Last night featured one of the most important events in the world of sports.
Oh, and the Olympics held their opening ceremonies.
The event I am referring to is the annual Battle of Pennsylvania between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philthydelphia Eagles. The reason it’s important is most years, that game signifies the start of the preseason, which, by extension, means the start of the football season. And truly, what event is more important than football season?
Actually, please don’t take away my Terrible Towel but I confess to flipping between the game and the ceremonies. If anybody can appreciate a futuristic, lit-up city and an outstanding fireworks display, it would be a Pittsburgher. Plus, the Chinese delegation featured flag-bearer Yao Ming and his little buddy Lin Hao. Hao is a nine-year-old boy from China’s Sichuan Province, where a devastating earthquake killed thousands of people back in May. According to Bob Costas, Lin Hao escaped his school when the quake struck and instead of doing what I would do and run away crying like a girl, he risked his life and suffered multiple injuries by going back to try and rescue some of his schoolmates. When asked why, he responded, “Because I’m a class monitor and it was my responsibility to look out for the class.” Nine freakin’ years old and he’s already manlier than I’ll ever be.
From what I saw of the game, here are the important things to note:
1) The Steelers won 16-10. Sure, preseason games are meaningless but losing to Philly (New motto: City of Brothas on Crack) is not an option. Ever.
2) Backup QB Charlie Batch broke his collarbone. He’ll likely be out 4-6 weeks which means Brian St. Pierre finally has the chance to… Oh shit. I forgot he took his clipboard and moved to Pittsburgh West (Phoenix). Let’s see, I guess that means, um, well, looks like rookie Dennis Dixon is our new backup. Not good. Well, he actually did look good last night (6 of 9 for 30 yards and had a gorgeous 41 yard bomb called back by a holding penalty) but I wouldn’t want to put the season on him if Big Ben makes another wrong turn on his Harley.
The Post-Gazette is suggesting former Jaguars bust Byron Leftwich is a possibility. Wait, I thought Coach Mike Tomlin had a problem with fat people?
3) Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker played two series. Ben had a nice TD pass to Santonio Holmes on a blitz pickup. Rookie Rashard Mendenhall chipped in with 34 yards on 7 carries. The offensive line looked okay on run blocking. There wasn’t enough evidence to judge their pass blocking. The play Batch got jacked up on wasn’t their fault as new RB Mewelde Moore missed his assignment and Charlie paid the price.
4) The first team defense only played two series. NT Casey Hampton didn’t suit up as he’s evidently still stuck in Fat Camp. DE Travis Kirschke, S Anthony “Hines Ward is my bitch…in practice” Smith, and, go figure, S Troy Polamalu all did not play. S Ryan Mundy, a local kid in his rookie season out of WVU, injured his leg on a tackle which puts the Steelers fairly thin at safety right now.
5) Special teams-wise, well, who cares about the kickers? Let’s talk about real football players. Mendenhall, surprisingly, was the kickoff return man. Actually, Najeh Davenport did fairly well in the role last year so I understand Tomlin’s thinking. I don’t think you want your star rookie running back kickoffs though. Moore returned one punt for 9 yards while Eddie Drummond, another local guy, returned his 21 yards. The key here is Moore is a lock to make the team as a 3rd down back while Drummond probably isn’t sticking around unless he wins the return job.
6) First roster cuts take place August 26. Final cuts come four days after that. Teams only have to cut five players on the first date, but ditch 23 more by the next one.