August 06, 2007

You're in Steelers Country, Baby! Steelers Country!

"Shoot, I don't care if it's pre-season -- Raiders are 4-and-0, baby!"

-- The Raiders guy

THE TROUBLE WITH the NFL pre-season is that it's not a reflection of how teams will perform in the regular season. For the starters, after all, it's a glorified warm-up. The reason to watch the pre-season is because you get to see farther down in the roster; how the guys who may be called upon to play will perform, and whether any of them will perform well enough to get elevated to a squad's first or second strings. So one ought always take a team's pre-season performance with a container of salt. (After all, look at the Raiders this past year).

That said, holy cow did the Pittsburgh Steelers look good in the Hall of Fame Game. Crikey. The Steelers managed to rack up more than 300 yards in the first half on their way to a 17-0 lead at halftime, while holding the New Orleans Saints to about one-fifth of that total. On the Saints' six first-half possessions, they punted the ball six times. Drew Brees went one-for-six and got all of six yards. But it wasn't just our defense that played great, so did our offense. Ben Roethlisberger played one series, and marched the ball down the field like he was playing against a high school team.

Perhaps the most impressive offensive performance came from running back Carey Davis, No. 38. Davis had a stellar run for more than 50 yards during the game and did some fabulous work throughout. If he keeps that up he'll get the No. 3 running back spot for sure and I think could challenge Najeh Davenport for the No. 2 spot. He looked THAT good. Davis is an Illinois alum and has played on practice squads throughout his short NFL career. For that matter, Davenport looked great too -- on one run, he powered through about six Saints players to pick up five post-contact yards, all through sheer will.

Also looking good: our starting cornerbacks, which was a bit of a shock. Defense, as I said, looked great although in the second half there was some weakness among players one assumes are still trying to make the team. Our new offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, did well. Lastly, I was quite pleased with Mike Tomlin -- not just his coaching, but his attitude. Anyone who responds to a question about the pressures of the head coach job with a remark that real pressure involves providing for one's family, is OK in my book.

Final score: Pittsburgh 20, New Orleans 7.

Oh, a couple of other things. Bryant Gumbel is already annoying the hell out of me. This evening, I was quite gratified to see Gumbel, after pontificating about how Pittsburgh kick returner Willie Reid clearly fumbled the ball, had the referees again shoot down the claim upon a New Orleans challenge. If Mr Gumbel must blather on, he could at least look at the footage objectively and make comments to that effect ("Well, it looks like the ball came out, but we'll see what the referees say.") rather than spouting off like a dummy. For those of you who don't get NFL Network, consider that not having to watch Mr Gumbel as the play-by-play guy is a silver lining on an admittedly really big cloud.

Also, the Steelers apparently got a mascot this year. My response to this news can be summed up as follows: WTF?

We're the Steelers. We don't have mascots. We don't even have cheerleaders.* That's yet another reason why the Steelers rule. Other teams can have stupid mascots (*cough* Pat Patriot *cough*) and cheerleading squads -- we do not. We focus on blue-collar, smash-mouth, grind it out football. However, if we must have a mascot, I do hope he ends up with a good name. Like "Rebar."

Yeah. Rebar the Steeler, who uses his Steel Bar of Justice to Fight for First Downs, a Decent Union Pension, and the American Way. Also he must be Generalissimo of Franco's Italian Army and stomp on an effigy of Peyton Manning.

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* What's that? The Steelers were the first pro football team to have cheerleaders? Yeah, during the Sixties, and look where that got us. I like cheerleaders but not at the expense of our tough-as-nails image.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at August 6, 2007 12:01 AM | TrackBack
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