Between the lines: A Steelers postgame analysis by Ed Bouchette
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Had the Steelers' 12-10 victory Saturday night against Washington on the road happened in the regular season, it would have been a nice, fourth-quarter comeback for them.
As it stands, many of those leading that comeback won't be on the 53-man roster. A coach usually says something good about his team when it comes from behind, even during a preseason game, and Mike Tomlin complied.
"We stayed in the fight. We found a way to finish this football game," Tomlin said.
Perhaps, but those he needs to win games for him in the regular season were all on the bench ?? Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, etc., etc.
What does it matter, other than to the individuals involved trying to catch on even with a practice squad, that the third and fourth teams outscored the Redskins' third and fourth teams in the fourth quarter?
Tomlin was bluntly critical in other areas after the game in which his first-team offense scored three points in a half of play and his first-team defense allowed the Redskins to convert 7 of 10 third downs.
Here are some of the ups, downs and sideways from Saturday night's game:
Ben Roethlisberger's stats looked reasonable -- he was 8 of 12 for 87 yards. But he overthrew an open Santonio Holmes in the end zone, and with a first down at the Redskins' 9, he could not deliver them into the end zone on six plays. Granted, Roethlisberger wasn't getting the best protection either. "I would like to see him perform better," Tomlin said.
Santonio Holmes continued to show he can become a game-breaking wide receiver. He caught two more passes for 51 yards to go with the one of 49 he snatched the previous week against Green Bay. He has six receptions for a 24.7-yard average in three preseason games.
Punter Daniel Sepulveda keeps making Kevin Colbert look good for spending draft choices in the fourth and sixth rounds on him. The rookie punted four times for an average of 50 yards, 48.5 net. After a so-so first game, he has averaged 49.9 yards gross with only 15 total yards returned on nine punts in the past two games. He has come close to having one blocked in each of the past two games, though.
Rookie tight end Matt Spaeth, a third-round draft choice, is still searching for his first reception. That might not be a big deal because veteran tight end Heath Miller caught his first pass Saturday night, for just 3 yards, although Roethlisberger looked his way more times than that. Miller at 6 feet 5 and Spaeth at 6-7 were to be terrors teaming up in the red zone. Perhaps the Steelers are holding back that part of the offense in which they throw more to the tight end; either that or the promise belongs with the one where the check is in the mail.
Verron Haynes ran hard Saturday night, driving some tacklers backward as he gained 30 yards on seven carries (4.3-yard average) and catching two passes for 15 yards. He also did his thing pass blocking, as usual. It seemed as if the coaches wanted to give him a long look in a game as he tries to save his spot on the team after major knee surgery in November. He passed the test Saturday night, but with young backs Carey Davis and Gary Russell making strong bids, his spot remains unsecured.
Offensive line: The team has only one left tackle, Marvel Smith. It has been determined that Max Starks cannot be the backup there, and Trai Essex looked lost there Saturday night. Alan Faneca might not like it, but if Smith is hurt, he's probably the only one who can capably handle moving out there.
Alan Faneca: Perhaps the Steelers should try one more time with Faneca to extend his contract. It does not appear they will, but he's their best offensive lineman and they've now seen what could happen if Smith gets hurt. Faneca is only 30 and he's rarely injured. He could remain a dominant guard for the next five years. He's their most decorated guard in history and probably the second-best left tackle on their team. Maybe things have been said on either side that weren't quite diplomatic, but the Rooneys have a way of putting those behind them and convincing a player to do so as well. Maybe Roethlisberger and Willie Parker should be the ones pushing for an extension for Faneca.
Brett Keisel's hit on quarterback Jason Campbell deservedly drew a flag because the Kimo von Oelhoffen rule added in 2006 expressly prohibits hitting the quarterback low. (It appeared he hit him above the knee.) Of course, defenders can't hit him high, either, because that's consider head-hunting. It's the new strike zone in football, from the shoulders to above the knees. Jack Lambert, nearly 30 years ago, suggested outfitting the quarterbacks in dresses. The NFL should consider outfitting them in flags instead, one on each side of the belt. Pull it and they're down.Gerald Herbert, Associated Press
Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes is stopped by Redskins safety Sean Taylor in the second quarter Saturday in Landover, Md.
Click photo for larger image.
Game: Steelers (2-1) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) in Game 4 of the preseason.
When: 8 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Heinz Field.
Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Willie Parker gives Verron Haynes a hug after he picked up a first down in the second quarter against the Redskins.
Click photo for larger image.
First Published August 19, 2007 11:37 pm