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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Post-game wrap

The Steelers lost their preseason opener at Arizona Saturday night. But there was plenty more to look at other than the outcome of the game. First and foremost was the play of running back Willie Parker.

Much of the focus from Saturday's opening preseason game was on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s performance and rightfully so.

But as good as Roethlisberger looked Saturday, Willie Parker was the player who caught my eye.

Parker only got three carries in the Steelers' 21-13 loss at Arizona, but they were three impressive carries for 12 yards. He also made a big 7-yard catch off of a scramble by Roethlisberger.

What impressed me about Parker? His patience waiting for a hole to develop. That was something that wasn't always evident with Parker last season when he often just took the ball and ran as fast as he could.

That was something that drove the coaching staff in North Carolina crazy and was something they couldn't Parker to do. Now, Parker is watching and waiting, turning on the jets only after the hole opens up.

A little maturity goes a long way.

He's going to have a huge season.

• Mike Barr averaged a healthy 49.0 yards per attempt on his three punts. Chris Gardocki boomed his lone kick 59 yards.

A little competition goes a long way.

I'm still convinced Gardocki is the better holder of the two and that will be the deciding factor as to which punter makes the final roster.

• Any question as to how Brett Keisel would hold up against the run was erased when he blew up Arizona's first running play of the game.

Keisel will be fine.

But replacing Keisel as a backup could be problematic.

The Steelers went with Travis Kirschke and Rodney Bailey as the second-team defensive ends against the Cardinals and they made J.J. Arrington look like he was the second coming of Edgerrin James. Kirshke's back remains problematic and Bailey's injury history since leaving the Steelers a couple of years ago is as well.

The third-team ends, Shaun Nua and Lee Vickers, got pushed around late in the game like they were on skates. Both look like they need to put on more weight.

• I wasn't nearly as concerned with some of the third-and-long conversions as KDKA color analyst Edmund Nelson seemed to be.

It being preseason and all, the Steelers did very little blitzing and got little pressure on Kurt Warner when he was in there. History has shown that if you hit Warner a couple of times, he folds.

History has also shown that the Steelers will get pressure on the quarterback when the games start to count.

• What the heck was Ricardo Colclough doing back deep for the first two kickoffs? Was he providing veteran leadership? Hadn’t he made his quota for dropped kicks for the week?

• Santonio Holmes caught four passes for 32 yards, while Willie Reid had four receptions for 30. Those aren't exactly impressive numbers, but both young wideouts had big catches on third down and showed they could be factors this season.

• Cedrick Wilson needs to worry more about catching the ball and less about getting the officials' attention when he feels he's been interfered with.

On the opening play of the second quarter, Arizona corner Antrell Rolle obviously interfered with Wilson along the sideline.

The ball was still in the air and Wilson was already waiving for a flag. Rolle, meanwhile, nearly picked off the ball, which Wilson was paying no attention to.

It was something Wilson also did at times last season and it annoyed me.

What if Rolle had picked off the ball there and the officials hadn’t thrown the flag?

Wilson needs to see the play through its completion before he starts looking for the flag. You never know when they aren't going to throw it.

• Now we know what the Steelers liked about Anthony Smith.

You can talk about 40 times and all of that. But the kid flat out makes plays.

Will he beat out Tyrone Carter or Ryan Clark for the starting free safety spot? Nope. He's still a little too raw for that this year.
But next season, all bets are off.

• Play-by-play guy Bob Pompeani actually said at one point that Willie Colon was the best lineman in the Hofstra offense last season. I know that Hofstra is a football factory and all, but I'd guess Colon wasn't just the school's best lineman last season, but in school history.

I know that you're searching for things to say when you're doing that job, but come on Pomp, you're better than that.

• Shane Boyd is wearing Tommy Maddox's No. 8 jersey, but he looked a lot more like another former Steelers' QB Saturday. In fact, if Boyd had put on a No. 10 jersey, I'd have sworn I was watching Kordell Stewart play again - without the breakaway speed.

Boyd finished 8 of 16 for 67 yards and an interception and also scrambled four times for 16 yards.

Omar Jacobs, who is battling Boyd for the No. 3 QB position, is still struggling getting in and out of the huddle. I thought Bill Cowher’s head was going to explode when Jacobs failed to get a play off before the two-minute warning at the end of the second half. But the kid has a heck of a lot more upside than Boyd.

Boyd wasn't any better in his clock management at the end of the first half. He threw an interception that was negated by an illegal hands to the face penalty.

It's only one game, but I'd keep Jacobs over Boyd.

If the Steelers cut Jacobs, he'd likely be picked up by another team. If they cut Boyd, nobody is likely to do so.

• Richard Siegler will soon move ahead of Rian Wallace on the team's depth chart at inside linebacker. Sigler, a 49ers' castoff, is outstanding in coverage and just looks more explosive than Wallace, a fifth-round draft pick last year.

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