By Mike Bires
LANDOVER, MD. — For the most part, it was a dismal night for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But there were at least two bright spots.
One was the play of running back Willie Parker.
The other was the performance of Stefan Logan.
Parker, a 1,000-yard rusher from 2005-07, made his preseason debut in the 17-13 loss to the Washington Redskins on Saturday night at FedEx Field. “Fast Willie” only carried four times for 13 yards. But he did score the Steelers’ only touchdown on a 3-yard scamper around right end in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, Logan starred as a kick-return specialist, especially on kickoffs.
Logan, who played last year in the Canadian Football League, was the Steelers’ primary kickoff and punt returner and performed quite well. He averaged 39.3 yards on four kickoffs. Two of his returns went for 60 and 45 yards. He also averaged 12.0 on four punt returns.
“Yeah, I think it’s pretty obvious he did a nice job,” coach Mike Tomlin said of Logan.
Parker did a nice job, too, on his TD run.
“It felt great, I mean the first time back on the field and the offense looked great,” said Parker, who missed last week’s preseason game (a 20-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals) due to back spasms. “It definitely feels great to get back out there.
“I feel good. I still don’t think that I’m in (regular-season) playing mode. I still need to get hit a little bit. Next game hopefully, I’ll take it to another level and get hit a little bit more and make a couple more plays in the open field and I’ll be ready.”
“Willie’s our guy. Willie’s our starting back. We need to get him in the end zone,” added center Justin Hartwig said. “We need to get him going. We need to get him confident and we need to have him seeing the holes. The more reps he can get, the more times he can see the end zone and the more confident he gets.”
But on a night in which star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play due to an Achilles tendon/heel injury suffered Thursday in the last training camp practice, the Steelers had a lot of problems.
“Just not enough good things from us as a football team to win,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin was specially disturbed about penalties _ 13 of them for 89 yards. They were flagged seven times for 70 yards last week against Arizona.
“Coming out of the preseason opener, that is something we wanted to address,” Tomlin said. “We did not get that accomplished. We didn’t come close.”
With Roethlisberger sidelined, Charlie Batch ran the first-team offense for two series and completed only 5 of 14 passes for 63 yards.
After Batch was done, third-team QB Dennis Dixon played until the fourth quarter when he suffered what appeared to be sprained A.C. joint in his right shoulder. Dixon completed 8 of 16 passes for 68 yards.
“Don’t know the extent (of Dixon’s injury),” Tomlin said. “We’ll see.”
Fourth-team QB Mike Reilly replaced Dixon for the Steelers’ final possession in the fourth quarter.
“Some guys distinguished themselves, some didn’t,” Tomlin said in summary. “That’s the story of preseason.”