great running back.

Shoes
08-10-2008, 11:59 AM
Mendenhall is a rookie... and played like a rookie that has a lot of talent. I am excited for him... but all that talk earlier in the spring about him replacing Willie this year was a joke.

Timmons is going to be a beast... Him and Woodley are going to light up QB's and WR's for years to come!

AMEN!

Prok
08-10-2008, 12:29 PM
4 young players i'm really excited about are Mendenhall, Sweed, Timmons and Woodley.

I think they'll work with Mendenhall on getting his pads down and running downhill more.

Sweed should be the opening day #3 WR and not look back IMO.

It wouldn't hurt me at all to see Timmons starting from here on either.

Woodley has been solid from the get go. I really like our LB corps.

steelersfanman92
08-10-2008, 08:30 PM
I think they looked good Fox looked really impressive

RoethlisBURGHer
08-10-2008, 08:46 PM
I can't wait to see the looks on QB's faces when Woodley demolishes them!

SteelersMongol
08-10-2008, 09:43 PM
Hey, did anyone pay attention to Bruce Davis? I kinda have a high hope 4 the kid.

El-Gonzo Jackson
08-10-2008, 10:09 PM
Hey, did anyone pay attention to Bruce Davis? I kinda have a high hope 4 the kid.

He pretty much showed what he had in college. Good motor and pursuit....he tried to use his speed to get around guys, more than attack them and beat the defenders with a move.

Davis will be productive, but needs 1 or 2 seasons to learn how to play LB and get stronger for the NFL game. This aint the PAC-10 any more.

lilyoder6
08-10-2008, 10:10 PM
i think he'll be a good player to come off the bench and make some plays

Galax Steeler
08-11-2008, 04:08 AM
I have to agree fox did look good and I really like the play of timmons and sweed also.

43Hitman
08-11-2008, 07:56 AM
Sweed made some really nice catches with his hands. I also liked seeing Fox flying all over the field, maybe he blossoms this year. Timmons is going to be a beast. I giggled like a little girl when he ran down that screen with Buckhalter.

SteelMember
08-11-2008, 08:06 AM
I thought the 1st offense looked pretty good.
Ben - 2-2 for 38yds, 1TD what a game manager :chuckle:
FWP and Mendenhall looked very good.
I agree with the others on Fox. He got his name called quite a few times.
31-Williams and 37-Madison looked to have tough times out there. I don't know who was to take coverage from Davis on their first TD, but we looked like we had 3 on 1 in the back of the endzone causing that miscommunication.
I also thought Ernster looked ok. He sure seemed to be taking a beating on this board.

millwalldavey
08-11-2008, 09:32 AM
I was very impressed with the special teams play. Punting as still shaky.. some of those kicks were decent put he hit one or two clunkers. Maybe with some time....

Mendenhall was outstanding in his time as was Timmons and Woodley. Fox looked good at the LB spot as well.

Sweed has a few nice catches on a few bad throws.

Davis, Hills and the rest of the rooks (save Mundy) were too quiet.

LVSteelersfan
08-11-2008, 01:27 PM
I don't know what you all think but Ernster seems to be a little slow getting the punts out of there. He just seems to have to wind up and he is going to get blocked against real pressure. We have another kicker in camp now, so we will see how that goes.

BIGBENFASTWILLIE
08-11-2008, 02:07 PM
I just hope we can pick someone up on defense before the season starts to help out.
I wasnt really impressed with the overall performance of our first team.....

The Duke
08-11-2008, 04:01 PM
punting was good, but I'm still worried, and probably will until I see him in the regular season

he was great on kickoffs though

btw, anyone saw nate washington out there? I've been rooting for him all offseason but all I hear is drops in practice and the occasional long ball for td caught.

but where was he against the eagles??

Dino 6 Rings
08-11-2008, 04:13 PM
Anyone else notice the ball that Charlie Batch badly under through on a deep route that the receiver had to "wait" for?

What about the Oline. Didn't see too much pressure even if it was against a light blitz, it was also against guys trying to make a roster spot. I liked the Run Blocking very much, our line looked "big" out there. I loved that.

The defense was vanilla, til Dick L let the kids late in the game start blitzing. I was un happy with the Umbrella defense he ran on the Eagles 2nd offensive possession but I guess he didn't want to tip his hand.

NFL Networks broadcast was the local Philly announcers. That was god awful. Blah blah blah, Eagles, Blah blah Eagles, blah blah blah Eagles. I was sick.

Ben...He's so good.
Ward. Clutch Hands of Glue
Holmes, Fast is as Fast Does
Sweed, Great hands.
Reid, He's still on the roster?
Bloom? No thanks, I want more than a guy that can fair catch.
Moore, didn't see enough action on screens and draws.
Mendenhall. Needed more carries in short yardage to see what he's got.
Vincent...Huh? He got a ton of carries. Guess we were showing him to other teams.
Russell Davis, #3 and #4 backs.