Friday, August 10, 2012

Steelers Lose Preseason Opener, and Some People Take it Seriously

I was talking with my mother last night after the Steelers 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in their 2012 preseason opener. Regarding the loss, my mom said, "People aren't going to be very happy when they wake up tomorrow morning." I asked her why, even though I knew the answer.

Like a lot of fans, my mom thinks that when the Steelers lose any game, it's a disaster. Not to sound like a football elitist, but I stopped worrying about preseason results a long time ago.

Over the years, I've grown to see preseason football for what it really is: A way to evaluate players and watch the always intriguing position battles that inevitably develop each and every training camp.

I did manage to watch most of Thursday night's game, and from what I could gather, it was your typical opening preseason game. There was no game planning, and both teams were just working on their own stuff. The starters played maybe a series or two, and then they were out of there.

On the offensive side of the ball, I was intrigued at how often the Steelers dumped the football down to the running backs out of the backfield. It was obvious that new offensive coordinator Todd Haley had emphasized that going into the game. After the game, people were expressing mixed emotions about Todd Haley's "new offense." However, I'm fairly confident that screens and check-downs to the running backs won't be the focal-point of Haley's passing attack. The real strength of Pittsburgh's offense is centered around the receiving corps that, for the time-being, is led by third year receiver Antonio Brown. The Steelers just signed Brown to a $42 million contract extension. You think they would have done so if they thought Brown wasn't going to be a major contributor to the offense?

Another intriguing aspect of last night's game was the brief performance of running back Jonathan Dwyer, who rattled off a 33 yard run before suffering a slight shoulder sprain. I've always found Dwyer to be a bit intriguing because I think he's more talented than fan favorite Isaac Redman. Right now, Redman is the designated starter at tailback with Rashard Mendenhall still recovering from offseason ACL surgery. However, comparing both Dwyer and Redman, there is no question in my mind that Dwyer has more ability. However, he just can't seem to stay fit and healthy. He was lost with an injury towards the end of last season, and even though the shoulder sprain isn't going to keep him out of action for long, one has to wonder just how many chances number 27 is going to get to make a name for himself before he's given his permanent pink slip.

As I said, Redman is already a fan favorite, and Baron Batch is right behind him. And what's not to like about rookie Chris Rainey and his blazing speed? Rainey made a splash last night with a 57 yard catch and mostly run. He showed off his speed and displayed the kind of ability that could make him a real weapon.

It was business as usual for the defense, at least for the starters, anyway. I know that second year corner Curtis Brown got burned twice on passing plays, but that's going to happen to a young player.

Cortez Allen appears to be the real budding star in the secondary, and by all accounts, he's really pushing Keenan Lewis for the number two corner spot.

All-in-all, it was your typical preseason opener. Nothing much to be alarmed about.

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