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mesaSteeler
08-30-2009, 01:00 PM
Pittsburgh shows it's in midseason form
http://www.observer-reporter.com/OR/Print/08-30-Steelers-Bills-column

PITTSBURGH - We saw in 2008 what the Steelers could do against top-notch competition on a week-in, week-out basis. And it was special.

Saturday night's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills - who figure to be a middle-of-the-road NFL team - should prove to be a good preview of what's in store for 2009.

Heading into last season, the Steelers had what was considered the NFL's toughest schedule, based on what opponents' records in the previous year. And that was largely the case as Pittsburgh played seven games against playoff teams and 11 against opponents who finished at .500 or better.

By the time the playoffs rolled around, the Steelers were a battle-tested team, one that rolled to a record sixth Super Bowl title.

This season, the Steelers are in the opposite situation.

With one of the easiest schedules in the league, the Steelers are going to face many opponents who figure to be in the middle of the pack or worse. This game showed that the Steelers should dominate that level of competition.

The Steelers controlled the Bills in a 17-0 victory at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh was particularly dominating in the first half, when both teams played their regulars - minus a couple of key players on each side.

Despite being without Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker and Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Santonio Holmes - each sat out with a minor injury - Pittsburgh's offense was in midseason form.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 15 of 19 passes for 168 yards. Five of those completions went to wide receiver Hines Ward and were good for 74 yards.

Second-year running back Rashard Mendenhall, subbing for Parker, had 64 total yards and a touchdown - though he did lose a fumble that ended Pittsburgh's first possession deep in Buffalo territory.

As good as the offense was, the defense was better.

Buffalo managed only 50 yards on 19 plays and picked up three first downs. Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards was just six-for-13 for 31 yards and an interception while working against a defensive unit that led the NFL in nearly every statistical category last year.

Linebacker James Farrior scored the Steelers' first touchdown on a 22-yard interception return and the pass rush was in Edwards' face throughout the first half.

It was the kind of effort head coach Mike Tomlin wanted to see from his first-team units in the third preseason game.

The starters will likely play only a couple of series in Thursday night's preseason finale at Carolina but that won't a big deal. The starters showed against the Bills that they are ready for the regular season.

And given the relative ease of the schedule - though the difficulty can change from week to week - there's no reason to believe this team can't make another run at a Super Bowl championship.

F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com

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