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Friday, August 25, 2006

Streets of Philadelphia

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor wants to stay in Pittsburgh, but he wants an eight-digit signing bonus to do so.

But if Taylor, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season, wants to be paid like one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, he’d better start playing like one.

Not that Taylor isn’t solid in coverage, coming up to support the run and all of the other things the Steelers ask of their cornerbacks. In those areas, Taylor isn’t lacking.

But there’s a reason why an aging cornerback like Ty Law can hang around the NFL so long and still command big salaries and why, at this point, Taylor cannot. Law had 10 interceptions last season. Taylor had one.

Case and point why the Steelers are not going to give Taylor the kind of signing bonus he desires – even if somebody else may – came during the opening drive by the Eagles in their 16-7 preseason win over the Steelers.

Taylor got his hands on two Donovan McNabb passes in the first quarter, both of which came in Pittsburgh territory. He dropped both and insted of coming away with nothing, the Eagles went on to kick a field goal.

Taylor had excellent coverage on both plays. But if he truly wants to reach that next level as a corner, he’s got to catch those balls.

Here are some other thoughts from Friday’s preseason game:

© Taylor wasn’t the only player on the Steelers’ first-team defense who wasn’t exactly in midseason form.

Pittsburgh’s vaunted run defense wasn’t exactly up to snuff. Correll Buckhalter had 28 yards on six carries working against the first-team defense on Philadelphia’s first two possessions, breaking some tackles along the way.

The defense also missed several tackles in the secondary after catches.

Despite what many think, head coach Bill Cowher doesn’t exactly run a tough training camp and there’s not a lot of hitting.

It showed Friday night.

© When the Steelers selected Anthony Smith with the first of their two third-round draft picks – and second-overall selection – many wondered about the pick. That was especially true considering there were several big-name safeties still on the draft board at that point.

Three games into this preseason, nobody is questioning the Steelers’ selection of Smith any longer. Now, they are wondering exactly when Cowher is going to stop messing around with Ryan Clark and Tyrone Carter at free safety and insert Smith into the starting lineup.

That may indeed happen at some point this season. But in the meantime, Smith is going to continue making plays as he did Friday night on punt coverage, timing his hit up perfectly to level Philadelphia return man J.R. Reed. That one will go down as one of the hits of the year even though it happened in the preseason.

© Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hooking up with running back Willie Parker quite a bit in the passing game this preseason. Playing just one series, Parker had three carries and three catches.

Part of the reason for that was to help slow Philadelphia’s pass rush, which the offensive line was having trouble with.

But Parker is going to be a huge part of the offense this season.

© Any thoughts the Steelers had about keeping a third quarterback were quickly erased when Cowher had to watch Omar Jacobs and Shane Boyd stumble around the field again against the Eagles.

At this point, there’s no guarantee either of those two will even make the practice squad. Drew Henson was released by Dallas earlier this week. He’s got to be better than Jacobs and Boyd.

© Chris Gardocki averaged 46.0 yards on his two punts, placing one inside the 20. Mike Barr saw his only kick sail 53 yards.

Barr was the holder on Jeff Reed’s first field goal attempt, a 50-yard attempt on which Barr appeared to have trouble getting the ball down clean.

Gardocki held on Reed’s successful PAT in the first half and for his 47-yard field goal attempt in the second half. Reed missed that one, but it did not appear to be because of a poor hold.

It appears that Barr may be a little bit better punter than Gardocki, but Gardocki is a better holder. Advantage Gardocki.

© The Steelers finally got a chance to run Duce Staley in a short-yardage situation, but the second-team offensive line and fullback John Kuhn forgot to block anybody on the play.

That’s not to say Staley would have succeeded in the fourth-and-one situation, but he really didn’t have a chance on that one.

© Staley finished with 21 yards on 11 carries. Verron Haynes had 15 yards on five attempts.

The Steelers should be scouring the waiver wire once the cuts start happening to look for a possible third quarterback and another running back.

© Ricardo Colclough, meet Greg Lewis. Greg Lewis, meet Ricardo Colclough and welcome to the end zone.

Bryant McFadden had to be looking at Colclough chasing Lewis to the end zone and wondering exactly what he has to do to beat that guy out.

© For some reason, the Steelers feel that Jonathan Dekker is their third-best tight end.

After watching him bat down a Charlie Batch pass in the first half like it was on fire, fail to block anybody on Staley’s fourth-down attempt and then get lit up in the fourth quarter on another catch attempt, I, for the life of me, can’t figure out why.

Cripes, what’s Matt Cushing doing these days?


Captain Cocktail said...

We been discussing Dekker Steeler forums I'm in and we came to the conclusion that the only reason Cowher is keeping Dekker, being from Princeton, around is he needs someone to do his accounting.

Did I mention I like Smith ALOT!

Dale Lolley said...

I think he's dating Meghan Cowher.