I have just finished watching the Steelers Cardinals game for the third time. Below is my report card for the first preseason game along with notes I made.
Quarterbacks - Ben Roethlisberger played only two series and Charlie Batch just one. Ben showed he still has his escapability when he was almost sacked for a safety and threw the ball relatively well. Batch under threw Limas Sweed on one of his two passes, but Sweed came back and hauled in the pass. Dennis Dixon got off to shaky start as he was asked to run the two minute offense on his first possession. The more he played, the more comfortable he got. Seems to still have his weird deliver though and needs to work on getting the ball out quicker. The best thing about the quarterbacking was no turnovers.
Running Backs - Rashard Mendenhall started and had a few decent runs, coupled with a few poor ones. He looked a little timid running inside, but was working behind a reserve center. The best news with Mendenhall was no fumbles, something that plagued him last preseason. Justin Vincent held his own, while Isaac Redman ran possessed in the red zone. Redman will likely earn earlier reps next week to see how he fairs against starters. Frank Summers made most of his contributions blocking as a fullback and playing special teams.
Wide Receivers - Limas Sweed has improved and it showed last night. He dropped one easy pass, but the two grabs he made were great. Hines Ward grabbed two early and Mike Wallace grabbed two catches as well. Wallace still needs a ton of work on his cutting and route running, but did show he can take the top off of coverages. Shaun McDonald made a strong claim for the 5th receiver spot. He is a veteran and played like one.
Tight Ends - Heath Miller started so that is a good sign in itself as he returns from hernia surgey. The rest of the crew had an uneventful night. Sean McHugh had a few good blocks, but David Johnson looked lost.
Offensive Line - The starting 5 got pushed around a bit, but Doug Legurski held his own for the most part. He will in no way be confused with Justin Hartwig though. A.C. Shipley looked better than I thought he would, but is still raw. Ramon Foster was the bright spot working at the second string left guard position. Tony Hills showed some progress as at reserve left tackle. He still has a ways to go, but looks better in some areas. Kraig Urbik did not see much time.
Defensive Backs - Troy Polamalu was flying around in his normal fashion. William Gay was playing way too soft in my opinion. He was not fast on his breaks as receivers ran their routes. His tackling was good however. Anthony Madison made a heck of an interception and was falsely called for pass interference. I liked his play. Rookie Joe Burnett was hot and cold. He did have the interception though. Keiwan Ratliff has seen his better days. Keenan Lewis needs to learn to tackle, not hit with his shoulder. Derrick Richardson will not be a Steeler for long. Ryan Mundy was all over the place but needs to work on his hands.
Linebackers -James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley look good to go, now! Lawrence Timmons as well. Really liked the play of Arnold Harrison and Bruce Davis seems a little more comfortable now. Donovan Woods is not afraid to hit. Nothing wrong here.
Defensive Line - Not much pressure up front. Brett Keisel was out and Casey Hampton still is not fully in shape. Looked like he was playing in mud. Ziggy Hood and Ra\'Shon Harris looked un-acclimated. Scott Paxson was the lone bright spot if you call it that.
Special Teams - Two words, Daniel Sepulveda. WOW! Piotr Czech was the lone pimple on the ass. Jeff Reed nailed a fifty. Punt coverages were fantastic, mostly due to Sepulveda. Kick off coverage should come around. Several rookies including Frank Summers can really hit. Mike Wallace had a good return on his lone effort.
Overall - Conditioning and communication will come. The team looked focused and did not turn the ball over on offense and the defense forced two turnovers. For a first game of the preseason, I have seen worse efforts. Team looks coach-able and focused. Lots of good, young, raw talent. A few undrafted players may crack the final 53.