Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pre season Game One Thoughts

Although the Steelers first preseason game was likely used best for catching up some Z's and for some mild entertainment for some of the more dull moments of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, here are some thoughts that myself (and others) had on the game last night

- As is detailed in the PG's Game Story, the Trib's AP Story, Chaz Batch broke his collarbone last night, and we'll now be looking at Dennis Dixon holding down the backup spot, at least temporarily, with an overweight veteran like Byron Leftwich or Daunte Culpepper coming in to replace him. If I had my pick, I suppose I would snag Leftwich off the free agent wire, but you've got to wonder, with Batch out probably until only Mid-Septmeber, will Leftwich and Culpepper want to come to the Steelers if they know they may be gone after 2 weeks. I think Dennis Dixon should some solid promise last night, enough that there is no way I would think he'd be released to hang onto a mediocre veteran as the 3rd QB, and there's no way this team carries 4 quarterbacks, so the Steelers may be relegated to pick from some less attractive options (yes even less attractive then those 2 fatties). If that comes to fruition, then a few names we could be looking at would be immortals like Tim Hasselbeck, Kelly Holcomb, Jamie Martin, Chris Weinke, and Tim Rattay. Yikes! Can we wrap Big Ben in bubble wrap at all times please? So far, Leftwich is the only player that the Steelers have been known to have contacted.

-The Offensive Line, at least when Big Ben was back there, looked pretty solid last night. They weren't noticeable and that is a good thing. The run blocking, as always, was very good, as Parker and Mendenhall had plenty of space to run around. There was only 1 sack given up all night, and that was late in the second quarter on Dennis Dixon after he had plenty of time to scramble around and was brought down at the line of scrimmage, so I call that a wash.

-Paul Ermster gets a B- in my grade book for this one. The touchback hurt him, but he displayed a somewhat surprisingly powerful leg, and booted 2 punts inside the 20, and netted about 259 yards on y punts, a sound 37 yards a punt.

-The early advantage for the return man job obviously went to Eddie Drummong, as his 1 return was downright breathtaking, and I would be intrigued to see him return kicks as well. I was told by a friend that he also was involved in kick coverage, though I didn't catch that, it's certainly worth noting. Mendenhall also did a decent job on the kick return he got, and will likely fill that role during the season, but it remains to be seen if they stick someone else back there with him.

-As Gene Collier noted, it looks like Casey Hampton (more on him in the next note down) may not be alone in Mike Tomlin's doghouse, as it is very suspicious that Anthony Smith, despite practicing Wednesday and looking to be in fine shape, was in street clothes last night. Whether he came down with some kind of injury is still unknown, but it's worth noting nonetheless, especially after the hit heard round the world from this past week's practice on Hines Ward. It is also worth noting that while Smith may be on his way out, he certainly won't be going anywhere if Ryan Mundy continues to be ineffective and/or hurt as he was last night in both instances, and if the team is not satisfied with long-time vet Tyrone Carter's playing. The Steelers may want to send a message to the young'n, but they certainly won't send it at the expense of weakening an already vulnerable secondary.

-Lastly, we venture to the topic of the Big Snack where Bob Smizik wrote a kinda confusing piece on Casey this past week. One minute in this column, he's saying Hampton still doesn't get it and never will get it that he let his teammates down, and then a few paragraphs later, he's chastising Mike Tomlin for letting this punishment get to the point where it serves to do nothing but embarass the massive nose tackle. Anyway, my stance is that this isn't the worst thing in the world for anyone. Hampton needs to lose the weight, especially with an aging line around him, and perhaps a strictly cardio workout is the best way for him to do it, and the way that best enables him to keep his body fresh. And for Tomlin, he is able to send a message without it doing any real harm to his defense. In fact, after watching Big Snack decline towards the end of each of the past two seasons (and yes, there is no denying that he did), this could be something of a sneak tactic that Tomlin is using to keep Hampton fresh deep into the season, something important especially at his advancing age. Either way, I fully expect to see Hampton return to the field at some point in the coming week, and that he should be available for the third pre-season game, just in time to get enough reps to be in game shape for the regular season.

-Whoops, one more note that I wanted to institute after every exhibition game: The Bubble Watch, a list of guys who either helped or hurt themselves this week. Players who helped themselves: PR Eddie Drummond, RB Justin Vincent (probably only has a shot at the Practice Squad), S Donovan Woods, DL Ryan McBean

Players who hurt themselves: QB Mike Potts (the coaches seemed terrified to let him do anything), CB Travis Williams (he may have led the team in tackles, but was beaten relentlessly for short yardage and also had an interference call against him), Trai Essex (most of the second team O-Line struggled, but he stuck out and was also hit with a holding penalty).

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