Wilson: Preseason scribbles

Duce Staley takes a handoff.

Will Duce Staley be good for anything other than the post-game buffet? That remains unclear, but there are other issues the Steelers need to address as the regular season approaches. Blogger Ryan Wilson covers all of this and more in his post-game scribbles.

I guess I should be careful what I ask for. Last week I lambasted local KDKA color guy Edmund Nelson for his incoherent babbling and this week Nelson got his revenge. His name is Joe Theismann. This guy is to football commentating what Lisa Guerrero is to … football commentating. But worse. Edmund: 1 Wilson: 0.

No need to fear, however; my liberal use of the mute button during the telecast didn't keep me from my weekly maniacal rantings. So with all of that out of the way, let's get to it:

* On the opening kickoff Quincy Morgan fakes the kneel-down three yards deep in the end zone. As the ball was in the air, it looked like Morgan was probably thinking, "You know, I should probably down this ball…" quickly followed by, "… but I'm not getting cut for some stinkin' rookie; I'm running!"

* Hey, who was the guy who said the Steelers should get Willie Parker more involved in the passing game? Okay, I wasn't original in writing that but look, I gotta take whatever I can get.

* Raise your hand if the revelation that Ben Roethlisberger suffers weekly episodes of vertigo was news to you. You know, I was just thinking the other day that the endless stories about Big Ben's off-season motorcycle accident wouldn't be enough; fans are eager for even more inane reports about the ill effects of head-butting a Chrysler New Yorker. Thank you Jesus for the vertigo angle. That should be good for another 20 weeks of worthless features by all the national outlets.

At one point during the telecast, as the MNF crew continued to talk about the new news story of the day, Big Ben scrambled right on third-and-eight and hit Quincy Morgan for a first down. Yep, Roethlisberger looks like he might fall over at any moment. Memo to Big Ben: Keep the dizzy spells to yourself. It'll be your little secret.

* One of the reassuring things about the way Big Ben plays now compared to, say, his rookie season, is that he seems to be in control of every little detail. After a delay of game penalty that was ostensibly the result of Roethlisberger getting the play late from the sidelines, Big Ben motioned for Whisenhunt/Whipple to speed things up. Sure, it seems innocuous enough, but it's little stuff like this that most people don't notice that separates the good quarterbacks from the great ones. Of course, a play later on third-and-forever, Roethlisberger threw a pick, but that's beside the point.

* It'll be interesting to see if opposing offenses throw at Ike Taylor as often as they did last year. So far this preseason he's making every tackle and yards after catch for those receivers he's matched up against have to be pretty close to zero. Um, maybe I typed too soon …

Hey looky there, it's Ike Taylor's hands from the 2005 season. He drops an easy pick near the Steelers' end zone and two plays later, just to show he's serious, he does it again. Ike, for the love of God, please catch the ball. For every dropped interception, the Steelers should knock a million dollars off Ike's signing bonus. If this doesn't encourage him to sign, I don't know, TODAY, he could conceivably end up owing the organization money by Week 5 or so.

* This just in: Joe Theismann is an idiot. In other news, water is wet, the dog bites man, and Barrett Brooks likes hamburgers. His mid-game mini-rant about Big Ben needing to play more than a few series was, well, idiotic, but not for the obvious reasons. Maybe Roethlisberger does need a few more reps, but I don't think some guy who's seen all of three first-team offensive series should be making such proclamations. Gee, I don't know, maybe the coaches, who spend every day with the players are better positioned to make such determinations. And the notion that Roethlisberger is not yet in game shape is equally ludicrous. Who is in game shape at this point? And why risk a preseason injury just to get in shape if all you're really getting in shape for is rehabbing some dumb injury while playing in a meaningless exhibition game? (Okay, I feel better now.)

As best I can tell, the only beneficiary of Joe Theismann's presence in the booth is Tony Kornheiser. I mean, next to Theismann it's virtually impossible to look bad.

One last thing on Theismann (what can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment): Based on his dopey observations, if Theismann was the Steelers head coach, he'd start Charlie Batch based on seeing just a handful of preseason plays and not one practice. Note to the Rooney's: When Cowher inevitably retires at the end of the year, please keep Joe Theismann in mind as his replacement. You heard it here first.

Later in the telecast Theismann makes the following statement:

Last year the Steelers lose two games in overtime and a play on the last play of the game beats them. His record could even be better.
Okay, I'll give Joe the Patriots game, but here's the thing: Roethlisberger didn't play in either overtime game. You may not believe this, but it was Tommy Maddox. That's right, the guy who saved Cowher's job back in 2002/2003.

* It pains me to type this but if Duce Staley was any slower he'd be moving backwards. To say he looked unimpressive would be unfair to truly unimpressive stuff, like K-Fed's performance at the Teen Choice Awards. At this point Staley looks to be a Twinkie away from getting some reps with the offensive line.

He had moments – a six-yard run here, a five-yard run there – but they were sandwiched around a whole bunch of one-yard gains. That's kinda like trying to put whipped cream on a turd and calling it a sundae. Yeah, he was that bad.

And Jeremiah Trotter suffered the ultimate embarrassment when, on the ol' statue of liberty play, Duce Staley jukes him out of his jock. Nothing like missing a tackle on a guy who serves as Casey Hampton's stunt double.

Later, as the running game continues to go nowhere fast, Cowher chastises Willie Colon for poor technique on a second half play that mirrors many that have come before it: handoff to Duce Staley for minimal gain. On a fourth-and-one play, Marvin Philip goes blocking optional as Staley is tackled in the backfield for a loss. Sure, Staley's preseason has been dreadful, but to be fair, if you put Walter Payton back there with the second unit ain't much changing… unless you're John Kuhn.

Give Kuhn credit for running hard, even if it was behind the backup to the backups. (Hmm, maybe that's Staley's problem; he needs to run with the third-team.) Overlooked in John Kuhn's first touch resulting in a 10-yard gain is the fact that Charles Davis had a very nice block on the play. Just something to keep in mind.

* The first-team defense – Ike Taylor's inability to catch the football aside – looks about as good as you could hope at this stage of the proceedings. During the first half, Donavan McNabb, probably the toughest QB to bring down, was sacked by Larry Foote and Brett Keisel during the same series. That's very encouraging.

* You know how last week, during the Vikings game, Cowher told Willie Reid to return a punt that was kicked into the end zone just to get some work? Do you think Cowher tells Jon Dekker to drop every pass thrown to him just to see how the offense responds to only playing with 10 guys? I can't think of any other reason why Dekker is still on the team. Not one.

* If there was any doubt heading into last night's game, I think Chidi Iwuoma made it pretty clear that he plans on making the final 53. He laid out a would-be punt returner on a Mike Barr bomb and played pretty well in the secondary. Andre Frazier also mixed it up with the Eagles' Jason Short at the end of that same special teams play. Um, Mr. Short, might I refer you to this list. Just replace the name 'Tyrone Carter' with 'Andre Frazier' and then ask yourself

I truly believe that Cowher is afraid to cut Frazier and I fully expect to see him on the final roster.

* J.R. Reed, meet Anthony Smith.

* During the two-minute drill, Jeff Garcia throws a third-down pass directly to Larry Foote who, doing his best Ike Taylor impersonation, drops it. Memo to Andy Reid: You can take the quarterback out of Cleveland but you can't take Cleveland out of the quarterback. Unfortunately, nobody told Ricardo Colclough that a quarter later when Garcia burned him for a 61-yard touchdown pass.

* In watching Willie Reid, does anybody else get the feeling that he's going to break one very, very soon. He looks like he was born to return punts whereas Ricardo Colclough looks like he was born to be nowhere near the playing field on punt returns.

* Cedrick Wilson sure is playing a lot tougher this season. I'm just guessing here, but I bet that it's 30% due to more confidence and 70% due to not playing in San Francisco, one of the worst Division I programs in the nation.

* Just an observation: Todd Stinkston Pinkston makes Eugene Baker look like Jermaine Wiggins. That is all.

* The great thing about having a burner like Santonio Holmes is that on third-and-longs you can just get him man-to-man, send him deep, heave the ball in his general vicinity and see what happens. You know the old saying, "When you pass the ball three things can happen and two of them are bad?" Well, the Holmes Rule evens things out: Instead of just interception, incompletion or completion, the Holmes Rule includes pass interference. And this is exactly what happened during a third down play in the third quarter.

* Oh the irony. Lee Mays is having easily his best training camp of his life and there's absolutely no way he makes the team at wideout. Maybe he can play quarterback. Which leads me to this…

* Hey, anybody think Omar Jacobs is making the team? It's obvious – even to me – that the team has no interest in this guy and next year, instead of going through the trouble of actually drafting a fifth-round pick, I suggest they just trade the pick for a free dinner at Denny's or something. At least they'll see some return on their investment. Honestly, does anybody know why they drafted Jacobs? Anybody? Sure, Bruce Gradkowski is shorter, but he's also probably going to be the No. 2 QB in Tampa Bay too. This whole thing is bordering on the ridiculous. And yes, I will be beating this drum all season long.

On the upside, Shane Boyd was able to move the team into scoring position during a fourth quarter drive. Unlike Jacobs, who fumbled on his third play from scrimmage, Boyd had the common decency to cap a 12-play, 61-yard drive with a fumble in the red zone. Yeah, I just don't get it.

* Overall, the first units both looked pretty good. Jeff Reed missed two long-range kicks, but at least he had the good sense to blame the holder for one of them (and yes, it was Mike Barr). Plus, Reed's accuracy is at the very bottom of my Things To Worry About list, right after Cowher seeming less intense now that there are rumors he may retire. Yeah, right.

The questions going forward concern the depth at running back and along the offensive line, and who – if anybody – will win the third quarterback job? (Right now, my money's on Cedrick Wilson. And I'm serious.) There's also the little matter of who'll get the axe as the Steelers whittle their roster down to 65 players. But we'll find out about that soon enough.

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