Not to be taken for granted

PITTSBURGH – You never realize how good you have it till you look at a game from the other team's point of view.

At halftime of the Steelers' 17-0 win over the Buffalo Bills, Tom Modrak, the former master scout of the Steelers who's now with the Bills, answered How-Ya-Doins in the press box with his standard reply of "I'm doing terrific."

And then he'd pause: "Well, not right now."

The score was 17-0, Steelers.

"Does it look as bad on TV as it does here?" a Bills' staffer was asking his wife on his cell phone.

Yes, dear.

While Steelers fans and media were spending their time worrying about the little things, they didn't have to look at this (cue the trumpets), the All Important Third Preseason Game, with the same despair the Bills and their faithful did.

This, of course, was the game in which the Steelers hoped to flex their muscle. They wanted to show they are indeed the defending champs, not the penalty-prone chumps we saw in the first two preseason games.

While the run defense was gashed once by Marshawn Lynch for 16 yards, it held the Bills to 12 yards on their other 6 first-half carries.

The defense overall Saturday night was as stout as ever. The Steelers allowed only three first downs, no third-down conversions, 50 total yards, and of course no points in the first half. The defense even outscored the Bills, courtesy of James Farrior's 22-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The Steelers' first-team offense scored 10 points in the first half, and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked only once. Rookie Aaron Maybin was credited with the sack, but it was Max Starks who actually tackled the quarterback. Of course, the real culprit was the Bills' secondary. It was a coverage sack, so chalk one up for the O-line in this – da-dut-da-dahhh – the All Important Third Preseason Game.

Speaking of the O-line, did anyone see the hole I ran through for the 4-yard touchdown?

Of course, it was Rashard Mendenhall, but it could've been me, a 220-pound 48-year-old ex-softball first baseman. Willie Colon and Trai Essex blew the hole open that wide.

As for the running game, we're still giving out mixed reviews.

Mendenhall hit the hole with authority, and sometimes lowered his pads at the point of contact. But too often he spun, pirouetted, if you will, and that won't get it done. Mendenhall did gain 48 yards on 16 carries, and he had a long of 13, but he needs to put those 360s back in the closet.

The passing game performed very well without Santonio Holmes. Hines Ward looked anything but over-the-hill in catching 5 for 74. Limas Sweed made a couple of terrific catches in compiling 4 for 34, and Heath Miller, Mewelde Moore and Mendenhall all played up to their billing as quality receivers.

So in review of the dress rehearsal: Defense, great; Passing game, very good; O-line, good and getting better; Run game, well, inconsistent but the starter was out with a minor injury.

As for special teams, the coverage units were superb. Dan Sepulveda was returned for 0 and 1 yard in the first half, and the 1-yarder was negated by a Bills holding call. On kickoffs, the Bills had first-half returns of 18, 17 and 16 yards. That's just about what Stefan Logan chalked up on punt returns.

Logan followed his terrific showing in Washington with another effective performance last night. In the first half, Logan returned punts for 17 and 13 yards. He was nifty, shifty, quick and exciting. And when he fair-caught his third punt, the stadium let out a collective groan.

Overall, the report card for the All Important Third Preseason Game was pretty much what we've come to expect from the Steelers. In fact, it's one we may have come to take for granted. Just remember to look at it from the other side, too.


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