Haley's offense offers first clues on strategy
Starting his first game as a Pittsburgh Steeler, rookie guard David DeCastro drops back to pass block against the Eagles.
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Steelers unveiled a limited version of their new offensive look under Todd Haley, and the emphasis was on screens, quick throws and ball possession.
Granted, it was only the first preseason game and teams tend to save most of their offensive packages for the regular season.
But Haley opened the game against the Eagles with a delayed screen from Ben Roethlisberger to running back Isaac Redman, followed that with a swing pass to tight end David Johnson and another screen to Johnson on his third attempt.
His next two passes were a quick swing pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown for 7 yards and a half-roll to rookie running back Chris Rainey for 8 yards.
The opening drive lasted 16 plays and included four first downs, even though it ended with a 46-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham.
"We came out, executed, got our looks, executed our new offense, got an opportunity to get a look at a defense opposite of ours and run our new plays," Brown said.
"So it was a good chance to see the offense operate at a game level and ready ourselves from that aspect."
Roethlisberger played only one series, and his replacement, Byron Leftwich, did much the same on the second. He did have a 14-yard completion to Brown, but he tried a screen pass to running back Jonathan Dwyer that lost 2 yards and also took a short drop and made a quick throw to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a 2-yard touchdown.
"I really like it," Sanders said about the offense. "We came out and executed, but we still have a long ways to go. But I am liking what I am seeing so far."
It was a tough debut for rookie left tackle Mike Adams, the team's No. 2 draft choice from Ohio State.
Adams gave up two sacks, including one that caused by a fumble by Leftwich, before injuring his right knee four plays into the second series. Adams did not return, and the extent of his injury was not known.
Adams and rookie No. 1 draft pick David DeCastro each started against the Eagles in their NFL debut, and DeCastro appeared to play well at right guard He threw the block that opened the hole on Dwyer's 33-yard run to set up the first touchdown.
Johnson, a fullback/tight end, who was going to get more work with the tight ends when the team returns to St. Vincent College to resume training camp, might not get the chance.
Johnson injured his right knee on the next-to-last play of the opening drive and had to carried from the field. There was no immediate word on the severity of his injury.
He wasn't the only player to leave the game with injury. Dwyer, injured his left shoulder and did not return.
End Al Woods made the defensive play of the game, intercepting a Mike Kafka pass and returning it 51 yards to the Eagles 4 to set up a Suisham field goal.
But that wasn't the only highlight of the play.
As he was running toward the end zone, Woods appeared to look at the giant replay board at that end of the field and noticed an Eagles player closing on him. So, Woods cradled the ball with both hands around the 15 when the player tried to knock it from his grasp.
Cornerback Curtis Brown, a fourth-round draft pick last year, was the leading tackler on special teams in 2011 and was hoping to parlay that into more playing time this season.
But Brown got beat for a pair of long touchdowns on back-to-back plays in the third quarter.
He got turned around and fell to the ground when he was beat for a 70-yard touchdown by wide receiver Damaris Johnson that cut the Steelers lead to 13-7.
And, on the first play of the ensuing series, Brown never caught sight of the ball and allowed wide receiver Mardy Gilyard to catch a 44-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 14-13 lead. The play was originally ruled out at the 1, but replay showed Gilyard's breaking the plane of the goal inside the pylon before going out of bounds.
The Steelers were a little thin at defensive end because Brett Keisel did not make the trip for personal reasons and backup Cam Heyward was out with a back injury.
Others who did not dress: offensive guard Willie Colon (ankle) and punter Jeremy Kapinos (back), plus the five players on the physically-unable-to-perform list -- nose tackle Casey Hampton, linebackers James Harrison and Jason Worilds, running back Rashard Mendenhall and offensive left tackle Max Starks.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick injured the thumb on his throwing hand in the second quarter and did not return.
Vick was injured on an incomplete pass when his left hand hit the helmet of center Jason Kelce on his follow-through. Vick came out of the game and kept his thumb in a cup of ice on the sidelines. X-rays revealed no breaks.
First Published August 10, 2012 12:00 am