Two Simple Thoughts
- Stefan Logan and Dan Sepulveda are the biggest reasons the Steelers will be better in 2009 then they were in 2008.
- If Lawrence Timmons misses one or two games, the Steelers defense will not suffer at all with Keyaron Fox as his replacement.
Two Longer Thoughts
- The first team offensive line played its best preseason game by far. Of course, that may have something to do with this being the first time they all played together in the preseason game. Something that did not happen with Hartwig missing the first game and Kemo missing the second. But against the Bills, Big Ben had plenty of time to throw the ball and make accurate reads. Roethlisberger completed more than 75% of his passes. Given time to throw, a luxury Ben hasn't had in several years, he will be in the upper echelon of quarterbacks in completion percentage. Granted, the Bills defense rarely brought pressure and doesn't have many playmakers, but it's still a welcome sight to see a quarterback that isn't being harassed immediately upon dropping back. In the run game, the O-line was no better than average. They still struggle to get a major push and there always seems to be one guy who is beaten badly. Nonetheless, I didn't think the O-line was terrible in run blocking. Which leads me to thought number 2.
- Rashard Mendenhall looks like the Steelers first, first-round draft pick in nearly ten years with bust potential. Coach Tomlin and the Pittsburgh media (blogs included) seem to treat Rashard with kid gloves. His good runs receive lots of press and his bad ones still receive the compliment that he is running hard. Case in point, Mike Tomlin blamed his fumble on the offensive line. But the facts are thus: Mendenhall averaged a paltry 3.0 yards per carry and fumbled on a drive that would have resulted in points. The two longish runs he did have were the result of huge holes created by the offensive line. And he is yet to break even one long run (25+ yards) in his career, including preseason. The thing that worries me most about Mendenhall is that he plays the position with the easiest adjustment to the NFL. If he were a cornerback or defensive back, I would withhold judgment (I learned my lesson after declaring Troy Polamalu was the worst safety in the league his rookie year.) But, every year, rookie running backs make relatively seamless transitions to the NFL. Two years ago, Adrian Peterson hit it big. Last year, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Steve Slaton, Kevin Smith, and Felix Jones made an impact. Mendenhall isn't a receiver that needs to learn how to read a defense. He isn't a lineman that is learning a new technique. He's a running back. And he hasn't shown the traits needed to excel at his position - vision and elusiveness. The smaller things like pass protection can be taught. But running backs need vision to hit the holes and elusiveness to make a guy or two miss. Against the Bills, Mendy missed open lanes and used the spin move like a 9 year old playing Madden. Sure, the Steelers offensive line didn't do him many favors. But welcome to the NFL. The holes aren't as big as they are when Illinois played Akron. I certainly hope I'm wrong. I'm rooting for Rashard. But nothing I've seen thus far suggests that Mendenhall was worth the first round draft pick- especially when guys like Steve Slaton and Matt Forte were drafted later.