Big line? Well, move 'em out

Dale Lolley wonders about the playcalling strategy and much more after Saturday night's game at the new Meadowlands Stadium.

If Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians learned anything in Saturday night's 24-17 preseason victory over the New York Giants, it should be this - when you have a massive offensive line, don't try to get cute and run the ball on the edge.

With Willie Colon out for the season, the Steelers are lining up massive tackles Max Starks (345 pounds) and Flozell Adams (338), guards Chris Kemoeatu (344) and Trai Essex (324) on their offensive line. Centers Justin Hartwig (312) and Maurkice Pouncey (304); whomever wins the starting job will be the baby of the unit.

That's the biggest offensive line in Steelers' history.

And it's a line that's showing that it's excellent at getting off the line of scrimmage and drive blocking. Getting to the edge? Not so much.

Any time the Steelers had a negative running play Saturday night against the Giants, it was because they attempted to run a delay, draw or something to the edge. When they just ran the ball up inside, they were highly successful - with one notable exception.

I'm still not sure what the play calling was at the end of the first half after getting a first-and-goal from the 1 with a timeout remaining.

I didn't have a problem with Byron Leftwich attempting to catch the Giants sleeping with a QB sneak instead of spiking the ball. The Steelers still had a timeout remaining, so they were able to stop the clock. The only problem with it was that it appeared the offensive line thought Leftwich was going to spike the ball and just stood up instead of driving off the line of scrimmage.

But on third-and-one after Leftwich underthrew Antwaan Randle El on a fade on second down, why in the world did the Steelers try to get cute and run the ball? Mewelde Moore was stopped short of the end zone on third down and the half ended.

I know Arians has taken a lot of flak for not running the ball enough. But that was not the situation to show that he's willing to play power football.

* After fumbling last week against Detroit, Rashard Mendenhall was covering the ball up well against the Giants.

He also ran with some authority, when Arians wasn't trying to run him on the edge or on draws. The thing that should be of concern, however, is that Mendenhall almost looks like a running back who's looking for contact when he gets into the hole.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, but he's taking as much punishment as he's dealing out. And on a team that needs Mendenhall in the lineup, that might not be a good thing if it ends up getting him hurt.

Jerome Bettis dealt out his share of punishment during his career. But Bettis also had the ability to limit big hits on himself. He was also a rare individual when it came to dealing with pain.

It remains to be seen if Mendenhall has that same pain threshold. But if he's going to continue running the ball like he has in this preseason, he had better.

* It's still early and he hasn't played a ton of snaps, but Hines Ward has yet to make a reception in this preseason.

Ward dealt with hamstring problems during the offseason and certainly he doesn't need a ton of work in the preseason, but he didn't look like the same Ward during training camp practices.

He dropped some balls and didn't seem to be getting the same separation against defensive backs as he usually does. That has carried over to what I've seen in the first two preseason games as well.

In short, Ward has looked like a wide receiver in his mid-30s.

Maybe I'm wrong here - and for Ward's sake, I hope I am – but age may finally be catching up with him.

* Troy Polamalu missed a couple of tackles Saturday night, but we can attribute that to not having played any real football in about nine months.

Polamalu was flying around the field against the Giants and looking like the Polamalu of old. It appears that after looking tentative at times last week against Detroit, he's figured out that everything is sound with the knee injury that limited him to five games in 2009.

It was also good to see Aaron Smith get to the quarterback for a sack as well.

If those two stay healthy, the Steelers' defense will be very good in 2010.

* At this point, it does not appear there is anything Stefan Logan can do to save his spot on the roster.

Rookie wide receiver Antonio Brown looked good as a return man Saturday night and fellow rookie Emmanuel Sanders will also probably get a shot to show his wares in that area next Sunday at Denver.

Logan hasn't done anything to lose his spot. But he hasn't done anything to keep it, either.

* The best thing you can say about the Steelers' first two preseason games is that they haven't had any major injuries.

For a team that will be without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to open the season and that lost Colon before training camp even began, that's a big thing.

Oftentimes, the NFL season is not about which team is the best when the season begins, but which teams stays the most healthy. And that's a concern for the Steelers, particularly on defense, where more than half of the starters are over 30.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)

Steel City Insider Top Stories