All right, I love the hogs, so let's get a snoot full. Trai Essex has looked great in camp. How and why he didn't see Chike Okeafor on his first trap block is hard to figure. I'm guessing like a lot of other guys out there the first couple series surprise guys when they experience game speed. Nothing in practice prepares you for game speed, and Okeafor went over the top and made the hit on a play that should have popped for 5 yards at least. On a long trap, the pulling guard has to make sure nothing crosses his face AND sees ahead to the combat zone. Trai didn't.
"The Big Legursky" played center and had a solid outing. He confided to me, while bravely showing a strong front, that he was nervous. Why was Doug so nervous for a meaningless preseason game? When the franchise (#7) is setting up in the pocket right behind you, you don't want to get into an argument about healthcare. Just as my old line coach with the Steelers told me when I was a rook and in the game with the blond bomber Bradshaw, "I don't care what you have to do to keep him clean. Bite, scratch, claw, kick, just don't let him get hit!" And Doug did his part.
Tony Hills took a step forward. I like how O Line boss Larry Zeirlein switched and rotated Hills and Jason Capizzi along with Jeremy Parquet to both sides so they could find the swing man. Hills looked more efficient on the left side, but had uncomfortable moments on the right. Capizzi did some good things, as did Parquet. Slight nod goes to Hills overall.
A.Q. Shipley also had a good night in his homecoming. The Moon High product picked up blitzes, ran efficient combination run-blocking schemes, and is as tenacious as a pit bull. Remember, good feet (which Shipley has) make short arms longer.
Switching sides of the ball, Bruce Davis gave us a glimpse of what Coach Mike saw when he made Davis the 88th pick in last year's draft. Davis got the corner several times on former Steelers tackle Oliver Ross, and even drew a holding call. Bruce smelled out a screen, and emptied his tank with effort all night long. Davis also made a play on special teams and finished off the night with an interception. As Tomlin said to Davis when he greeted the young linebacker near the locker room, "It's a start. Just a start."
Joe Burnett showed just what the Turk in the booth had talked about in the pre-game show. "He's a football player, not just a defensive back," he said, meaning that there's more to this young stud than coverage skills. But the coverage skills came out as he had a pick and nifty return that I thought would garner him six. He came up short of the goal line but it was an impressive play nonetheless.
Ziggy Hood had a great pass rush move. It's called the "You got'em. No you got'em" technique that was exhibited by two Cardinals offensive linemen. The guard and tackle both stared at each other after they watched Ziggy blow between them unhindered for the sack. I imagine line coach Russ Grim stared hard at them both when they came back to the bench. Ziggy had an OK night while getting his first taste of NFL life. He ran around a couple of blocks that looked like they were his gap responsibility, but that's part of the learning process.
William Gay played Anquan Boldin for a New York City tourist in Times Square as he reached around ‘Quan and "Picked his pocket" on the first series when Kurt Warner was quarterback. I highlight this because Ray Horton says Gay had the best technical coverage skills of all the cornerbacks last year. Looks like William has a jump on the title for best skills for this year, too.
Speaking of skills, what do you think veteran defensive backs do when they're on the sideline and the game is all but over? How about a dance off? That's what Ike Taylor and Gay engaged in with a long distance contest with Bryant McFadden and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie on the Cardinals sidelines. One guy would bust a move, and then "throw it" over to the other sideline to the opponent who would respond and return the dance with a little upstaging. With a Simon Cowell eye for talent, I'd have to say the Steelers won that contest, too.