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Old 08-07-2007, 08:59 AM   #1
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Default Between the Lines: Analysis by Bouchette

Between the Lines: A Steelers postgame analysis by Ed Bouchette
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It's not who wins or loses NFL exhibition games -- unlike the regular season -- but how they play. The Steelers did many things right in their 20-7 victory against New Orleans in their first game under coach Mike Tomlin (although Hall of Fame game officials are still waiting for coach Sean Payton's Saints to show up). They also did some things not so well, which comes with the territory in the preseason, especially the first game.

Here is a rundown on some of them:

The Breakdown:

Halfback/fullback Carey Davis hasn't made the team yet. It cannot become official until the week of the first regular-season game. By then, Davis will continue to look good in No. 38, worn in the past by Sidney "The Thundering Bull" Thornton, troubled Tim Worley and most recently fullback Jon Witman. He does look more like a No. 29, worn by Barry Foster. Davis can run, as his 56-yarder showed, and has versatility -- he can play fullback and he caught two passes for 32 yards Sunday.

Davis is on a few first special teams, and you don't need CSI to determine how important that evidence is to making the club.

Undrafted rookie tailback Gary Russell ran eight times for 41 yards, a 5.1-yard average, and a tackler bounced off him on one impressive 11-yard run.

Nate Washington has everything a wide receiver would want -- he runs good routes, he has good size and speed and his teammates and coaches like him. He needs to get his hands working, though, or it's going to ruin all the other stuff. He dropped two more passes Sunday night, continuing a trend that took hold last season.

"I'm not going to pass judgment on these guys over what's happened in the past," Tomlin said. But ... "It was a problem tonight. We'd like to make that disappear and, hopefully, next week it will."

Tackle Trai Essex's stock has fallen since he played six games at left tackle, including four starts, as a rookie in 2005. The first option at left tackle if something happens to starter Marvel Smith no longer is Essex. Right tackle Max Starks will move there and Willie Colon will play right tackle, as they did after the first series in Canton.

Willie Reid had trouble holding onto the football in the return game Sunday night, but he does not have a history of that and he never did lose the ball. Reid muffed one punt and picked it up, dropped another while being tackled that was ruled down after the use of replay, and muffed a kickoff that he picked up. The last thing the Steelers need is someone with unsure hands back to field punts and kickoffs, something that began their spiral early last season.

Cedrick Wilson was the second man in the punt return rotation. He had a potential good return abruptly ended when he was tackled by teammate Ricardo Colclough.

Wilson airs his beefs about being ignored as a receiver and suddenly he's being fed footballs at a rate unseen since he joined the club in 2005. Perhaps it's time for tight end Heath Miller to speak up.

When Jeff Reed lined up to try a 42-yard field goal near the end of the first quarter, hope sprung among some that if he made it, coach Mike Tomlin would send everyone home. Alas, it drifted wide and the game played on.

Quarterback Charlie Batch directed a good drive before that missed field goal, from the Steelers' 33 to a first down at New Orleans' 18. Then he was sacked twice and Washington dropped his second pass of the quarter. One sack came because Starks, who otherwise has looked pretty good, was engaged with one man and did not slide out to pick up the blitzer. The other was a coverage sack.

Brian St. Pierre, trying to convince Tomlin to keep three quarterbacks, made a good first impression. He completed 8 of 14 for 129 yards and a 111.9 passer rating. His longest completion was 41 yards to Santonio Holmes but his shortest was his best, a perfectly thrown 3-yard lob to Holmes in the rear right corner of the end zone.

Wide receiver Walter Young has been trying to make this team for four years now. He was on the practice squad in 2004 and 2005 and played in two games last season after briefly making the roster. At 6 feet 4, he's the Steelers' tallest wideout. Sunday, he caught two passes for 35 yards after a good two weeks in camp. Young still has long odds at making the roster that figures to keep five receivers, six at the most, and he is no longer eligible for the practice squad.

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Old 08-07-2007, 03:03 PM   #2
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Default Re: Between the Lines: Analysis by Bouchette

Seems like the biggest concerns right now are special teams( not missing easy FGs and not muffing a punt) and Nate's hands, which he has got to improve soon, he definitely runs good routes, but those hand could cost us a game sometime
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Old 08-07-2007, 03:49 PM   #3
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Default Re: Between the Lines: Analysis by Bouchette


I am still concerned about the Oline... but not as much as I was last year. Starks taking on one blocker, and not sliding over to the blitzer... Hey, at least he wasn't used as a turnstyle by both of them. That kind of mistake will happen ONCE in a game.

He can be coached out of that. Nate worries me. He had BETTER spend times on the hands machine... talk to Cedric and Ward, etc.

I am really shocked that we look to be as deep at RB as we do. Expect to see Willie and Najeh for a series each, then immediately our other RB's next game. We have to see these guys against first stringers to see if they are really worth keeping.
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Old 08-08-2007, 06:39 PM   #4
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Default Re: Between the Lines: Analysis by Bouchette

willie reid and nate w need to carry a ball with them all the time, evan after practice. whoever knocks it out of their hands will get a 1,000 dollars. these butter fingers give me horrible flashbacks from last year
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