Thoughts on the Preseason Finale
The pre-season finale ended without any notable injuries capping a relatively painfree prelude to Stillers' regular season campaign. After beating the slovenly and pathetic Bills 20-0, the team improved to 3-1 -- a meaningless figure, but nonetheless in the books.
A few quick notes on the starters:
Kordell was tremendously unspectacular again, but he did what will minimally be needed during the regular season -- to avoid stupid turnovers. Despite being erratic at times in his passing, Stewart also seemed to show a demeanor on the field that I don't recall seeing from him (at least often)....I'm not sure what it was....confidence....did he actually look confident? He also showed something that we do not often see from him; an in-stride pass to a streaking receiver -- hitting Shaw for a 39 yard gain. A number of passes were thrown to Plex and a couple short routes were caught. Stewart overthrow Burress three times (the first was questionably catchable) and under-threw another TD attempt. The TD attempt, though, could and should have been caught by Burress but he refuses to catch balls with his hands and instead insists on using his body for every catch.
Famous Amos looked rock solid again. 'Nough said.
The starting offensive line was solid, save for a sack in the second series where Smith was beat to the middle. Two sacks in two games is not what you want from any lineman, but considering the turnstile performance from a couple weeks ago, I'll take Marvel's marked improvement.
I'd like to have seen the offense punch in a TD, but with Bettis out, at least they were two for two in scoring drives.
Against the defense, the Bills moved the ball solidly in the first series. A dump pass over Gildon's head went for 12, a sweep for 4, Molds for 7, Henry for 8 and then Aaron Smith got called for a 15-yard facemask. It wasn't pretty until Townsend came up with his second INT of the preseason on a fine sideline catch.
The second series was solid though. Holmes had a nice stuff, Gildon got a sack after running through a "please don't hurt me" attempt at a block by Henry, followed by a false start on the offense and another stuff.
That more of less sums up the first team duties....Pittsburgh 6, Bills 0....the starters healthy.
The rest of the pack:
Tee Martin played the rest of the snaps on offense but was put in an horrible position. The backup o-line was disgraceful and a row of tackling dummies would have been equally as effective. The few times that Martin did have time to throw, he was off the mark until late in the game when he strung a few nice plays together to lead the team to a TD on an 8-yard dump to the FB Janes.
Battling Linebackers: J. Kurpeikis and R. Knight put on a display during the game. Knight had a pair of punishing hits on special teams and a few solid plays on the defensive side of the ball. He seems to have a nose for the ball on kick/punt coverage and if he sticks around, could become known as the "Dark Knight" by opposing return men. He did blow a few plays on defense, but all in all had a fairly solid game. Kurpeikis, who has shown solid coverage skills himself, put on a tackling display. After blowing coverage on a dump pass to the tightend, he recovered with an extremely solid effort. This guy is as sure-handed as they come and seems to play a very disciplined OLB position despite having limited linebacker experience.
Troy Edwards showed his explosive, playmaking abilities during a 78 punt return TD. Despite his relatively slow speed on paper, this guy has moves and game speed that equate to results. Get him the freakin' ball on offense and let him run after the catch....PLEASE!!! He seems to have regained his confidence (yes he did have another drop, but again, it was out away from his body and in the middle of the field).
Boo Bell put on quite a display from his safety position. He ran over the FB Crosby to flush Van Pelt from the pocket, later caused a QB fumble (but the scrub refs blew the call), blew up a screen play and found himself in the mix on a number of special teams plays. Not a bad night's work.
Mike Logan was a terror on special teams, having apparently caught whatever was afflicting Roger Knight. At one point, he hit Nate Clements back into his sophomore year at OSU. This guy could end up making big plays as a backup -- be it on special teams or otherwise.
Hank Poteat had an all-around solid game. A nice 13 yard punt return to start it off and then finished with 7 tackles, 2 defended passes (one that would have been a TD), and an interception. Poteat really seems to be gaining confidence at corner which is a huge plus for the organization.
R. Bailey played solidly, again showing his knack for rushing the passer and recording a sack.
Finally, Will Blackwell may have secured his roster spot for the season. Blackwell snared 3 passes for 40 yards, one of them for 21 yards. Several other WR hopefuls came up flat, which makes the coaches decision easier.
The coaching staff will have a couple tough decisions to make by 4pm Sunday. Despite a statistically poor performance by Martin, the line did not allot him fair playing conditions being beat on nearly every play. Also, do they want to keep Graham's 1.4 million bucks on the roster? Whatever the case, I pray that Stewart stays healthy and efficient.