What We Learned from Steelers – Eagles
*Rumblings, observations, and analysis on the Steelers coming out of preseason game No. 2*
— The range Troy Polamalu can cover in the secondary when healthy is still fascinating to watch and that was on display Thursday night. The ground Polamalu covered and aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage was just something health wise he couldn’t do last year in the playoffs, most notably in Super Bowl XLV. From a health standpoint, it was very encouraging to see Polamalu so active and dominant in his own way, even if he had no tackles.
Meanwhile, Mike Vick taking out Polamalu’s knees on an interception late in the first half was a classless cheapshot by Vick but that was a situation in a preseason game where Troy just has to go down and not leave himself open in the middle of the field for a potential blindside hit.
Polamalu, though, made it clear afterwards that he treats every game like a regular season game.
LEWIS TAKES BIG STEP
— The Steelers may have something in Keenan Lewis. He played pretty well against the Eagles first team and was rewarded with an interception in the second quarter. He got matched up against DeSean Jackson quite a few times and covered Jackson extremely well on deep routes. Really interested to see if he can build off of Thursday’s performance.
WARREN EMERGING FOR ROSTER SPOT
— Cornerback Donovan Warren has emerged as the surprise of camp. He seemed to have caught the eye of the coaching staff early in camp when opportunities with the first and second team opened up due to injuries and vets not being in camp for the first week, and through two preseason games, he’s been impressive. Warren has shown solid cover skills and he closes in on receivers quickly, which is an attribute the Steelers covet in corners due to their philosophy of not giving up yards after the catch. Warren has entered the mix for one of the likely six cornerback spots on the 53-man roster.
— There continues to be concerns about James Harrison’s back holding up. Harrison has admitted he won’t be at 100% and there’s some in the know who indicate he’s lost a lot of lower body strength. Harrison though was a difference maker Thursday night, getting a strong push.
NO WORRIES AT RUNNING BACK
— It’s time for some local columnists and the media to quit fretting about the Steelers running back situation. People continue to overlook the fact that Rashard Mendenhall is one of the league’s most complete backs. He can do it all and showed that Thursday night with his blocking and pass catching ability. The Steelers believe the 24 year old is primed for a special season. Primary backup Isaac Redman continues to show that he’s a legitimate running back in situational plays. He’s running with power and a purpose now at 245 lbs.
VERSATILE, SCARY OFFENSE?
— The word “scary potential” is being mentioned by the likes of Hines Ward and others about the Steelers offense. This is an offense that is very versatile and has the potential to beat the opposition in several ways. What to watch for this season is whether they can finally develop into a dominant team in the redzone. The pieces are surely there.
— This may come as a surprise to some but there are observers who since last preseason have felt Tony Hills is on par with starting left tackle Jonathan Scott.
— 4th round pick Cortez Allen has been seen as a development pick with the Steelers believing when they drafted him that he wouldn’t be a contributor until 2012. However, for a win-now team like the Steelers, a 4th round pick, most notably one that can’t stay healthy in camp, is not a lock to make the team.
The Steelers last season carried 6 cornerbacks and 4 safeties in the secondary. Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, William Gay, Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown, Crezdon Butler, Donovan Warren and Cortez Allen are the top-8 cornerbacks right now.
— Where has Jason Worilds been in two preseason games? The second round pick has showed superior pass rushing ability at times in drills during camp but his play hasn’t carried over to games so far.