The Steelers thumped the New Orleans Saints, 20-7, in the Hall of Fame Game. Here's Jim Wexell's running commentary.
From the running notebook of a sportswriter who walked into the lion’s den and lived to tell about it:
• James Harrison’s parents were trusting and made me feel comfortable in their home. Then mom broke out the baby pictures and said proudly, “Look at him. He was ready to fight when he was born.”
* Local guys in the pressbox are telling stories about James. They're still scared of him.
• Family expected James to play in the Hall of Fame game, but he’s sitting it out. So is Sean Mahan, who didn’t make the trip for personal reasons. He’s expected back next week.
• Interesting to see Verron Haynes showing
all the backs how Jerome Bettis loosened up before a game.
• Fawcett Stadium in Canton is the second-best high-school stadium I saw today. I took a trip to Massillon and toured Paul Brown
Tiger Stadium. Now I have a better appreciation for the Canton McKinley-Massillon rivalry and why 25-30,000 fans show up.
• Well, Willie Reid’s deep. Finally, it’s here.
• Cedrick the Complainer gets off to an entertaining start. Usually it’s the other way around. Usually, he’s in full complaint mode by now. Anyway, the 55-yarder gets his preseason off and running. Santonio Holmes will be picking up the pace this week since his starting job is no longer a given.
• Nate Washington starts with a drop. Didn’t he start last year’s disappointing season with a touchdown?
• Okay, I’m back with Cedrick the Entertainer. He’s flashing on the first drive.
• Najeh Davenport bulled it in up the middle, but I’d like to see more muscle from Chukky Okobi. He stands up too much. Maybe he’s too
• Seeing Reggie Bush carry the ball reminds me how exciting last year’s game between these teams was.
• LaMarr Woodley breaks up a pass to the tight end on third down. That was a big play for the rookie, whose weakness will be … could be … well, might not be … pass coverage.
• Could Woodley take Clark Haggans’s job when Harrison returns? One player’s dad thinks that could be, should be, will
be, a possibility.
• Reid fumbled the first punt to him. Must have been my fault. I wrote last week that Reid has sure hands.
• Second possession started with three tight ends lined up tight to the right – and all three went out for a pass.
• The next play had four wides and Charlie Batch handed off. Bruce Arians is setting a tone: Don’t buy into what you see.
• Hey, Max Starks doesn’t look too bad at left tackle. I like how this team’s getting its line ready for the season.
• Ah, now there’s Cedrick the Complainer. This time
, though, it looked like a pass interference penalty was warranted.
• The first preseason appearance of the quarter defense results in a third-and-10 incompletion. Don’t know if the “orchestrated chaos” had anything to do with it, but it was incomplete.
• There’s Reid with a slip screen. The kid’s quick. Hines Ward might be right about Reid being the most dynamic “new” player in camp.
• Too much grabbing out of Okobi. Grab, grab, grab. Everybody’s grabbing.
• Jeff Reed missed a 42-yard field goal, robbing us of a chance to go home early.
• Does anyone else worry about Reed? I’m starting to.
• Nate Washington’s drops are getting old, too, and it’s still the first quarter of the Hall of Fame game.
• Anthony Smith almost intercepted a handoff.
• Ron Stanley’s in there awfully early. “Next step, across the street,” said the sportswriter from Michigan State.
• That’s right. I saw Clint Kriewaldt wearing only sweats during warmups. Don’t know what’s up.
• Brian St. Pierre appears in the first quarter. Looks like the scout from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is going to get an awfully long look at Bryan Randall. Looks like we’re all in for an awfully long second half.
• That allowed sack makes about four consecutive poor plays by Kendall Simmons. Must be me. For the sake of the quarterback, I’ll go back to watching Okobi.
• “Fast” Carey Davis ends the quarter by ripping off 33 yards with a screen pass. Not seeing much from his fading competitor, Kevan Barlow.
• Dan Sepulveda’s “Aussie Roll” makes an appearance, and it’s fair
-caught at the 15. Counting camp practices, I’ve yet to see one of his pooch punts roll into the end zone, or fall shy of the 20.
• We just took three minutes to put three seconds back on the game clock. So if you’re keeping track at home, there’s 13:02 left in the first half.
• Looks like Nate don’t drop The Saint’s passes. Neither does Santonio, who answers Cedrick’s challenge by catching a deep ball, and then a fade for the short touchdown.
• Beautiful passes from The Saint, by the way.
• Nick Eason. Who’s going to block Nick Eason? I know. I know. You can’t block Nick Eason, you can only hope to hold him.
• These Saints look nothing like the team that played a great game last year on a good night for the Steelers.
• Ricardo Colclough in on the tackle. Doh! He tackled Wilson, his team’s return man. There’s something else for Cedrick to complain about.
• There’s Carey Davis rumbling down the sideline. Jon Dekker’s block broke him at the point; Chris Kemoeatu’s block
(s) helped at midfield; Nate Washington’s downfield block helped Davis tack on yards 46 through 56.
• The Thundering Bull indeed.
• Just hope the Steelers don’t get the proverbial big head from this offensive display. The Saints had a horrible defense last year. With Drew Brees out, the Saints have that and a horrible offense.
• Of course, it is an encouraging sign for the Steelers. The national media up in the press box here is surprised, to say the least.
• Woodley’s again looking fluid in pass coverage. Maybe he’s dropped some weight the last two weeks.
• The stock market report at the half. Stock up: LaMarr Woodley, Carey Davis, Cedrick Wilson, Santonio Holmes, Max Starks, Willie Colon, Brian St. Pierre, Arnold Harrison, Anthony Smith, Nick Eason. Stock down: Nate Washington, Kevan Barlow, Chukky Okobi, Jeff Reed, and the ref
who called for a replay review with 44 seconds left.
• Woodley’s done, so that makes Snelly and Goo the starting OLBs in the second half. Things could get messy.
• Shaun Nua and Eason are the starting DEs. It’ll be a good time to compare the guys vying for that sixth DE spot.
• Nua was blown off the ball on the first run play, but just rocked the QB after his release.
• Eason just rocked the quarterback, Fife, who completed it for 18 yards. The Saints are threatening for the first time.
• On third-and-goal from the three for the Saints, the Steelers put a pass-downs defense. The Saints tried to run and CB Jovon Johnson came up to stuff the play. Rian Wallace jumped on the pile then celebrated like he was Mike Jones stopping
• Better hold off on that bust for Ron Stanley. His man had two steps on him for the Saints touchdown.
• Well, that duel between Nua and Eason is duller than a drive through Ohio. Better focus on someone else. Richard Koonce and William Gay are sounding about right.
• Reid just bobbled another kickoff, but he returned it to the 35 so we’ll give him a pass. Has to be an anomaly. The kid doesn’t bobble the ball I’m telling you.
• You almost wonder if the line has a heart for blocking when Barlow has the ball. I guess he could’ve helped his cause by picking up the decked quarterback a few plays earlier.
• Looks like Walter Young is making another bid for “Mr. August
.” He’s running amok through the porous Saints secondary.
• Gary Russell thinks he’s running against Michigan. Dude’s hitting the hole pretty hard.
• We’re into the fourth quarter and it looks like Mike Tomlin will become the first Steelers coach to win his preseason debut in at least 50 years. The media guide doesn’t go back to Buddy Parker’s first year with the team, so more research is forthcoming.
• The front door of the actual Hall of Fame is on Harrison Avenue. Told you the dude’s a legend out here.
• Just watched Jason Capizzi play a flawless series at left tackle. And while that was going on, other reporters
were talking about Trai Essex’s back-to-back counter blocks. That means it’s time for me to go.
By Jim Wexell
Posted 6 August 2007