Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Five end-of-August Steelers thoughts

By Mike Batista

I promised another post by the end of August, so here you go.

What a month August was. It started with me moving. I spent hours packing and unpacking (which I haven't finished) and had to run around to scrape together enough cash for the movers. All that, and it turns out my apartment in New Jersey is only 13 miles closer to Heinz Field than my apartment in New York.

Last week's earthquake didn't move me any closer to the big yellow stadium in Pittsburgh. Thankfully, I'm one of the lucky ones. Neither the earthquake nor Hurricane Irene had much impact on me.

My 40th birthday is another story. I could not get out of the way of that storm's path during the month of August.

So let's finish up this tumultuous month with five random Steelers observations as they enter their final preseason game tomorrow night.

  • If James Harrison doesn't get any better, he can't play in Week 1. He's still recovering from back surgery in the offseason, and right now he's a liability. You can play a man down in football, just not American football. The Steelers won't win in Baltimore playing 10 on 11. Maybe they move Lawrence Timmons to outside linebacker and put Larry Foote on the inside, if he has anything left. Or maybe second-year man Stevenson Sylvester is ready to step in on the inside. The Steelers have drafted some good linebackers the last couple of years. It's time to put that depth to use. Jason Worilds showed some flashes last year. It doesn't sound like he's made much progress in the preseason, but he might have to be ready to replace Harrison on the outside.
  • Someone tell me again how the Steelers got Jerricho Cotchery. It's a matter of keeping up with the Joneses in the AFC. The Steelers have to make sure they have more than teams like the Patriots, Ravens and Jets. The Jets' near-comeback against the Steelers in the AFC championship game was pretty damn scary. Somehow, one of the more formidable weapons of the Jets' second-half assault is now in a Steelers uniform. The Steelers should make like Joe Pesci firing his gun into the air after he jacked the truck in "Goodfellas." With Cotchery, the Steelers have the luxury of allowing Emmanuel Sanders to take his time coming back from foot surgery. That brings me to another Steelers receiver, someone who many are rooting for to make the team, but probably won't. Tyler Grisham will be fighting for a job tomorrow night. The Steelers have five legitimate threats at wide receiver with Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Cotchery, Sanders and Antonio Brown, who looks like he's ready to have a breakout year. The Steelers can afford to use their sixth wide receiver spot on a special teams ace like Arnaz Battle. Grisham isn't as good on special teams. He's got practice squad written all over him.
  • Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler likely will make the team. I'd love to see one of them start opposite Ike Taylor at cornerback Sept. 11. That probably won't happen, though. Butler made the highlight reel with his 95-yard interception return for a touchdown in the preseason game against the Falcons. But he and Lewis both made some mistakes in the game, too. It would be quite a redemption story if Lewis becomes any kind of contributor, considering some of those boneheaded penalties in his first two years. But we're probably going to be stuck with Bryant McFadden starting, and maybe even William Gay as the nickelback. Same old mediocre Steelers secondary.
  • It looks like Tony Hills won't be the starting right guard, after all. Doug Legursky will get a long look tomorrow night. It's too bad. I was really rooting for Hills to get a starting job. It would have been a shining example of perseverance. Hills dropped into the fourth round of the 2008 draft after breaking his leg his senior year at Texas. He seemed lost his first couple of years. I remember seeing him play a little bit in Tennessee last season when Steelers players were dropping like flies in the September heat. Still, it looked like he would have to get a job in the real world this summer. But he must have done something right during the offseason, because he's been competing for a starting job and has earned the label as the Steelers' most "athletic" offensive lineman. We might not see Hills' name listed among the starters on the CBS graphic a few minutes after 1 p.m. on Sept. 11. But Hills might be in a good position to make the team and be heard from eventually. Hang in there, Tony.
  • I don't know about you, but I'm just not comfortable with Shaun Suisham as the Steelers' kicker. His wide, wide, wide left on the 52-yarder, indoors, in Super Bowl XLV is burned into my consciousness like the sight of Rosie O'Donnell naked.
That is all. See you in September.

1 comment:

  1. First off, I wish you hadn't even mentioned the words, "Rosie O'Donnell naked." That suggests a visual I don't need.

    James Harrison's health is a major concern right now. His game is all about leverage, speed and power, and right now, he has none of the above.

    I was definitely rooting for Tyler Grisham and was disappointed he got cut. Maybe he makes the practice squad again (if he's eligible). I was also disappointed they cut Donovon Warren and Morty Ivy.

    I wouldn't rule out Curtis Brown as a potential starter at corner sometime this season, but I would bet Keenan Lewis starts the opener, if Bryant McFadden isn't ready to go Sept. 11.

    Tony Hills probably has made the team, but it's weird how they shuffled the starters so late in camp. I've always liked Doug Legursky -- talk about perseverance -- and am glad he finally gets a shot to start. We shall see who starts at left tackle. Should be interesting if it will be Jonathan Scott, or Marcus Gilbert. It also will be interesting to see how (or if) Trai Essex and Tony Hills actually fit the mix.

    I like the Cotchery signing and am really glad he chose the Steelers over the Ravens, who "settled" for Lee Evans (also not a bid signing, unfortunately for us).

    Arguably, a case could've been made (for about 30 seconds) for keeping BOTH Suisham and Swayze Watters (mainly for kicking the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs; and also, maybe, for long field-goal attempts), but it was never even considered, I'm sure.

    Keep up the good work. I too am in the midst of moving. Total upheaval. Once I finally get into the new place, it's going to take me three years to unpack and get settled. Good luck.