It ends tonight. Thank merciful God, it ends tonight. We speak not of political conventions -- there will still be another of those next week (and nothing screams excitement like Republicans in Minnesota!) -- but rather the Steelers preseason, the most boring one ... maybe ever ... ends tonight and we can get on with the real games, but we are determined to man our station and blog this game. Can we do it? YES WE CAN!
But why? Why should we even care? Here's why, the most heated position battle still at stake: Mitch Berger vs. Paul Ernster for starting punter ... ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ... even their names are boring! Other than that we can come up with three other important reasons to watch:
1. Willie Reid vs. Dallas Baker for the 5th WR spot
2. One more chance to boo Ricardo Colclough and curse him for that dropped punt 2 seasons ago (he's on Carolina's roster)
3. Make sure no one gets hurt. And I mean NO ONE. No less than FIVE starters on BNG's Fantasy Team could play tonight (that being Big Ben, Santonio, Maxim Reed, Hands Mendenhall, and the Panthers DeAngelo Williams) and any injuries will be devastating to the fightin' Chigurh Friend-O's, who plan to use this personnel to go through the Stu Scott's Eyelid Fantasy League this season like this man with a cattle gun:
OK, sorry to have left you. My computer went all PC Load Letter on me and I had to -- BORROW ONE -- from one of the kind patrons down here at Excuses on the South Side. The good news is, that you havent missed much. Here's a low down:
- Willie Parker had a really nice run off of right tackle. This just in: he's still fast
- Justin Hartwig showed he earned the starting center spot by promptly sending a shotgun snap over Ben's head.
- Bryant McFadden had a pick, making his case to push Deshea for playing time.
- Carey Davis bulled his way for a touchdown.
- Maxim Reed hits two FG's, one particularly long.
- Mendenhall puts the ball on the ground -- somebody on Carolina gets $500!
- Sweed makes a sweet grab in the endzone, but neglects to remember he's no longer in Austin and doesn't keep 2 feet in.
- Edmund Nelson makes frequent use of the Tomlin-ism "gap integrity" during the play-by-play.
Still getting caught up ... bear with us ...
TWO MINUTE WARNING
So frazzled, I forgot the score 13-3 Steelers ...
OK, so as mentioned we're at Excuses on the South Side a place known for great wings and great live music. If you're not familiar with the place, here's 2 big reasons why you should get to know it:
1. They have a leg lamp in the window like in "A Christmas Story"
2. It is the home base of the Ike Taylor fan club:
Its a cool story -- a gang from Excuses used to go to the NFL Draft every year in New York, and they met Ike there on the day he was drafted and decided to form an old style "Lambert's Lunatics" fan club for him. By pure happenstance, Ike took up residence at the new condos at South Side Works almost across the street from the bar. He is a regular -- they keep San Pelligrino water in stock for him because he doesn't drink -- and they've gotten to know his family who stop by when they are in town. There are pictures on the bar wall of Alisa and the other regulars with The Bus, Mike Tomlin, Mike Logan, and of course, Ike, who have all been by the bar.
Other things we forgot as we struggle to get our bearings ... Dallas Baker had a nice catch, and Willie Reid a decent return. Tough pickins for that 5th WR spot. Limas Sweed had a shot at a gorgeous grab but dropped it. Its 13-6 at the half, and we promise to give you a better effort for the second half, provided our computer doesn't die again ...
By the way, we owe our life to the guy below, Rob Schultz, who lent us his computer after ours died ...
- Special teams scrapper Arnold Harrison is hurt on the kickoff. No details.
- Jerome Bettis is spotted by KDKA's camera on the sideline.
- By the way, we're skipping our timeline updates because of the computer problems earlier.
- Hands Mendenhall is 17 for 73 yards midway through the third quarter and slashing his way through Carolina's D on this drive.
- On 3rd and 14 Limas misses a grab in traffic he probably should've had. Bring on Maxim. It's good -- Steelers 16, Carolina 6. FOURTH QUARTER OK, we're having computer problems again -- right now our technology is as porous as the Steelers line. And apparently their defense as they've managed to let Carolina tie it up with a minute left. But frankly, we're well into garbage time of frankly a garbage game. So, some things to talk about ...
1. We've seen precious little to like in this preseason from the area that is of utmost concern -- the line. Something has to come together here, and offensive lines are groups that are largely dependent on a rhythm. In defense of the starting five, they've seen little game action together, so maybe this will work itself out. Will they miss Faneca? Obviously, but keep in mind Alan's play had declined the past two years. Last night on ESPN2 they were showing the Jets 2007 yearbook and they had a piece about the re-vamped line with two great clips of Faneca pancaking guys. Only problem, one was from Super Bowl XL, the other from a 2003(!) game against the Ravens when Tommy Maddox was the starter. They then showed highlights of the Jets beating the Steelers 19-16 in OT and at least 3 times you'd see Ben getting sacked with Faneca running behind his man, who had clearly beaten him.
2. Rashard Mendenhall has shown some flashes of great potential, followed by flashes of becoming the next Tim Worley. Hold your breath when he gets the ball when the games start counting, for reasons both good and bad.
3. Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons could become the most explosive young linebacker combo in the league. Stay tuned.
4. Jeff Reed is your preseason MVP.
5. When he was in and when he got time, Big Ben threw lasers to Santonio and Hines Ward. The passing game could be deadly. IF Ben gets time. IF.
6. Troy Polamalu where are youuuuuu?
7. Ernster ... Berger. Who cares. Neither of them is Robo-punter and the Steelers may yet pick up someone who gets cut by another team.
8. Keyaron Fox has been a nice surprise, and could be the kind of special teams maniac that becomes a starter in the league some day. See: Harrison, James; Roye, Orpheus.
9. Have we seen the last of Charlie Batch in a Steelers uni?
10. Preseason games are painful to watch at times.
OK, that's a starting point for now. We'll open up the postgame thread shortly. Again a huge thanks to the kind folks at Excuses (their grilled wings are really good) and Rob Schultz for letting us use his computer. FINAL: STEELERS 19 CAROLINA 16.