Preseason is such a tease. It gets you all excited and pumped to see your favorite players back on your television screen, but it's never as good as the real thing. And you just pray really hard that no one gets seriously injured in a game that doesn't matter.
As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they won their second preseason game with a score of 24-17 against the New York Giants. And, well, we've got seven AFC Championship game wins, six Super Bowls rings, and four ... quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger made his much hyped-up return, with mixed results. His statistics were solid, going 6 for 8 for 76 yards, but had one pass intercepted, a poorly underthrown ball intended for receiver Mike Wallace. There were also no touchdowns while Ben was at the helm.
Byron Leftwich, who helped make a case to start during Roethlisberger's six- (most likely four-) game suspension, threw a 68-yard pass for a TD to Wallace, which made me completely forget about Santonio Holmes. Leftwich went 3 for 6 for 96 yards, while young Dennis Dixon completed 7 of 8 for 82 yards, and also ran for 27. While poor Charlie Batch was 0 for 0 for 0 yards.
There were some major holes in the offensive line, especially apparent during Antwaan Randle El's 13-yard loss on a reverse. Probably the biggest offensive gaffe minus Roethlisberger's interception was the way the Steelers handled the clock at the very end of the first half. When the Steelers were at the 1-yard line, driving to score, Leftwich tried a QB sneak instead of a spike. Of course it didn't work, as "sneak" and "Leftwich" simply don't go together, and the Steelers were forced to use another time-out. The end of the half ended with Mewelde Moore lying pathetically on the field short of the goal line as the clock ran down to nothing, with no time left for a field goal. Oh well. That's what preseason is for, right? Right?
Kind of hard to judge the defense as the Giants were forced to go with Rhett Bomar, who played the entire game and is the third-string QB. Eli Manning (head) and Jim Sorgi (shoulder) were out, obviously. Though, as I felt last week, it was amazing to see Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith back on the field. Missing them last season is a major understatement. And James Farrior may be "old," but he's still got it. As the Giants were playing Bomar and it is preseason, the defense lacked intensity -- they're hopefully waiting to unleash it during the regular season, when it counts. But if they continue with the fourth-quarter meltdowns from last season, even though Polamalu and Smith are back, I fear for my liver.
Intensity (and stupidity) wasn't lacking at the very beginning of the game, however, when cornerback Ike Taylor and Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks started punching each other for absolutely no reason. They were both ejected from the game, and coach Mike Tomlin summed up how most fans felt about it succinctly: "Dumb."
And Steelers special teams seem to still be a cause for worry. Never a good sign when you have to re-kick the ball due to a penalty after the opening kick-off. And it was pretty weird to see Daniel Sepulveda doing the kicking off instead of Jeff Reed, old Mr. Reliable/Enemy to Paper Towel Dispensers Everywhere. Also never good when your punter has to tackle a returner. Luckily Sepulveda is a beast, and his guns impress me.
So overall, some good things and some bad things from the Steelers on Saturday night. Even though Roethlisberger returning was the story of the
century game, I'm warming up more and more to Dennis Dixon. I loved how he played against the Ravens last season (minus the interception, but come on, give him a break), and he looks poised and confident and willing to do whatever it takes to give Leftwich a run for his money. Will he be able to take that spot away from Leftwich? If he succeeds, will he be able to keep it in his pants? Only time will tell, Steelers fans. Hold on to your towels.