Steelers Notebook: Line won't shirk blame for failure at goal line


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The Steelers started a new left guard and right tackle in Sunday's home opener against the Seahawks. And at various times throughout the game, the other three starters suffered bumps and bruises that threatened to cause even more disruption on the line.

Still, none of them would make any excuses for the performance of the short-yardage offense, which was about the only negative in an otherwise resounding 24-0 victory.

The Steelers drove the ball at will against the Seahawks for most of the game, but came up short with their goalline offense. They had four first-and-goal opportunities inside the Seattle 5-yard line and could muster only 17 points.

The Steelers had first-and-goal at the 1 on their first drive and were stopped on downs after Rashard Mendenhall was stonewalled at the 1 on fourth down. Later in the first half, they had to settle for a field goal after a first-and-goal at the 2.

Mendenhall did redeem himself with a 1-yard touchdown run, but Ben Roethlisberger threw a 2-yard pass to Mike Wallace on second down for the other touchdown after a first-and-goal at the 4.

"We can't make any excuses for that," said Ramon Foster, who started at left guard in place of the injured Chris Kemoeatu. "We have to push that in right there. That's just one of those things that falls on the offensive line, and we have to be better than that."

Reserve running back Isaac Redman's nickname is "Red Zone Redman" because he has excelled in short-yardage situations, but Mendenhall got the ball twice on the first drive and failed to score. On the drive that resulted in a field goal, Redman replaced Mendenhall after he lost a yard. Redman could gain only a yard on second down before Roethlisberger threw an incomplete pass on third down.

"It's tough," Redman said. "We'll watch the film and see what happened. But there's no excuse. We have to get in the end zone when we're down there on the 1."

Gilbert's first start

The other new starter was rookie Marcus Gilbert, who replaced Willie Colon at right tackle. Colon tore his triceps in the season-openeing loss in Baltimore and will not play again this season.

Gilbert, the team's second-round draft pick who showed up for training camp overweight, missed an assignment on the opening series that led to a Roethlisberger sack on second-and-goal at the Seattle 1, but rebounded for a solid debut.

Gilbert said he settled down after the first series.

"I was too pumped up," said the 6-foot-6, 330-pounder from the University of Florida. "I couldn't believe I was out there running with the 'ones'. It was the best feeling ever. To get my first start in the second game of the season as a rookie ... it went pretty well."

Tight end Heath Miller, who lines up next to Gilbert on many plays, was impressed.

"To step in the second game as a rookie, I thought he played great," Miller said. "Obviously, the tape will tell the story, but it seemed like we didn't miss a beat with him in there."

Ben's scare

Roethlisberger -- and Steelers Nation -- had a scare late in the second quarter when Seattle's Raheem Brock hit him late and at the knees after a completion to Miller. Roethlisberger stayed on the ground for a few minutes before limping off of the field.

Charlie Batch came in for two plays -- both handoffs -- before Roethlisberger returned for a third-and-goal play at the Seattle 2. His pass intended for Hines Ward was incomplete.

"It was pretty scary," Roethlisberger said. "You just feel guys roll up on your legs, and when he rolled up on me it was a scary feeling. Structurally, it felt fine. I didn't feel anything pop, so that was the good thing about it. Then, it was just a matter of playing through the pain."

Roethlisberger played the rest of the game.

Replacing Randle El

The Steelers like to have receivers who can throw the football for gadget plays, and former high school quarterback Emmanuel Sanders looks like he will step in and fill that role now that Antwaan Randle El is no longer playing.

Sanders threw and completed his first professional pass, a 15-yarder to Ward on a reverse play.

"I was supposed to check with Wallace [deep], but he was covered, so I checked it down to Hines," said Sanders, who also contributed with three receptions for 44 yards.

Randle El was 2 for 2 with two touchdown passes last season. He also threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Ward in another victory against Seattle ... in Super Bowl XL.

Punchless in Seattle

The Seahawks offense is still a work in progress and nothing says that more than the play of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

He was signed as a free agent from the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason to replace long-time starter Matt Hasselbeck. Jackson never had much playing time with the Vikings, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll named him the starter shortly after he was signed in late July.

Sunday, Jackson was solid, but not spectacular. He was 20 of 29 passing for 159 yards, with a quarterback rating of 82.4. But the Seahawks offense was no match for the Steelers defense, gaining just 164 yards.

"I'm just in shock with the offense," Jackson said. "We couldn't get in a rhythm. We couldn't get two third-down conversions together. It's hard to get a good tempo when you go three and out."

The Seahawks were 2 of 12 on third downs.

"This doesn't feel like a one-guy situation," Carroll said after the game when asked if he'd stick with Jackson Sunday when the Seahawks face Arizona. "But it would feel nice to get anything [on offense] going. We made some progress, but we have to run the ball better."

Doing more to help

Carroll said the coaching staff has to do a better job to help the struggling Seahawks, now 0-2.

"I told the players [after the game] we've got to help them more," he said. "We've got to get right back to work."

Quick hits

• Starting defensive end Brett Keisel left the game in the second half with a knee injury. Coach Mike Tomlin said it was a mild ligament sprain.

• Mendenhall, who finished with 66 yards, has rushed for at least one touchdown in seven consecutive games against NFL opponents.

• Roethlisberger is 13-1 against NFC opponents at home.

• Wallace tied a career high with eight receptions for 126 yards. He has gone over 100 yards receiving in five consecutive games.

• Ward has four receptions for 33 yards and needs 33 more to pass Don Maynard for 20th in NFL history.

James Harrison became the sixth player in franchise history to recorded 50 sacks. He has 50.5 for his career after sacking Seattle's Jackson.

• Redman scored the first rushing touchdown of his career with a 20-yard run in the second quarter.

• The Steelers won their ninth consecutive home opener and improved to 29-13 in home openers since 1970. Tomlin is the only coach in franchise history to win five consecutive home openers.

• The Steelers have outscored the Seahawks 45-0 in their past two meetings.

• Actresses Jane Seymour and Chelsea Kane took part in the pregame Terrible Towel twirl. They watched the game from Ward's private box.


Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230. First Published September 19, 2011 4:00 AM


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