Wexell: These are the thoughts ...

The Steelers' 16-7 loss to the Eagles made one thing clear: The Steelers' line was built to run block but the offense moves better through the air. This note and many others like it are arranged in bullet-point fashion.

These are the thoughts of a sportswriter who actually wanted to watch a baseball game instead of the Steelers' third preseason game:

• And Minnesota rallying to beat my ChiSox would've created the same emptiness.

• What are we to make of these Pittsburgh Steelers who are transitioning into a passing team with a line built for the run?

• The second offensive line outplayed the first line last night. Max Starks graded out the worst and Jeff Hartings the best.

Kendall Simmons also fared well in my grading system, which is based on how much you contributed to getting your quarterback killed.

• Of the 15 drop backs, Ben Roethlisberger was pressured four times and hit five other times. Starks's man pressured him three times – once for an interception – and forced the grounding call. Marvel Smith gave up two hits and another pressure. Alan Faneca allowed a hit and a sack.

• Is that any way to treat a skinny kid with vertigo?

• Chalk me up for believing the vertigo thing, since I get a touch of it every trip to Kennywood. But, again, mark me down for not believing the thumb thing. This year's thumb thing.

Willie Parker as the back at the fore of an alleged power running game is not something that sends tremors through the National Football League. Parker will need help. Verron Haynes will give him a little bit, but unproven John Kuhn is next.

• Or at least Kuhn should be next. Duce Staley is done, but the Steelers might value his experience and keep him around since there's a good chance Kuhn would pass waivers and end up on the practice squad.

• Staley can't cut back into wide open running lanes like he used to. His legs don't seem to work for him anymore. Jerome Bettis always had those quick feet, even up till the very end, but Staley doesn't.

• Hartings rooted the nose tackle to open a huge hole for Staley, who gained only one yard. His 6-yard run came on a 2nd-and-10 draw that broke open.

• So no power running game this year. Teams will scheme to attack Roethlisberger in the pocket.

• Even if he passes on first down this year I fear Roethlisberger will get hit. Of the seven dropbacks in which he wasn't hit last night, three were screens and three were first-down plays.

Jerame Tuman will help. None of those rookie tight ends can block, although Charles Davis made strides. He was used last of the three Friday and in the third quarter pancaked his man to blow open a hole for Kuhn. On the last play of the drive, Davis swung around to pick up a free defensive end and rode him out of the play. Davis showed off his sticky hands in the passing game, too.

• What's the fascination with Jon Dekker? Has the Princeton tight end memorized the playbook? The coaches must see something in him but he can't block. Sure, put him on the practice squad, let him get bigger, but don't try to sell us like that.

• Moving Chris Kemoeatu to RG and Simmons to C might help the line, but again, Hartings wasn't the problem Friday.

• Kemoeatu's performance dropped a bit at LG. As for the others, Barrett Brooks pulled left one play and fell on his face after one step; Willie Colon played well; Trai Essex gave one up on his first play but recovered; Marvin Philip played well.

• So much will depend on this line and Willie Parker this year. The running threat must be established or Ben's in for a long season.

• Defensively, the front seven seems fine. Joey Porter isn't going full bore, but it looks like his knee won't bother him. Brett Keisel, weighing in at 288, is holding the point and providing pocket pressure.

Ricardo Colclough gave up a big play but did outplay Bryant McFadden, whose cushions are too big on third down. Colclough supported the run and covered well except for the one big play. He looks like a better zone corner while McFadden is better in man and press coverage.

• I believe some psychology was involved in the decision to start Colclough over McFadden in place of Deshea Townsend at RCB, but after watching closely I understand what the staff sees in Colclough.

• See how one blown coverage can go and ruin an otherwise fine game for you? The nature of the position.

Rodney Bailey won a job last night. He put pressure on the QB, blew up a short-yardage run play and in general held the point. Orien Harris outplayed Shaun Nua again and could win a spot. Harris has shown explosiveness each game and this game he wasn't blown off the line at the point.

• I'm still a Ryan Clark man in the starting FS race. But let me make it clear that I agree with you all that Anthony Smith was camp rookie of the year.

• Every week it's something else with you, Anthony. One week it's two interceptions; the next week it's a sack out of a three-man rush; and the next week you're killing a poor return man on special teams. What are we going to do with you, Anthony?

Charlie Batch is playing well. In particular he delivered with pressure in his face. The touchdown pass – offsides on the Eagles – was thrown with a defensive end in his face. So was an earlier third-down conversion.

• I wonder if Omar Jacobs was supposed to run that quarterback draw. I wonder if that was his last play.


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