When: 12:30 pm Ford Field, Downtown Detroit
What: Preseason Game 3 -- The opener of Ford Field
Everything is in place for the triumphant return of the Detroit Lions back to downtown Detroit. Ford Field is prepped and ready for the team. The gleaming jewel of Detroit attracts attention from passersby on the interstate near the stadium and even more from pedestrians and motorists on the streets surrounding the stadium.
Quite simply, Ford Field is eye-poppingly dazzling in every respect. It is the best football stadium in America and its design and features will be copied and duplicated by stadium designers around the world, but the original is in downtown Detroit and it gives Detroiters something they can point to that is second to none.
But what about the team that plays there? Can they hold up their end of the bargain in today's matchup against a team that is prepping, not just to make the playoffs, but to get to the Super Bowl?
That's what the Lions are up against, and one player who'd love to spoil the Lions homecoming is former Lions starter Charlie Batch. Batch will get lots of playing time for the Steelers today in relief of Tommy Maddox, who will start for Pittsburgh. Can't you just picture Batch throwing the first touchdown in Ford Field and adding his name to the Lions record books?
Batch and Maddox are in a pitched battle for the #2 job and although Maddox has the incentive laden contract, Batch has outperformed him to date.
Meanwhile, the Lions have a quarterback battle of their own. Rookie Joey Harrington has generated almost as much excitement as Ford Field. Harrington was dazzling in a losing performance last week against the Cleveland Browns. Despite that, coach Marty Mornhinweg has already named Mike McMahon the incumbent starter and "unless something drastic happens" McMahon will be the starter on opening day. He will start and play into the third quarter today before Harrington mops up.
Several positions remain unsettled and coach Mornhinweg would love to see them get settled. The strong side linebacker spot needs solidifying from a group including Clint Kriewaldt, Jeff Gooch, injury proned Brian Williams and perhaps Kalimba Edwards. Moving Edwards to the position makes sense because he played it at South Carolina, but Detroit has resisted such a move.
Detroit will get back the best defensive tackle in football, Shaun Rogers. Detroit's front four is set barring injuries, James Hall, Luther Elliss, Roger and Robert Porcher form one of the best group in the NFC.
The secondary is getting some well-deserved respect. Brian Walker and Corey Harris have solidified the safety unit along with the play of Lamar Campbell.
Now, veteran Eric Davis and Todd Lyght have joined a pair of rookies, Andre Goodman and Chris Cash to put a nagging fear to rest. Cash appears ready to contribute now and Goodman doesn't seem to be far behind. Add a healthy Terry Fair to the mix and Detroit should be decent.
Offensively, we may get our first look at Bill Schroeder. Schroeder practiced this week and should get in a couple of plays. Az-Zahir Hakim will also play but Germane Crowell will likely not be ready until the second game of the regular season.
Rookie John Owens appears to be set to be the starter at tight end due to Mikhael Ricks' inability to sustain blocking at the point of attack. Ricks will likely split time with Owens depending on the situation although the rookie has shown nice hands. Matt Murphy and John Waerig are playing for a roster spot. Eric Beverly could be a situational tight end around the goalline and in short yardage.
Make no mistake, Detroit wants to win this game. They do not want to open Ford Field with a loss, even if it is preseason. They will do everything within reason to get their first "W" of the year. Pittsburgh wants to win this thing too, since they have yet to win a preseason game.
The opening of Ford Field, the presence of Charlie Batch and the emergence of Joey
Harrington ought to make this one a fun game to watch. This will be as close to a regular
season atmosphere as you're going to get.
Pick: Lions 27-Steelers 24