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Old 08-29-2008, 04:13 AM   #1
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Default Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble
Friday, August 29, 2008
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


The second-best part of the Steelers-Carolina exhibition game last night came when Steelers running back Willie Parker turned the corner around right end midway through the first quarter and galloped for a 26-yard gain. The man looked healthy, wouldn't you agree?

Broken right leg? What broken right leg?

It was Parker's longest run since a 27-yarder Dec. 16 against Jacksonville, four days before he fractured that leg in St. Louis. It's also the kind of run he must deliver often if the Steelers are going to have a successful season.

"We like where he's at," coach Mike Tomlin said of Parker.

Now the first-best part ...

Hey, it's worth the redundancy.

The first-best part of the Steelers' 19-16 win happened when Parker immediately called it a night after his big run. His four touches -- five, if you count his 6-yard catch that was wiped out by a Carolina penalty -- over the better part of two offensive series were four too many.

It would have been a nightmare if he or any of the Steelers' starters had gone down in this final, meaningless game.

Cornerback Deshea Townsend was banged up on Carolina's first play but came back and appeared fine, even though he had ice on his left knee later on the sideline. Everybody else of significance came away unscathed and should be ready for the opener against the Houston Texans nine days hence.

All things considered, the Steelers were lucky after playing their starters for two series.

A season could have been lost if the wrong man -- Parker, Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Marvel Smith, Aaron Smith, James Harrison, James Farrior, Troy Polamalu (whose hamstring held up in his first appearance of the exhibition season even if he didn't do anything to get his uniform dirty) -- had been seriously injured.

That's why Carolina coach John Fox didn't tempt fate. None of his starters on offense or defense played. His players must love him for that.

If Tomlin had to do it all over again -- if he knew what was going to happen after Parker left the game -- he probably wouldn't have let Fast Willie on the field at all and taken even the slightest chance of him getting hurt.

How can Tomlin feel comfortable with what he has behind Parker on the depth chart after seeing more of rookie No. 1 draft choice Rashard Mendenhall?

After seeing another Mendenhall fumble, to be specific?

This one happened midway through the second quarter when Mendenhall was hit by defensive end Gary Gibson after a 12-yard gain. It was his third fumble in two games, enough to make you start to wonder if we're looking at a troubling trend.

That doesn't mean Tomlin should or will give up on Mendenhall. He was right to go back to him early and often after his fumble last night, if for no other reason than to give him a chance to feel good about himself. Mendenhall had 13 carries after the fumble -- a staggering 11 in the third quarter -- and somehow managed to hang on to the pig each time. He even had impressive runs of 7, 8, 7, 13 and 9 yards. He finished with 79 yards on 21 totes, to use a Tomlin word, against the Panthers' second- and third-stringers.

"We're committed to this young man," Tomlin said. "The more we run him ... "

Still, it's hard to imagine the coach having the guts -- foolishness? -- to use Mendenhall in key spots early in the season, before he proves he won't sabotage the Steelers with a killer fumble.

"Yes," Tomlin said, flatly, when asked if he would be hesitant to use Mendenhall in the games that count. "Wouldn't [the fumbles] make you hesitant?"

That means Parker had better stay healthy.

Make no mistake: Tomlin and his veteran players are taking this fumbling business with Mendenhall seriously because they know they must count on him if the worst happens and Parker is hurt.

They tried a light-hearted approach earlier this week when Parker and Ward ordered Mendenhall to carry a football with him everywhere and offered $100 -- of Mendenhall's money, of course -- to anyone who could take it off him. The objective wasn't to humiliate the kid, although it surely served that purpose. It was to make sure he fully realized the importance of holding on to the ball.

There was no word late last night if the Panthers' Gibson showed up at the Steelers' locker room to collect his bounty.

I know, that's not the least bit funny.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08242/907935-66.stm
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Old 08-29-2008, 07:41 AM   #2
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Default Re: Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

Quote:
There was no word late last night if the Panthers' Gibson showed up at the Steelers' locker room to collect his bounty.
That's funny as hell!!!
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Old 08-29-2008, 11:33 AM   #3
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Default Re: Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

I'm not all that worried about it right now.

First, he's a rookie. Second, it's something that can be fixed. It could be as simple as holding the ball a bit differently (a la Tiki Barber).

Now if this doesn't get fixed and he fumbles the ball alway in big spots, I'll be worried.
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Old 08-29-2008, 12:05 PM   #4
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Default Re: Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

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Originally Posted by RoethlisBURGHer View Post
I'm not all that worried about it right now.

First, he's a rookie. Second, it's something that can be fixed. It could be as simple as holding the ball a bit differently (a la Tiki Barber).
Third, Ron Cook is a sensationalistic doom-and-gloom hack.

Agreed, I'm not overly worried about it at the moment either.
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Old 08-29-2008, 12:05 PM   #5
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Default Re: Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

parker had a case of fumbleitis himself early in his career if im not mistaken. other than that freak Cincinnati game last year, he was next to a sure thing at holding onto the ball.
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Old 08-29-2008, 01:08 PM   #6
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Default Re: Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

This article exhibits a distinct absence of intellectual rigor. But, considering the source, does that surprise anyone. Cook has been phoning it in for some time. Lucky for him that he does not get paid for quality, but, for quantity (or more appropriately showing up). But, then again Harris' recent article about mixing the old with the new was equally banal.
Living in the Puget Sound area, where knowledgeable fans are infrequent, I can always depend on the "yinzers" to know their football. It's too bad that the local press in the Burg does not follow suit.
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Old 08-29-2008, 01:13 PM   #7
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Default Re: Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

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Originally Posted by fansince'76 View Post
Third, Ron Cook is a sensationalistic doom-and-gloom hack.

.
No Kidding. Between him and Brown over at the Trib and Madden...there isnt a lot of reliable sources that I give much of a grain of salt. E.B. is about the only decent guy worth reading. Any other suggestions?

BTW, this will not be a long term problem. Some drills to emphasize 4 points of contact on the ball and not wanting to let your teammates down should cure this. I am not worried.
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Old 08-29-2008, 02:01 PM   #8
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Default Re: Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

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not wanting to let your teammates down should cure this
Anyone remember 'Full Metal Jacket', when the overweight recruit let everyone in the unit down? Sleep with one eye open Mendy.
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Old 08-29-2008, 02:09 PM   #9
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Default Re: Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

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Originally Posted by DACEB View Post
Anyone remember 'Full Metal Jacket', when the overweight recruit let everyone in the unit down? Sleep with one eye open Mendy.
OMG that was good!
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Old 08-29-2008, 04:42 PM   #10
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Default Re: Using starters in final preseason quite a fumble

i liked the humor of the article about gibson and the 100$ only if he had knew..
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