Lolley: Batch injury not the end of the world

The Pittsburgh Steelers completed their preseason opener Friday night, a 16-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Of course the big news coming out of the game was the broken collar bone suffered by second-string quarterback Charlie Batch. It's a big injury, to be sure, but it's certainly not as big a deal as it was being made in the Heinz Field press box.

Batch has started four games in the past four seasons. Ben Roethlisberger isn't going to be mistaken for Brett Favre, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady in terms of durability. Those guys own three of the longest consecutive games played streaks in NFL history. But Roethlisberger is pretty durable – motorcycle crashes aside.

Batch's injury means more playing time and practice reps for rookie Dennis Dixon.

© The big names bandied about as a possible short-term replacement for Batch include Daunte Culpepper and Byron Leftwich. But with head coach Mike Tomlin's statement that Batch won't be placed on injured reserve - thus ending his season - none of those guys are coming to Pittsburgh.

My money is on Kelly Holcomb, who worked with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians in Cleveland.

© LaMarr Woodley dominated Philadelphia right tackle John Runyan, a 13-year veteran who's been to one Pro Bowl.

He drew two penalties and chased quarterback Donovan McNabb out of the pocket a couple of times.

Runyan, who was penalized for tripping Woodley after being thrown to the ground one time, was having such a tough time with Woodley that McNabb changes protections one time to have fullback Jason Davis help Runyan out.

Davis ended up putting a chop block on Woodley while he was engaged with Runyan.

That's a nice start for Woodley, who's replacing Clark Haggans at left outside linebacker.

© Willie Parker, welcome back.

Parker looked very, very good running on his three carries, showing the burst that makes him special player.

For a player who admitted to having some doubts about returning from a broken leg, it was a good sign.

© Rashard Mendenhall's debut was a solid one, as he gained 34 yards on seven carries.

The only carry I had any problem with was his second one, when he was strung out and tried to reverse his field instead of lowering his shoulder and drive forward. It turned into a two-yard loss instead of a two-yard gain.

But it's a learning process. Mendenhall may have been able to reverse his field and run away from people in the Big Ten at Illinois, but that won't work in the NFL.

© Speaking of Mendenhall, how about center Justin Hartwig's block to seal the end on his 15-yard carry in the second quarter?

That's what the Steelers' offense needs. Hartwig will get an opportunity to start next week against Buffalo and should be named the starter over Sean Mahan for the third preseason game.

© Keyaron Fox was probably the Steelers' least-heralded pickup of the offseason, but the inside linebacker looks like a pretty good player.

He's pretty good in coverage, looks good closing on the ball and is a solid special teams player.

© Rookie cornerback Travis Williams flashed a little bit as well. He made two special teams tackles and made a nice play on the ball on Philadelphia's last possession, avoiding a pass interference penalty.

Williams did have a pass interference penalty on a play that he didn't get his head around on, but the battle for the fifth cornerback spot - if there is one – may turn into a very heated one.

Incumbent Anthony Madison also played pretty well and the Steelers really like Roy Lewis' versatility.

Lewis can play both corner and safety and Tomlin mentioned him by name in the post game press conference.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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