August 23, 2009
By Donald Starver
The Steelers came up short last night in a 17-13 loss to the Washington Redskins. However, we need to be careful not to read too much into the results.
Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play at all, due to an injury that he suffered on the last day of training camp. Offensive tackle Max Starks stepped on Big Ben’s foot, but the injury is not serious. Roethlisberger might have even played a series or two last night if the field weren’t soaking wet. Heavy rains made for a slick playing surface which posed too great a risk for further injury to Roethlisberger. So Charlie Batch started the game in place of Roethlisberger.
The outcome of these games really isn’t important. What matters is how the Steelers execute their assignments, and how they perform in what head coach Mike Tomlin calls “situational football”.
The first unit left the game with the Steelers leading. The 1st team defense had a nice stop within the Redskins 5 yard line that forced them to settle for a field goal. However, there were still several areas of concern.
The team finished the game with 13 penalties. That is far too many. Few teams can find a way to win when they give up that many penalties. Most concerning was the fact that the first unit was just as penalty-prone as the substitutes were.
Also concerning was the protection by the offensive line (sound familiar?). Though the Steelers’ quarterbacks were only sacked twice, they were under pressure quite often. I paid close attention to Max Starks’ battle with Redskins DE Andre Carter, and Carter owned Starks. If you look at the box score, it will show that Carter only had one tackle during the game. However, that is not an accurate reflection of what really happened.
On the positive side, Stefan Logans made the game his personal coming out party. Logans returned 4 punts for an average of 12 yards per return. Even more impressive, he returned 4 kickoffs for an average of 39.3 yards. No, that’s not a typo. He averaged almost 40 yards per kickoff return. He even had one 60 yard return.
Logans pretty much closed the door on his competition with Joe Burnett for return duties. Burnett fielded one punt and fumbled it after gaining only 4 yards. The Redskins scored on the next play. Burnett was also beaten for a touchdown while playing cornerback. When you combine that with the fact that Burnett also had a fumble in last week’s game, it becomes clear that Burnett is not having a good pre-season. Fortunately, Burnett had an interception last week, else he might have been cut immediately following the game.
Other notable performances:
Dan Sepulveda- Sepulveda punted 5 times for an average of 47.8 yards. His longest punt of the night traveled 58 yards.
Rashard Mendenhall- While he didn’t get many touches, Mendenhall averaged 5.2 yards on his 5 carries.
Tom Korte - Recorded an interception, and returned it 27 yards.
Ziggy Hood – Hood recorded both of the Steelers’ sacks.
Martin Nance – Nance made 2 catches for an average of 13 yards per catch.
Tony Hills – Hills accounted for 2 of the Steelers’ 13 penalties. I can live with physical errors. Holding is a part of the game. Heck, if an offensive lineman isn’t holding, then is he really even trying? But what I can’t tolerate is mental errors. Both of Hills’ penalties were due to mental errors. On one he was called for a false start, and on another he was flagged for an illegal formation.
Joe Burnett – Hold onto the ball Joe.
Jeff Reed – Jeff Reed actually missed two field goal attempts in a row. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. After missing his first attempt, Reed was given another shot due to a penalty by the Redskins, and he missed again. It must be snowing in Hell.
Back-up quarterback Dennis Dixon left the game with an unspecified shoulder injury.
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