Tuesday Morning Blitz

Monday Night Football analyst John Madden wrote a book a while back entitled "One Knee Equals Two Feet". Someday, when Tommy Maddox has hung up his cleats and is hocking a book of his own, he may well call it "Three Feet Equals Incomplete". After all, from his vantage point, Antwaan Randle El had all three of his feet inbounds on the touchdown that ultimately was not.

"I've never seen anything like that. I thought he got in and then saw the replay, and thought he got three feet in. I thought that was a no-brainer. I was out there standing with one of the officials and he was sitting there saying it was a no-brainer."

Hmmm...

NFL officials. No brain. Sounds about right.

At some point just about every season, a call like that will rise up to bite the Steelers. Let's hope they've got it out of their system for 2003. A loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on a mid-August Saturday is certainly not an issue; a loss in mid-January is.

The Good

Was this the same offensive line that was so darned offensive against the Detroit Lions? One sack? Is that it? Seems the addition of a weak, overrated, former-tackle from Auburn can do wonders, eh? Truth is, Kendall Simmons is still the best the Steelers have got, even in his weakened state. As he learns to manage his diabetes, perhaps his naysayers will see why the Steelers made him their first-round selection a year ago. Or, perhaps they never will. See, that is.

The Bad

Honestly, what can you say good about a 21-16 home loss to a perennial playoff team? In the preseason, no less? Certainly a defense that allows just 1.9 yards-per-attempt on 24 Eagles' rushes is not good. Neither is an offense that rolls up 137 yards on 32 attempts anything to celebrate. After all, your quarterback stinks.

The Ugly

Fu, Fu, Fu…what are we going to do with you? That cutesy yoga stuff seems to have worked wonders for Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, who has injured himself once again in a most ordinary fashion. Truth is, perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. Might the absence of Fuamatu-Ma'afala allow a longer look at top camp rushers Verron Haynes and Dante Brown? Perish the thought.

The Outlook

I guess its difficult to appreciate anything that transpired Saturday night when considering how referee Walt Anderson's crew butchered an otherwise intriguing match-up. Still, the play in the trenches was much improved on both sides of the ball. And while the Eagles seemingly threw the ball at will, in truth they amassed a mere 133 yards through the air and 175 yards in total. Compare that to the Steelers 342 total yards, and you get my point.

Three to watch

The Steelers break camp on Thursday, and the last open practice is at 3pm this afternoon, so the time is now to catch your last glance at the 2003 AFC North favorites. If you're making the pilgrimage to St. Vincent's today, you'll want to watch these cats, most definitely:

:: David Upchurch -- Keep an eye on the undersized nosetackle from West Virginia. The 6-3, 285-pound Upchurch has a very good chance of landing on the team's practice squad, meaning he'll be in camp past next Tuesday, the day rosters must be trimmed to 65. He is cheaper and seemingly hungrier than the perpetually inactive Kendrick Clancy. Can he hold the point? Does he play the position the way the Steelers prefer, tying up blockers rather than shooting a gap?

:: Alonzo Jackson -- Hey, he was second for a reason, no? Zo will get a good deal of playing time in the dime and nickel defenses, spelling Joey Porter and the dinged-up and fading Jason Gildon. His addition to the special teams unit was a welcome sign, block-in-the-back or not. You can't fault his effort, as he has shown two weeks running. Can you fault his backpedal? His play at the point? His passrush? Go ahead, pick him apart.

:: Ivan Taylor -- Call him Ike this year. Call him starter in 2004? Hey, the kid can play, as well as can be expected at least. Taylor is the kid who shows up for varsity practice having never played a lick of football, only to run through, over, and around your most prized returning athletes. When his head catches up with his body, Taylor may well be the steal of the 2003 draft. And not just a good player, I'm talking a Terrell Davis-like steal. Sorry, Verron…nice game though.

This week's camp schedule

Today, August 19 -- Morning Practice (Closed); Afternoon Practice (Last open practice)
Wednesday, August 20 -- Morning Walkthrough
Thursday, August 21 -- Break Camp; Exhibition: Steelers vs. Dallas, 8 p.m. kickoff

Random thoughts

:: Two weeks ago, Jim Wexell quoted Buffalo LB Takeo Spikes' bombastic claim that the Bills' trio of linebackers "is the best linebacking corps in the league." Surely Spikes is serious -- "dead-up serious" -- as he puts it. And I'm sure he's serious about the Bills' rise to "at least" 10 wins this year. My only question is, how would Spikes know a winner if it was staring him in the face? Seriously, dead-up seriously in fact, how can a veteran of the Division 1-AA Bengals make such ridiculous claims, and be so damned sure?

:: My thanks to the EA SPORTS for finally, finally, finally getting Joey Porter's photo right in the latest Madden 2004 video game. Only took what, three years?

:: Now the gripe. What the heck happened to Troy Polamalu? Is 16th overall not high enough? All in all, a very good edition, though playing time has certainly been scarce of late.

:: And yes, I do start Chris Hope.

Let this one marinate...

Two losses in two games is not enough to cast so much as a seed of doubt in this here mind. A good showing against Dallas however would be warmly welcomed. The Cowboys may be short on talent at many positions, but they will fly around the field as every Bill Parcells-coached team does; especially with this being the final opportunity to stick around for a good many players. Coach Bill Cowher has commented on the energy being very good against the Eagles; having that carry over to Thursday night would be ideal.

Donny Drummond
SteelCitySports.com


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