Friday, August 14, 2009

The Song Remains The Same: Steelers Win


For starters, the biggest victory tonight was that no one got injured. Don't worry about Arizona's offense moving the ball on our defense. We ran the most basic defensive schemes tonight. The X blitz that is a signature of the Steelers defense was not used once. So don't worry, the defense will be just fine. The most impressive players tonight were obviously the rookies. They all showed some flashes of their potential, from Ziggy's sack, to Burnett's INT, Wallace's big catch over the middle, Lewis making plays on special teams, Urbik and Shipley mixing it up in the trenches, and Frank the Tank making some great blocks.

For pregame entertainment, the Steelers had some frisbee-catching dogs. This turned out to be extra-entertaining when one of the dogs caught a frisbee, then took a squat and crapped on the field. A highly embarrassed field worker had to come out with a shovel and scrape it up before the players came out.

Parker, Hartwig and the Diesel were held out of the game because of minor injuries. Stapleton was out as well, as he is still recovering from knee surgery.


The Steelers started things off strong by winning the toss and electing to receive.

The highly anticipated Mike Wallace is forced to take a knee on the opening kickoff after Rackers booms it into the end zone.

Ben takes a wack and hits Hines on the second play from scrimage. An offsides penalty sets up 3rd and short. Mendenhall gets the first short-yardage carry and comes through with a good run to move the chains. Mendenhall gets a few and Heath snags one to set up a 3rd and 3. On the 6th play from scrimage, Willie Colon gets a penalty.
Out of the Fortress of Solitude, Superman flies in and pounds a punt, pinning Arizona inside the 20.

Willie Gay makes a great play on his first down as a starting CB, reaching around Boldin to break up a pass. After a Hightower run, Breaston the Steelers Killer reels one in for a 3rd down conversion. Warner goes play action and finds his tight end open down the seam for 17 yards to get close to Steelers territory. BSK picks up another 3rd and long, moving the ball across the 50. The Steelers defense holds again on first and second, setting up another 3rd and long. LaMarr Woodley makes a killer move to get pressure, forcing Warner to step up, then keeps up pursuit and slams Warner to the turf, forcing the punt.

Pinned back at the 8, the offense comes out passing. Ben does his Ben thing and shakes off two defensive linemen, then totally schools Clark Haggans, scrambling out of a safety and turning it into a 3-yard gain. Hines reels in his 2nd grab of the game for 13 yards and a first down. Arians breaks out the cliche offense, getting us into a 3rd and long, but Limas Sweed does his impression of the Steel Building and goes waaay up to snag a pass over the middle for the first down.
Justin Vincent comes in and slashes for a nice run, but a delay of game penalty sets the Steelers back, and Ben throws behind Sweed on a hot read on 3rd down. Superman comes in and booms another one.

Fitz makes his only catch of the game to set up 2nd and short. Warner goes play-action and whips one downfield for Breaston who has Gay beat. Polamalu gets on his horse and makes a dive for BSK as the ball comes in. Whether Troy slowed him up, or the ball was out of his reach, the ball falls out of BSK's fingertips.

Second Quarter

Arizona shows diversity in their offense and runs a draw play to Hightower for the first down. The Cards start to march down the field, mixing up runs and passes, moving into Steelers territory. Hightower gets slammed by Harrison and the ball comes out. The refs ruled him down, and Tomlin challenges. It was a close play, but the call on the field was upheld. Leinart comes in after the review, and looks a little shaky. Harrison gets pressure on 3rd down, forcing n incompletion and another punt.

Homestead Charlie comes in and Mendenhall makes his best run of the game for 5 yards. In his first pass attempt since the first preseason game last year, Batch goes downfield for Sweed streaking down the sidelines.

Sweed turns into the Highmark building and skies over 5'8" 180 cornerback Michael Adams for 45 yards to finally move into Arizona territory. Mendenhall carves up a few nice runs, setting up a 3rd and 3. Batch makes a very bad throw, and it luckily falls incomplete after nearly being picked off.

Jeff Reed comes in for his first kick of the season, and blasts it through all the way from Squirrel Hill.

Arizona's second-team offense matched up against our second-team defense. Former Steeler Sean Morey converts a 3rd and long, then BSK comes through with a few catches to move the ball into Steelers territory. Mixing up runs and passes, the Cards work there way deep into Steelers territory. They come up short on 3rd and long from the 15. With the ball on the 7, Whiz opts to go for it rather than tie the game. Leinart goes play action and gets serious pressure from Arnold Harrision the backfield and throws a terrible pass for the end zone, which gets batted around by a few Steelers and falls to the turf.

With 1:02 to go, the general sentiment in the crowd is to throw one deep for Wallace, then run the clock out if it's incomplete. Instead of throwing a fly route, Wallace runs a flag and Dixon underthrows him on the sidelines, almost getting it picked. The Cards use their last timeout after a running play with 53 seconds left. Rather than running the ball and punting with 15 seconds left, Arians decides to throw. Dixon goes downfield for Sweed, but it's incomplete stopping the clock and bringing Superman back in. Superman whacks a 49-yarder, and BSK calls a fair catch on the sideline.

Leinart gets the reigns back with 38 seconds, rather than the 10 he would have had if we had run on 3rd down. After a 7-yard pass on 2nd down, Arizona is forced to go no-huddle with no timeouts left. Leinart whips one down the field as time expires in the half. Anthony Madison makes a great defensive play inside of Sean Morey and snags an interception. Laundry from the backjudge signals the first terrible call of the season, and Madison is flagged for pass interference. After the replay, the crowd is quite unhappy as Madison had inside position and was fighting for the ball as much as Morey was. Rackers comes in and converts on an untimed down as the crowd boos the refs off the field and Tomlin gives them a piece of his mind.



More frisbee dogs.

Third Quarter

Brian St. Pierre came into the game, along with RB LaRod Stephens-Howling from Pitt. The defense forced a 3-and-out, capped off by Bruce Davis blowing up a screen play in the backfield.

Dennis Dixon came on and looked a lot calmer than he had in his first series out. Aided by some solid running from Justin Vincent, Dixon was able to convert a 3rd and 6 and 3rd and 4 with passes to Shaun McDonald and Mike Wallace to get across midfield. On first down Dixon takes a look downfield but waits a tad too long to throw the ball, and Mike Wallace, who had beat the corner, has to come back for the ball. Wallace gets his hands on it, but isn't able to come down with it in the end zone. On 3rd and 11, Dixon threw a beautiful pass and hit Wallace in stride on a deep post route for 22 yards to get into field goal range. Dixon throws a great pass to Sweed on an out-route on the sideline, but Sweed can't hang on. Piotr Czech, who was brought in basically to give Reed's leg some rest in the preseason, misses a 36-yard field goal, keeping the game tied at 3.

The teams trade 3-and-outs, with booming punts from Graham and Superman.

As Arizona's next drive started, I turned to my dad and said, "LeBeau better tell the defense they need to score if we want to win this game, because the offense certainly isn't going to do it."
Right on cue, the defense delivers. Arizona gets set back on the first play by a holding call, pushing them to a 1st and 20 with only a few ticks left in the 3rd quarter. BSP drops back and eyes Urban the whole way. Joe Burnett makes a great jump on the ball and rips the interception from Urban hands with a lot of green in front of him. Burnett blows by BSP, but in making the move, gets caught from behind and pulled down at the 3.

Fourth Quarter

Isaac Redman, who scored twice in the goal line drill at camp last week, gets the first call.

Frank the Tank lines up as the blocking back and David Johnson is at tight end. Johnson starts by blocking down on the linemen, leaving the outside guy to Tank. As the backers read the play, Johnson peels off and blocks the first one (red circle), leaving the middle one (white circle) to have to come all the way across the field to make the play.

Redman keeps his legs moving and beats the linebacker to the corner for the first touchdown of the year.


Ziggy Stardust Hood makes some noise on the next series, recording his first sack of his career on 3rd down, forcing another punt.

Dennis Dixon runs the offense through Isaac Redman and Shaun McDonald. McDonald reels in 3 big 3rd down catches to move the Steelers into the red zone. Redman gets the call from the 9 and takes it down to the 5.

Redman gets the call again, and on a very similar play, finds paydirt once more.

Unlike the previous goal line play where Arizona had the line stacked, they only have 4 "down" linemen here with 5 backers stacked across the goal line. Tank is once again responsible for blocking the outside guy. With only 4 down linemen, this frees up Jeremy Parquet (#77) and David Johnson to get a run at the linebackers protecting the goal line.

Tank does a great job sealing up the outside. Johnson engages the backer closest to the sideline, while Parquet goes after the middle backer. The two on the nearside are too far away to make a difference in the play, leaving one unaccounted for. Johnson moves off his block and takes the free backer, giving Redman a path to the end zone behind Parquet and Johnson.

If you're a little confused with the play breakdowns, watch the video.

Former Pitt QB Tyler Palko comes in and leads Arizona down the field with some decent passes. What was more impressive, was Palko's escapability in the pocket. He moved around well and found some receivers on broken plays. He looked much better than BSP. Palko drove the Cards down the field in 5 plays, finishing it off with a 20-yard strike to a scrub receiver on a post pattern for the score.


With 3 1/2 to go, the Tank gets his chance to tote the rock and run out the clock. Arizona uses their first timeout after second down, forcing Arians (who doesn't understand situational football) into a passing situation. In a normal game at this juncture, you run the ball and make them burn another timeout. But Arians calls a pass, which inevitably is incomplete and stops the clock. Superman booms a 49-yarder.

On the first play from scrimage, Palko has one tipped and it falls right into the waiting arms of Bruce Davis for the interception. Redman comes back in and gets stopped 3 times, using up Arizona's last two timeouts. Czech is able to convert on a 44-yard field goal to prevent Overtime.


Palko moves the Cards down the field once again, using his legs and through the air, all the way to the Pittsburgh 13. Palko, running the no-huddle with no timeouts spikes the ball and the Booth calls down for a review. Pittsburgh gets tagged for a 12-men on the field penalty and Arizona moves even closer. Luckily, time was on our side and Palko wasn't able to find the end zone in 3 tries from the 8.


Players of the Game:
Offensive Game Ball: Isaac Redman

He had 2 TDs in his first NFL game. He kept his legs churning at the goal line and showed some good things.
Defensive Game Ball: Joe Burnett
In addition to his interception that set up the first score, Burnett played some good pass defense and made some nice hits.

Honorable Mentions:
Limas Sweed
Frank Summers
Bruce Davis
Ziggy Hood
Shaun McDonald
Dennis Dixon

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
Negative Fans

Really people? This is the preseason. If you're going to go to a game where you know the backups are going to play most of the game, don't spend the whole time complaining. We all know that Sweed had some trouble hanging on to the ball last year. That being said, just because he dropped one ball doesn't mean you should write him off for the whole season. Additionally, because Burnett fumbled once on a kick return, comments like "Oh great, another returner that can't hold onto the ball" are completely out of line. Really? It's the kid's first return opportunity in the NFL, you know he's going to be nervous. Give him a break. And honestly, we won the Super Bowl, do you really have anything to complain about?

Final Thoughts
  • Can't complain about winning...ever.
  • No one got injured either, that was the biggest victory.
  • Saw some impressive things out of the rookies. I like the idea of using Tank as a fullback. We haven't had a legit one since Kreider left. McHugh is good, but it would be great if Tank could play there too.
  • William Gay is the real deal. So is Lawrence Timmons.
  • 2nd string O-line was dominant.
  • I'd like to see a little more from the first-string in the running game, but it's early, they have time to get up to par.
  • Dennis Dixon started slow, but showed some really good things as the game went on. We'll be seeing a lot of him this preseason.
Game Highlights

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