Philadelphia came into town a self-anointed Dream Team -- and walked into a black and gold nightmare that lasted for over 3 quarters.
So, naturally the Steelers faithful is feeling good about things. Hell, even the normally jaded news reporters got into the act.
Ummm... Not So Fast...
It's amazing to me that exactly one week after everyone was calmly declaring: "Hey, pre-season doesn't count" so many people are ready to book their tickets to Indianapolis in February after one pretty good pre-season game.
And I'm not just talking the fans. From Ed "The Dean of Pittsburgh Sports Writers" Bouchette:
"The egg the Steelers laid against the Washington Redskins six days earlier hatched into a thing of beauty Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field .. Ben Roethlisberger looked to be in midseason, midcareer form... the Steelers intercepted four Philadelphia passes -- one more than they had in any one game last season. "
Bob Smizik got in the act...
"Wow, what a performance by the Steelers last night. If this was a legitimate indicator, they are primed and ready to go... The Steelers took that first-half lead with an offense that looked like it had been locked in to daily practices during the off-season instead of being locked out with no organized practices...Ben Roethlisberger was excellent -- Byron Leftwich was almost as good..In light of this scintillating performance, what better time to conduct a survey on the Steelers season, which includes four games against members of the notoriously weak NFC West -- to say nothing of four games against the notoriously weak bottom feeders of the AFC North....
Please... make it stop!
Let's all take a deep breath and say again: "Pre-Season doesn't matter."
Then let's look at the reality of the game yesterday, starting with Ben Roethlisberger's "mid-season, mid-career" form. Ben looked OK, not great. He under-threw a couple of timing routes, and had happy feet when standing in the pocket for too long. The first touchdown was after a very fortuitous face-mask call. (Mind you, I am not saying that it shouldn't have been called. But it would have been a punt if not for the facemask -- hardly an offense clicking on all cylinders.)
The first touchdown was also aided by an extremely bonehead play by Assante Samuel. I know, bad plays are part of the game, but I would have felt a little better about the mistake by Samuels if Antonio Brown had at least faked an inside route. Then I could say: "Well, good route for Brown..." But the reality is that Samuel assumed an inside route and played it all the way.
I'm not suggesting we take the six off of the board, I am only saying that it's hard to make an offensive plan that counts on the defense being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And I don't know about anyone else, but as I watched Byron Leftwich's methodic wind up and throw I started thinking that maybe it's time Charlie got a look in Preseason -- because Lefty as a starter scares me. Here's hoping the new Mrs. Ben Roethlisberger has hidden the keys to his motorcycle, because folks if Ben goes down and Lefty steps in, we're in a heap of trouble. You think the O-line has trouble holding their blocks while Ben scrambles around? Ha! That's nothing compared to how long it takes Lefty to lock, load, and fire.
As for the defense... it looked good containing Michael Vick. But Michael Vick has always been somewhat streaky. He is a very good talent, and when he plays to his talent's strengths, he is a tough QB. But he's never been a pocket or a precision passer. That's what Philadelphia wants him to be, and it looked to me that he was thinking too much out there.
I am worried about Harrison's back. I really am. As someone who has had some low back trouble, I can assure everyone that there is no such thing as a minor back surgery. Worilds has done nothing to make me think he is ready to spell Harrison and Woodly, let alone step in to replace them for a game. It also didn't seem to me that Harrison had his normal explosiveness, and low grinding drive through the blockers that I come to expect.
But... as I said before... it is just preseason. I would hope that James is taking the comeback in stages, and not going balls out for a meaningless game. Just as I would hope that Ben will get his timing down as the preseason progresses.
Also, after Troy telling us he was still not 100% it was mighty nice to see him flying around out there like a hairy guided missile. That looked a lot more like the Troy we've come to expect than the pale doppelganger that wore 43 in the Super Bowl.
Don't get me wrong. There was a lot of things to like about the first half of yesterday's game. But it didn't mean anything more than the first week's.
It's only preseaon.