Let's take a minute to review the positives and negatives from the Steelers 21-13 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday:
*Ben Roethlisberger looked great. Sure it was just one series, but he did the kind of things we have become accustomed to the past several years. Roethlisberger led the team to what should have been a scoring drive, highlighted by an impressive throw to Heath Miller after avoiding the first wave of pass rush. Everybody wanted to see Ben take a hit and he did. Unfortunately it killed our opening drive, but oh well. He bounced back up quickly and presumably was ready to play more if Cowher had let him.
*Willie Parker did several things well. He was patient waiting for holes to develop, he had a nice chip block on the play where Roeth got sacked, and he showed some nice hands catching screens out of the backfield. I have a feeling he's going to be special this year. As for Verron Haynes taking over a substantial portion of the running duties, I don't see it happening. Parker's our guy and I'm fine with that.
*Brett Keisel is going to be a fine replacement for Kimo. Keisel shed blockers and busted the Cardinals first running play of the game. His forte has been rushing the passer, but the extra strength and weight he's gained this offseason is going to allow him to be a legitimate run stopper as well. With Casey Hampton wiping out lineman in the middle, I think it's going to be awfully difficult to run against the Steelers.
*That is, if Keisel and Hampton stay healthy. The second and third string defensive linemen looked average. Travis Kirschke, Rodney Bailey, Shuan Nua, and Lee Vickers all got pushed around.
*Rookies Willie Reed and Santonio Holmes played great. Both caught four passes for about 30 yards a piece. Those numbers aren't gaudy, but it's a small indicator that both are going to contribute this year, especially if Cedrick Wilson continues to complain mid-play about the officiating. On the opening play of the second quarter, Wilson was clearly interfered with by Antrell Rolle. The problem was Wilson was calling for the flag while the ball was still in the air and Rolle nearly picked off the pass. Finsih the play Cedrick then worry about bitching to the officials. Rookie mistake from one of our older receivers.
*The special teams looked solid, thanks to all the competition for those final few slots. Chris Gardocki and Mike Barr both punted well, so well in fact that they outkicked coverage quite a few times. Lee Vickers did a fine job as a wedge buster on kick coverage. I like our special teams unit.
*Anthony Smith made a case that he should be the team's starting safety alongside Polamalu. He showed incredible athleticism on one of his two interceptions, he stuffed the run, and shed blocks. It's not likely that he will be the starter over Tyrone Carter and Ryan Clark, but it is guaranteed that he will be on the field and contributing plenty this season.
*What to make of Shane Boyd and Omar Jacobs? Boyd played an awfully long time before Omar Jacobs got an oppurtunity. Is that a sign of Cowher's lack of confidence in Jacobs? Boyd looked both good and awful in the same game. Reader schnifin correctly pointed out that Boyd failed to mix up the speeds of his throws. It's laser beams all the time with Boyd. On his intereception in the endzone that was negated because of penalty, he simply threw the ball way too hard for the situation, causing the ball to deflect of our receiver and pop in the air. Boyd also seemed skittish in the pocket.Jacobs got off to a rocky start. His first possesion was awful. He bounced back nicely though and led the Steelers on a late scoring drive that was punctuated with a 1 yard lob pass to Isaac Smolko in the corner of the endzone. It was indicative of the kind of talent Jacobs has. Jacobs didn't help his cause though when he failed to get a play off before the 2-minute warning. Remember, he's struggled with the playbook and getting out of the huddle in a punctual manner.
*Our Offensive Line needs work. Willie Colon played ok, as did Marvin Phillips, but Chris Kemoeatu and Barret Brooks looked slow and average. I know Alan Faneca and Jeff Hastings will anchor the line, but beyond that, we aren't as good as we have been in years past.
*What am I missing?