Fourth & Goal

The preseason ended with Byron Leftwich on a training table, but the Steelers' defense and special teams provided encouraging performances against Carolina. SCI's Mike Prisuta spoke with a couple of leaders of those units:

Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: You spoke with Byron Leftwich on the sideline after he was knocked out of the Carolina game due to a knee injury. Is there any advice you can offer him given your recent experiences with knee injuries?

A: "I'm not sure of the extent of the injury, but don't hurry back too fast if it's serious, you know?"

Q: Does the uncertainty at the quarterback position in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger's suspension and Leftwich's injury put even more pressure on the defense, which you've said previously always expects itself to win the game for the team?

A: "Honestly, I don't feel any certain pressure to focus more or anything like that, but we'll see. It's definitely different without Ben in there. But I kind of like the style of ball that we have when Dennis (Dixon) or Charlie (Batch) or Byron is in there, as well.

"We played pretty good ball with Dennis at quarterback in Baltimore in probably the toughest game that we had all season long. We took them to overtime, I think, or something like that. And that's with not even putting in a game plan for Dennis that utilizes his talents.

"So we can win games in tough situations with anybody in there. But as you can see from that style of game there was a lot more pressure on the defense."

Q: Based on the just-completed preseason is the defense up to the task?

A: "You know what? Time will tell. You do learn a lot, obviously, from the preseason, but Detroit went 4-0 in the preseason and went 0-16, you know what I mean? Obviously, you don't want to go 0-4. But I think we saw what we needed to see this preseason in order to get better. In a lot of cases it was humbling, for example the (Denver) game, we learned a lot there. We'll see."

Q: What do you look for in a preseason to indicate readiness?

A: "First and foremost, I think, is getting your legs under you and getting your eyes conditioned to see what they're supposed to see in game situations, but more important than that it's getting out healthy. You don't want to start behind the 8-ball going into a long season, 16 games, God-willing more than that.

"You just want to make it out healthy and, thank God, I think everybody's feeling pretty good besides Byron."

Jeff Reed, K, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: Does the quarterback situation put even more pressure on the placekicker, particularly during Ben Roethlisberger's suspension?

A: "Yeah, it won't be long until Dan (Sepulveda) will be playing quarterback, too.

"No, I'm always important. Whenever Ben's playing there have been a lot of games that came down to a field goal, whether it was early or a game-winner. In this situation we have total confidence in the guys available, and when Ben gets back obviously he does his thing.

"It's always important, whether it's five field goals a game or one kick, a game-winner at the end. I take that responsibility on my shoulders."

Q: Was your performance against Carolina (4-for-4 on field goals) representative of your preseason (9-for-9 on field goals including the Carolina game) and your state of readiness for the regular season?

A: "I think so. I kicked a lot (against Carolina). I didn't really think I would kick that much. I couldn't get the ball in the end zone (on kickoffs) but I'm glad I got a longer field goal in there, to say the least, a 43-yarder. I've had a lot of 30-yarders, which is good, good work, because you have to make those. But it's nice to get some game action from behind 40 yards."


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