Monday, August 27, 2007

Steelers Preseason Game 4 of 5

Steelers 27, Eagles 13

If a preseason game could ever be described as "big", last night's would be it. After two sluggish efforts following the Hall of Fame game win against the Saints, Steelers fans were looking forward to seeing the most playing time from their starters, on the NBC national spotlight, against the cross state rival Eagles. For the most part, we did not disappoint.

Both starting units played the entire first half, and both looked sharp, as evidenced by a significant total yards advantage at halftime. The score was only 13-3 though, due to several mistakes: a Roethlisberger interception early on, Parker fumbling near the goal line, and rookie Sepulveda shanking a punt for only 14 yards, giving the Iggles prime field position (kudos to the D for holding them to 3 on that drive). Willie Reid also had his usual difficulty fielding punts.

All the mistakes, however, can almost be overlooked in a preseason game. In a way I'd rather see the Steelers get the bonehead plays out of the way when the scores don't count. This way, on September 9 in Cleveland and beyond, Parker will keep a tighter grip on the ball in the red zone, Ben will think twice before letting go of the ball in extreme pressure, and Sepulveda will just try to get off solid punts rather than try to set records and hit off the side of his foot. This is at least what I hope. We all know that Reid will continue to muff punts, he's about hopeless there.

The important thing is that everybody appeared to be playing to their full potential as a team. The team came out with a gameplan on both sides of the ball, and succeeded on both sides of the ball. They looked more like the 05 Steelers than the 06 Steelers. That is the most encouraging news you can have with a team that has so much to prove this year.

After Chaz Batch led a TD drive in the 3rd qtr to pump the lead to 20-6, the Eagles backups made a game of it in the second half. Jovon Johnson sealed the win, however, returning a fumble 78 yards to score with less than 2 minutes left in the game.

Next up: a trip to visit Bill Cowher in Carolina on Thursday, then what will surely be an endless 10 day wait until Opening Day!

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