My thoughts, for what they're worth ...

Was it just me, or did the game not feel like a preseason game (at least until the first-teamers were pulled on both sides)? Blitzes, reverses, no-huddle offense at the onset ... those were not vanilla plays by either team on either side of the ball.

- On a positive note, the kick and punt coverage looked a lot smoother than it did last week. Chidi Iwouma does not look like a man who wants to be sitting at home on opening day.

- So, those new uniforms the Vikings are sporting… I've been known to roll into work wearing shirts that still show the creases from how they were folded in the package, but I wouldn't be caught dead in one of those ghastly things. They look simply awful.

Thus concludes the fashion portion of the show.

- I love Ike Taylor's run support. Love it. It's cliché, but great run defense is a whole team effort. No team in football does it better than the Steelers, and cornerbacks like Taylor who tackle like safeties are a big reason why. It's never wise to read too much into preseason statistics, but through two games the Steelers are allowing less than 2.7 yards per rush; a Pittsburgh defense that can stuff the run like that will put a lot of opponents into a lot of bad positions.

- Aaron Smith had a solid season in 2005, but he's capable of more and he showed a taste of that in this game. When he gets consistent penetration and fights through double-teams, he's a better 3-4 end than Richard Seymour. A defensive lineman who plays both the run and the pass very well is a rare thing in the NFL.

- Willie Reid should please a lot of fans who complained about Antwaan Randle El's jitterbugging on punt returns; he turns up-field in a hurry. And he should please the fans who didn't complain about Randle El, too, because he looks like he can be every bit as productive and explosive as a return man.

- In case last week left any doubt, yes, Nate Washington can run the end-around. As for what last week did leave in doubt, it seems that he can catch the ball in a live game, too.

- Apparently, even cornerbacks who got $12 million signing bonuses like the pair in Minnesota play ten yards off the line in preseason.

- Let's clear up one apparent misconception: Brad Johnson is not the lowest-paid starting quarterback in the league. That honor belongs to Cleveland's Charlie Frye, he of the $350,000 salary and $550,000 cap figure. And if we're only looking at 2006 payouts and not past bonus payments, then J.P. Losman and Rex Grossman (assuming that they win starting jobs this year) both check in under Johnson's $1 million.

- The end-around to Travis Taylor (not a reverse, Mr. Pompeani) showcased Pittsburgh's excellent lateral pursuit on defense. It's very difficult to find the edge against a defense with Joey Porter on one side, Clark Haggans on the other, and Troy Polamalu everywhere you look, especially with cornerbacks who also fly to the ball. It's just a shame that Taylor's over-aggression spoiled such an excellent play.

- Quincy Morgan is making his case to stick on this roster. The other guys who aren't doing much on kick returns are making part of the case for him, too. I'd like to see Reid get more chances in that capacity… can't he get Ricardo Colclough's turns?

- I don't care whether he bounced off of Chester Taylor on one play or not; I like what Ryan Clark brings to the table at free safety. That play aside, he's shown himself to be a good tackler.

- On the big gainer to Travis Taylor in the first quarter, it looked like Polamalu got caught between two receivers and couldn't make his move until the ball was in the air. I believe that there was a cornerback playing behind him somewhere, but why was he so deep that Polamalu had to play the down so tentatively?

- The new rule, James Farrior, is that you're not allowed to tip any passes destined for Polamalu's hands over to the tight end for an easy touchdown. I know you didn't mean to do it, but I so look forward to watching Polamalu do his opposite-of-Ed Reed impersonation on interception returns. Reed is really not particularly fast, but he weaves through traffic with such fluidity and economy of movement that he appears to be much speedier. Polamalu is the opposite, a tornado of speed and fury who moves so far back and forth laterally that his returns look like your average 90-yard Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl touchdown run.

- It seemed that Polamalu cleaned up every play by Minnesota's offense that broke through the front seven; his open field pursuit is simply out of this world. Does everybody remember what this defense looked like with Lee Flowers and Brent Alexander back at safety?

- Ducey, Ducey, Ducey. I've been in your corner, Duce Staley, but you've really got to show me something sooner than later, man.

- Charlie Batch looks as good out there as I ever remember him being, and should provide solid protection against Ben Roethlisberger's not-infrequent nicks and scrapes. He did hold onto the ball a little too long at times in this game, though, which led to an unfortunate red zone fumble.

- The defense got pretty good pressure on Minnesota's quarterbacks, even if it only led to one sack. Johnson, though, played really well in the face of that pressure (and got lucky on a few plays that could have gone badly, such as the tipped touchdown to Jermaine Wiggins).

- Minnesota took some heat for trading into the second round to select Tarvaris Jackson, but he has shown about as well as a rookie quarterback possibly could through two preseason games. I don't think that the Steelers are too disappointed with that trade either, given the early returns from the two third-rounders they received in exchange.

- Another preseason game, more strong play by Anthony Smith.

- I like to root for the local guys as much as anyone, but how exactly is Pittsburgh native Mike McMahon still playing in the NFL? Was it the career 44.5 completion percentage that convinced Minnesota to add a few hundred thousand to the $3,336,360 that he's already stolen from the league?

- Verron Haynes seems to have risen from that guy who heard groans from the stands when his number was called to attempt another improbable third-and-long into a genuine fan favorite. Hard work, perseverance, and Super Bowl wins do indeed pay off.

- Jon Dekker caught the balls that hit his hands this time. It's a shame that he was also bulldozed in his run blocking and still doesn't stand a prayer of making the roster.

- Mike Logan didn't get the memo that the team was just throwing him a bone by letting him come to camp this year. Or the doctor's report, apparently, that his Super Bowl injury should have ended his career. Now, here's a local guy for whom I can root ...

- Nothing against you, Lee Vickers, but you're too skinny to be wearing #67 not a year removed from Kimo von Oelhoffen's jersey looking like it could bust at the seams at any moment. I miss the big guy already ... and so does the defensive line depth.

- With respect to the job that Bob Sanders did, Darren Sharper was the league's best free safety in 2005, and doesn't look like he intends to stop ball-hawking any time soon.

- Omar Jacobs isn't having a lot of success, but he looks like he's working through it out there and not letting the early setbacks stick in his mind. I only hope that it becomes a microcosm of his early career, and that he can work through his current shortcomings to become the NFL quarterback that his size and college success promised. He showed a little Roethlisberger on one third-down scramble ... now he needs to show a little more.

- Bill Cowher throwing the challenge flag is still among the league's more amusing sideline events, though I couldn't exactly say why. It just is.

Steel City Insider Top Stories