Eagles-Steelers Notes

One play into Saturday's 21-16 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Steelers' running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala was walking off the field holding his left hamstring.

He should have just kept on walking to the tunnel. Fuamatu-Ma'afala, the Steelers' oft-injured backup running back, might find this injury is the one that finally pushes him out of the team's plans as second-year running back Verron Haynes showed why the team shifted him over from fullback. Haynes ripped up the Eagles every time he touched the ball, running the ball eight times for 36 yards and catching five passes for another 56 yards, showing very good hands and nice open field moves.

Fuamatu-Ma'afala, meanwhile, showed why he no longer deserves a spot on this team.

© The Steelers' continuing offensive line problems left quarterback Tommy Maddox very uncomfortable in the pocket while under constant duress by a blitz-happy Philadelphia defense. Maddox was sacked only once during the four drives he led Saturday night, but he threw off his back foot several times and did not complete his first pass until there was 7:20 left in the second quarter.

Maddox, however, said after the game he welcomes teams to continue to blitz him. "That leaves Plaxico (Burress) and Hines (Ward) one-on-one out there and gives us a chance for a big play," Maddox said. "I'll take a few hits for those opportunities."

© After a tough first week, Ike Taylor showed very good burst on a 55-yard kickoff return at the end of the first half. Taylor doesn't have very good hands, but he worked hard on that at practice this week. His speed can't be ignored.

© We had a Hank Poteat sighting Saturday night. Poteat showed some of the punt return moves he displayed as a rookie a few years ago on a long return that was called back because of a penalty on rookie Alonzo Jackson.

Too bad Poteat hasn't done more of that during his career. The Steelers have enough guys who can make things happen in the return game now. Poteat still can't cover anyone and is history.

© Get used to the nickel defense, because it's going to be the team's primary weapon to combat teams who try to spread the Steelers out. Kendrell Bell still isn't comfortable lining up at defensive end in the dime and he can get pressure up the middle in the dime. James Farrior is good enough in coverage to make it work. It just needs some more seasoning.

© It's too bad Tim Levcik hurt his knee a couple of weeks ago. He really could have beaten out Brian St. Pierre for the third quarterback spot had he shown anything. St. Pierre just doesn't look like an NFL quarterback.

© Dante Brown didn't help his cause by losing a fumble in the third quarter with the Steelers driving. Brown had 31 yards on eight carries, but showed a lack of knowledge about NFL rules when he fell down catching a pass from Charlie Batch and got up slowly, apparently thinking he was down. Philadelphia's Roderick Hood (why not Robin Hood?) came up and drilled Brown. Welcome to the NFL, rookie!

© Chad Scott was twice penalized for pass interference and deserved both penalties. But from my perch, Chidi Iwuoma's pass interference penalty in the second quarter in the end zone, when Eagles wide receiver Billy McMullen appeared to grab Iwuoma's shoulders, was a horrible call. Iwuoma appeared to have good coverage on the play.

© In addition to Fuamatu-Ma'afala, tight end Jerame Tuman left the game with a strained groin. Just thought you'd want to know.

© If I see one more pass play to Chris Doering this season, it will be too many. Doering caught five passes for 46 yards and was the intended target of about five more balls. Some have said the Steelers won't keep four tight ends this year. But at one point in the second half, the Steelers had two tight ends, Doering, fullback J.T. Wall, and a running back as their only offensive weapons on the field. It looked like a three tight end offense. I've seen more speed in a retirement village.

© If Randle El's catch in the end zone isn't a touchdown, I don't know what is. I don't care if the ball moved when he landed on the ground 10 feet out of bounds; he had control with both feet down in the end zone. It's a simple game.

Dale Lolley

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