After Further Review

Jim Wexell summons his courage to watch the Panthers-Steelers 10-0 stinker a second time. Here are his notes:

These are the thoughts of a sportswriter as he bravely turns on the tape for a second viewing of the Steelers' 10-0 preseason loss to the Panthers:

* Ben Roethlisberger is the lone captain for the fourth time this preseason. And Mike Tomlin laughed at me last spring when I told him I felt Roethlisberger seemed to be "on a mission" this year with his leadership.

* Tomlin's actions speak louder than his laughter.

* Lot of deep down reserves covering the opening kickoff. Number 37 made the tackle. Who is number 37?

* And I pride myself on having these numbers memorized by the end of the first week of spring practice.

* Carolina opens with a fullback. The Steelers have a chance tonight.

* Cam Thomas is driven five yards off the ball and turned around on the first snap. His bookend, Brett Keisel, gets much better push.

* How in the world do you not start Shamarko Thomas over Will Allen in the fourth preseason game of Thomas' second year?

* Ryan Shazier is a beautiful athlete who'll be making big plays here for years. But Kelvin Benjamin still looks like he'll be more of a factor as a gargantuan rookie wide receiver for the Panthers. He'll make big plays that count for 7. Many of them.

* Steve McLendon blows up the line on fourth-and-1 and Lawrence Timmons and Shazier clean it up seemingly behind the line. Awarded first down anyway.

* Quick and perfunctory replay doesn't help. Let's hope the officials move the rest of this dog game along as quickly.

* Jarvis Jones explodes through the middle of the line and Keisel twists around the edge and belts the QB into an incompletion.

* Timmons is having a great first drive. Get him out of there. Now.

* Second snap in nickel, third-and-9, Timmons and Shazier blitz, Jarvis misses a tackle, Allen is blocked and you have your first down.

* Ugh. I'm watching Derek Anderson and Landry Jones QB a game -- a second time. What's wrong with me?

* Of course it's "much better play" from the defense this week, Edmund. They're defending a team that has a fullback in its base.

* Nickel Snap 3: Shazier and Allen blitz and Benjamin drops a touchdown pass.

* So, maybe he won't make that many big plays.

* Lanear Sampson IS rewarded with the first kickoff return, and ... that's a wrap for him. He hesitates and only makes it back to the 15.

* Michael Palmer, the veteran TE who does a lot of things well and none of them spectacularly, throws an effective block in leading Markus Wheaton around end for 15.

* And there's fullback Will Johnson taking a handoff as the tailback. Gains 7 behind effective blocks from many, including David Paulson. Johnson's now ready for emergency RB duty.

* Coaches setting up some short stuff for Jones the QB. One is a pass to Martavis Bryant on which Bryant's driven into the ground on his right shoulder. A sprained AC joint. Good bye, team;'s only WR red-zone threat.

* It looks like the coaches really want Jones to make this team, to the point where they're making it easy for him. I'm sure all of the young players wish it was made that easy for them.

* On fourth-and-2, coaches give ball to LeGarrette Blount instead of Jones. The mollification continues.

* Can you imagine having to pay money to watch these QBs and their pacifiers?

* Jarvis Jones plays so much better when he's over tight ends as opposed to tackles. Just blew up that run.

* Cam Thomas with a tackle down field. May be he CAN bring Al Woods-type reserve play to the club this year.

* Wesley Johnson, the rookie center, falls down and Landry holds the ball and is sacked. A forward progress call at the one- foot line saves two points. Landry had that same deer-in-the-headlights look in college all the time.

* The media will rally around Tomlin keeping Landry, I'm sure, but I'm sorry, this guy will not develop into a quality reserve.

* And there's a dropped interception.

* I'll mollify Jones myself by giving him a spot on the practice squad -- AFTER I study the waiver wire.

* Antwon Blake breaks up a deep ball to Benjamin. Looked like he was running with Antonio Brown on one of Blake's good days last spring. He'll have his bad days/plays/snaps as well.

* Is William Gay the Steelers' best cornerback? He's reminding me of Deshea Townsend right now.

* Dri Archer doesn't -- I repeat, doesn't -- fair-catch a punt. Gains 5, but penalty produces net of minus 3.

* Darrius Heyward-Bey has been doing everything asked of him since the spring. He's big and fast, has been an extremely hard worker and a helpful teammate. Don't buy this media push that he's winning this job with a late push. It's instead been a long haul to the 53 for him.

* Landry just read the defensive end and handed off to Blount. Please don't tell me that keeping the ball was an option/will be an option at any point this season.

* Le'Veon Bell hit the hole and showed some wiggle and power, but to harken back to his marijuana citation, can we really be so sure that Blount was the bad influence here? I mean, Bell told the cop he wasn't high anymore, that he had smoked two hours previous. This sounds like a guy with some experience.

* Will Simmons, the replacement right guard, has been getting a lot of snaps the last few games. Showing some power and quick feet tonight. Could I have missed on him all camp the way I missed on Chris Hoke way back when?

* Wesley the rookie center just stumbled and whiffed again. Yes, he's a light tackle having to deal with angry defensive tackles as a center, but lack of strength is not the issue here. Stumbling is.

* Brad Wing just hit a 51-yarder. I won't need to comment further on a game I've already watched, because it appeared the first time through that he had won the job.

* I'm actually trying to get out of watching the second half of this ... this ... stinker. But I will endeavor to persevere.

* I doubt I'll comment/criticize No. 4 QB Brendon Kay when he gets in, just so you know. He was given no chance and has no chance. I'm not about to criticize a guy who was behind the 8 ball from the start.

* I get the feeling that people aren't impressed by Terence Garvin. Gerry Dulac even had him fighting with Chris Carter for the final LB spot in this morning's P-G. I'm watching an entirely different game, I guess. The dude can cover and get physical in the hole in short-yardage. Flowing well here, too.

* And special teams. You're going to keep Isaiah Green over Garvin to play special teams? Not happening.

* Jarvis Jones flashed in beating the left tackle to get to the fumble. But the key to the play, I believe, was the center being frightened by his first look at new NT Daniel McCullers.

* I wonder if Fernando Velasco has wanted to pull Jarvis' hair ever since Jarvis played at Velasco's alma mater.

* And I still wish the Steelers had signed Velasco. Man, they hate signing vets off injuries, but the interior depth is still lacking.

* I guess Mike Adams can't play guard? Because his ability to play tackle is certainly in question. There's a hold.

* Ross Ventrone, with hair flowing far outside his helmet, obviously has a high opinion of Troy Polamalu. But it's not just the look. He has the exact body language after he makes a play. Humility is contagious. I love it.

* There's a four-man all D-lineman front: McCullers, Josh Mauro, Ethan Hemer and Roy Philon. The names will be different, but I wonder if there are plans for some of that in what has to be an adjusted nickel.

* The Browns have neither a QB nor three WRs, so the Steelers' porous nickel shouldn't be a problem in the opener.

* Arthur Moats is the only first-teamer still out there at this point late in the half. He's playing well. Small, but not getting blocked much. He even had a tackle-for-loss on the only Carolina run play vs. the Steelers' nickel this half.

* McCullers reminds me of William Perry during his rookie year with the '85 Bears. If this Steelers D had that kind of talent around him, they could utilize McCullers just to bulldoze and fall on people. "The Refrigerator" only added to a QB's headaches and no one cared about his "understanding of the scheme."

* This is a city that thrives on its end-of-preseason raves about the backup QBs. But not even the most hearty of yinzers are aroused this year.

* That would be the perfect line to end this thing, but the second half looms. And -- pray for me -- I'm going in.

* Chris Hubbard's not doing a bad job at LG. But I see Simmons clearing 'em out a lot more consistently. Perhaps Simmons is your practice-squad guard this year.

* And Adams is doing a betterd job at LT this half.

* I used to stop the tape and rewind it to make my daughter watch Luke Kuechly while he was playing for Boston College. I interrupted her homework last night and mentioned him, and she remembered. I used to compare him to Jack Lambert. And none of you ever got mad.

* And so I look up just in time to watch Adams get beat around the corner.

* No, he wasn't trying to block Kuechly, either.

* If it looks like Dan Molls is all over the punt coverage unit, know that there are two No. 45s out there for the Steelers.

* There's Blake getting beat deep. Yes, he'll have you on a roller coaster. But what else should be expected of No. 4 CBs?

* That touchdown makes it 10-0. That's like giving Bob Gibson two runs. Insurmountable.

* Had Kay been a fourth-round draft pick, he'd make this team. Pedigree usually doesn't matter in Pittsburgh, but when you have so much trouble drafting a quarterback outside the first round, your pride tends to get in the way.

* There's Wesley the rookie center blowing open a hole for Stephen Houston.

* Too many Jones and Johnsons to apply journalism rules tonight.

* No Jordan Zumwalt or Shaquille Richardson tonight. Hopefully those two get to spend the year learning and getting stronger as part of the Steelers' Injured Reserve.

* Archer's not showing much as a return man. If this continues, it will be a big disappointment to the brass.

* Rob Blanchflower lets a high pass go through his hands and it's nearly picked. That's just how some opportunities go, right through the fingers.

* I may have picked the right back for the practice squad. Thanks for the big run, Josh Harris.

* I repeat: Howard Jones will clear waivers. He's the same guy with the same interesting potential that he was when everyone passed on him seven times in the last draft. Practice squad.

* I have chores to get to, but I promise you I'm going to make it through to the final kneeldown of this off-season. I've worked too hard to quit now.

* How can they not keep seven defensive linemen with Keisel on the roster? They have to keep Mauro. Have to.

* Shamarko's beating up these poor kids. Hey, coach, play this bully with the big boys from now on.

* Why is this clock moving so slowly?

* Can't make the tub in the club? C'mon, Edmund.

* Mikey T calling timeouts for the media's benefit, I'm sure.

* Kay, in his only appearance in an NFL game, has better pocket presence than this game's starter.

* Five ... four ... three ... two ... one ... Happy New Season!


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