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Steelers beat Lions in preseason game

August 15, 2010 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports, training camp

The Steelers now have one preseason game under their belts.  They also have one win, as they defeated the Detroit Lions 23-7.

The question that most fans were asking going into the game was “who will play quarterback?”  The answer was a bit of a surprise.  Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play at all.  He was dressed for the game, but the coaches decided not to play him.  Byron Leftwich started the game.  And just like he has in training camp, he looked a bit rusty and inaccurate.  Dennis Dixon came in to replace Leftwich, and it is fair to say that it was Dixon who led the Steelers to victory.  And just like in training camp, Charlie Batch was left with a handful of meaningless snaps.

There were high points and low points in the game.  One of the low points was the running game.  This was particularly disturbing because it was obvious that the Steelers were trying to emphasize the run.  There’s nothing more frustrating than making a concerted effort to do something, and failing at it.

The Steelers running backs seemed to be stuffed each time they tried to run the ball.  Rashard Mendenhall rushed 5 times for 2 yards.  Mewelde Moore rushed 1 time for 3 yards.  Justin Vincent rushed 1 time for 5 yards.  Jonathan Dwyer rushed 6 times for 8 yards.  The lone bright spot seemed to be Isaac Redman, who rushed 15 times for 60 yards and a touchdown.

Isaac Redman runs hard

But before you get too excited about Redman’s performance, just remember that Redman was the rushing star of last year’s preseason too.  He earned the nickname “Red Zone” because of his ability to get the ball in the endzone.  Yet, despite his effectiveness in the preseason, Frank Summers made the Steelers’ final 53-man roster, and Redman was placed on the practice squad.  So I’ve learned to temper my excitement about players who perform well in the preseason.  Apparently, the Steelers coaches see things that we don’t.  Or perhaps it’s actually the other way around.  Perhaps they don’t see what we do.  ;-)

The game was marred by a 1 hour and 13 minute delay due to rain and lightning.

But when the rain let up, it was Dennis Dixon who shined the brightest.  Dixon completed long passes to Arnaz Battle (51 yards) and Antonio Brown (68 yards).  The pass to Brown resulted in a Brown’s first NFL touchdown.  Perhaps the connection to Brown was to be expected, since anyone who has been at Steelers Training Camp has probably noticed that Brown has emerged as Dennis Dixon’s favorite target.

One disappointment was Flozell Adams.  Flozell has looked very good at training camp.  However, he looked a bit slow during last night’s game.  He gave up an obvious sack on Byron Leftwich.  Adams was looking right at the rushing defender, and he even got his hands on him, but he still ran right past Adams as though he weren’t even there.  Adams is going to have to do a lot better than that.  But overall, the Steelers quarterbacks were only sacked twice, so that’s not so bad for a first outing.

Byron Leftwich gets sacked.

Other bright spots included Rookie linebacker Stevenson Sylvester and Ryan Clark.  Sylvester seemed to be all over the field.  He led the team with 4 tackles and 3 assists.  Clark picked up an interception, something that the Steelers seemed unable to do last season.

Based on this game, I can already hear some Steelers fans calling for Dennis Dixon to be named the starter when the regular season starts.  I would caution them to temper their excitement.  There are still 3 more preseason games remaining.  Just as he played well this game, he could play terribly next game.  It is probably best to judge every player based on their body of work over all 4 preseason games, rather than rushing to judgment after only one game.

It’s obvious that there are still things that the Steelers need to work on.  Despite the interception by Ryan Clark, the secondary got sliced to pieces by Matthew Stafford.  None of the cornerbacks looked like playmakers.  That is exactly what we saw last season.  So fans are going to want to see that change before the regular season starts.

The bottom line is that the Steelers got the win, and that is what really counts.  But the coaches are going to have some things to work on once they look at the film of the game.  But of course, that’s exactly what the preseason is for.  Personally, I’m just ecstatic to see the Steelers on the field again.

Here we go Steelers, here we go!


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Steelers get another too close win

October 11, 2009 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

October 10, 2009
By Donald Starver

I know that I should be happy that the Steelers defeated the Detroit Lions  28-20 today, yet I feel strangely unfulfilled. 

Many fans have already written to remind me that a win is a win, and that I should be satisfied.  But I’m not satisfied.  Perhaps I’m ungrateful.  Perhaps I’m too demanding.  But I’m not satisfied at all.

I am happy that the Steelers are finally above .500.  I really am.  But I’m not happy with how they did it.  After all, these were the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers facing one of the worst teams in the NFL.  The Lions went 0-16 last season.  So could you blame me for desiring a blowout?  Reigning champs should beat reigning chumps…..Soundly.

So why did the Lions score first?   And why did the Lions run for more yards than the Steelers?  Why did the Lions also pass for more yards than the Steelers?  Why did the Lions have more first downs than the Steelers?  Why did the Lions have a greater time of possession than the Steelers?  And why did the Lions outscore the Steelers in the 4th quarter?

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.  I really don’t.  But these are questions that have to be asked.

To be fair, there were some bright spots in the Steelers’ win.  James Harrison accumulated 3 sacks and a forced fumble.  William Gay and LaMarr Woodley each racked up 1.5 sacks.  Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 77 yards on 15 carries.  Heath Miller scored another touchdown.  Hines Ward and Mike Wallace also caught TD passes.  And of course Big Ben passed for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns.

But even with all of those positives, there were still things that left me baffled.  For example, why did the Steelers seem to stop going to Rashard Mendenhall in the 2nd half?  Mendenhall started off on fire and rushed for 65 yards in the 1st half.  But offensive coordinator Bruce Arians seemed to forget about him as Mendenhall only got 6 carries and 12 yards in the entire 2nd half.  Note to Bruce Arians:  When a running back is averaging over 5 yards per carry, GIVE HIM THE BALL!!!!!! 

RB Rashard Mendenhall

RB Rashard Mendenhall

Also, why did the Steelers throw the ball to Limas Sweed on their very first offensive series?  As might be expected, Sweed dropped an easy pass.  Fortunately, the Steelers learned from their mistake and didn’t throw to Sweed again for the rest of the game.  Frankly, I was under the impression that Mike Tomlin had Sweed chained up in the basement of the Steelers’ practice facility.  Who let him out?

Perhaps most disappointing was the Steelers’ defense.  The ” D” made Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper look like Peyton Manning.  Culpepper shreaded our defense.  He also rushed for 44 yards.  Culpepper, who was only playing due to an injury to starter Matthew Stafford, did all of that without star wide receiver Calvin Johnson who left early in the game with an injury.

So perhaps you now understand why this game left me feeling a little unfulfilled.  Sure, it’s a win.  But I’m not happy about it.  Nope, I’m not happy at all.


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Steelers vs. Lions: Key match-ups

October 11, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

Today, the Steelers travel to Ford Field in Detroit Michigan for a home game against the Detroit Lions.  That’s right, I said a home game.  Steeler Nation always travels well, but with Detroit being within easy driving distance from Pittsburgh, I expect to see a sea of black and gold in the audience today, making it feel like a home game for the Steelers.

Those who make the trip are likely to see a good show by the Steelers who are favored in today’s game.

Here is a look at some of the key match-ups that may determine the outcome of the game.

Ike Taylor vs. Calvin Johnson
This is the most obvious, and perhaps the most interesting match-up of the game.  Calvin Johnson is the Lions’ best player.  He is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the NFL.  However, the Steelers’ Ike Taylor is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.  Taylor relishes the opportunity to face the league’s best receiver.  He has been anxiously awaiting this opportunity to go against Johnson.

Calvin Johnson’s size and speed gives him an advantage over most cornerbacks in the NFL.  Ike Taylor is not one of them.  Advantage - Neither.

LB LaMarr Woodley vs. RT Gosder Cherilus
By now, everyone knows that LaMarr Woodley has no sacks this season.  I’m sure that this doesn’t sit well with Woodley.  He would probably love to change this statistic right here in Michigan, where he starred in college at the University of Michigan.

Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley

Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley

The job of stopping Woodley falls to Lions right tackle Gosder Cherilus.  Personally, I don’t think Woodley will be sack-less after today.  Advantage - Steelers.

Dick LeBeau vs. Larry Foote
Many sportswriters have made former Steeler Larry Foote’s presence on the Lions a storyline for this game.  They say that Foote has probably shared all of the Steelers defensive signals and tendencies with his new Lions teammates.  If that is the case, it will be up to Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to change things up a bit to compensate for anything that Foote may have shared.

Dick LeBeau is such a brilliant strategist that I don’t think that anything that Larry Foote may have shared will have any impact on the game.  Advantage - Steelers.

Rashard Mendenhall vs. Willie Parker
Perhaps the most exciting match-up of the game will be an internal struggle.

After last week’s 165 yard outburst, many Steelers fans were ready to hand Rashard Mendenhall the starting role.  Of course, that was a silly notion.  You don’t replace a multi-time Pro Bowl player with an unproven upstart after only one good game.  This is even more true when the young upstart has also has a history of fumbling the ball.

Willie Parker is still injured, so Mendenhall will get his second consecutive start.  Should Rashard Mendenhall have another 100+ yard performance, and run hard between the tackles like he did last week, then the conversation will gain legitimacy.  It will still be too soon to anoint Mendenhall as the next great Steelers running back, but the conversation will definitely become much more interesting.  Advantage - We shall see.


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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions Preview

October 08, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

Were this any other year but 2009, we’d all be taking the Steelers’ upcoming game against the Detroit Lions pretty lightly.  After all, this is the worst team from 2008 versus the best team from 2008.  The 0-16 Detroit Lions versus the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

But this IS 2009, and the Steelers have taught us not to take any opponent lightly.

We know that the Steelers have not looked much like the reigning Super Bowl champs so far this season.  Prior to last week’s win over the San Diego Chargers, the Steelers had the exact same record as the Detroit Lions.

By all rights, the Super Bowl champs should beat the lowly Lions.  But they should have also beaten the Bears…..and the Bengals.  We all know how those games turned out.  So taking the Lions lightly isn’t likely to happen.

Detroit leads the overall series 13-4 when playing at home.  Moreover, the Steelers have not won a single road game this season.  So going on the road to face the Lions may not be  as easy a win as some fans might think.

The Lions did  suffer a devastating blow last week when rookie quarterback  Matt Stafford went down with a knee injury.  Stafford hasn’t practiced since the injury, but Lions head coach Jim Schwartz refuses to rule him out for Sunday’s game.  In the meantime, backup Daunte Culpepper has been taking the majority of the snaps for Detroit.

Regardless of which Lions quarterback gets the start, they will have the luxury of throwing to one of the best receivers in the NFL, Calvin Johnson.  Johnson is 6’5″, runs like the wind, and jumps like a kangaroo.  I sometimes question whether Johnson is even human.  Ike Taylor will have the unenviable task of trying to stop Johnson.

Lions WR Calvin Johnson

Lions WR Calvin Johnson

Fortunately for the Steelers, their running game finally showed up last week.  The offensive line looked brilliant, and RB Rashard Mendenhall had a breakout performance.  Mendenhall rushed for 165 yards, and displayed the type of tough, downhill running that the Steelers have been missing since Jerome Bettis retired.

RB Rashard Mendenhall

RB Rashard Mendenhall

The Steelers also got another masterful performance from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  Big Ben passed for 333 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Steelers defense also put on a dominating display last week……for 3 quarters.  As has been their pattern this season, the defense held their opponent in check for 3 quarters before suffering a near collapse in the 4th quarter.

So if I had to guess what is going to happen in Sunday’s game, I would anticipate that the Steelers will manhandle the Lions for 3 quarters before allowing the Lions to get back into the game in the 4th quarter.  The game will then become a nail-biter, leaving Steelers fans on the verge of cardiac arrest as the game ends in dramatic fashion.

Is there anyone out there in Steeler Nation who thinks the game will unfold differently?  I didn’t think so.

Other Steelers news

  • Running back Isaac Redman cleared waivers and has been re-signed to the Steelers practice squad.
  • Troy Polamalu began practicing this week, but is unlikely to play in Sunday’s game.


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Foote signs with Lions

May 06, 2009 By: Admin Category: Players

May 6, 2009

According to reports, former Steelers linebacker Larry Foote has signed a one year contract with his hometown Detroit Lions.  Terms of the deal have not been released.

“It’s like 90% done”, said Foote.  Apparently, Foote and the Lions have agreed on the contract value.  However, they are still working out final details of the payment schedule and the guaranteed portion of the deal.

Foote, who is from Detroit and played college football for the University of Michigan, asked the Steelers to release him so that he could sign with his hometown team.

Foote probably got a rude awakening when the Steelers got no trade offers for him.  Then, to add insult to injury, the 0-16 Detroit Lions weren’t willing to offer him more than a 1 year deal.  Ouch!

The lions are badly in need of linebacker help, and not many players are actually REQUESTING to play for the Lions like Foote did.  You’d think the Lions would be excited about adding a veteran LB and Super Bowl champ to their pathetic roster.  But I guess not.

Foote indicated that several other teams, including the Arizona Cardinals (what a surprise), Kansas City Chiefs, and Indianapolis Colts, were interested in acquiring his services.  But ultimately, he decided to go home to Detroit.

So Larry will have to settle for a one year contract, and earn a longer deal.  Kinda sucks, but that’s life in the NFL.

Good luck, Larry.  You got what you wanted.  I hope you can live with that.

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