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Steelers, Ravens preseason observations

8/30/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

In addition to the Cleveland Browns, a pair of AFC North powerhouses also saw action Saturday night in the preseason.

Here are some observations on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens:

  • Saturday was a great night for AFC North quarterbacks because Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Baltimore's Joe Flacco both brought their "A" game. Flacco had a near-perfect night, completing 23 of 28 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown in a 17-13 win over the Carolina Panthers. Roethlisberger was 15-of-19 for 168 yards in a 17-0 shutout win over the Buffalo Bills. Since both performed very well in the third and most important preseason game, it's safe to say the two quarterbacks are ready to start the regular season.

  • Baltimore's starting defense cleaned up its leaks in the run defense from the previous week. The Ravens' first team only allowed three points in the first half, and as a team allowed just 78 yards on 20 carries (3.9 yard average).

  • Pittsburgh's defense also was its dominant self against the Bills. Not only did the starters dominate the first half, but middle linebacker and team captain James Farrior put points on the board with a 22-yard interception return. The longest play the Steelers gave up to Buffalo Saturday was a 17-yard passing play.

  • Ravens veteran receiver Derrick Mason looks all the way back following shoulder surgery and a brief retirement. Mason and Flacco quickly developed chemistry during Flacco's rookie year in a 2008, and after Mason missed the start of training camp, it appears the two have it going again. Mason caught six passes for 71 yards, which is a lot for a preseason game. In the past two games, Mason has nine receptions for 139 yards.

  • I'm convinced that Pittsburgh's Stefan Logan is a natural kick returner. He fielded four punts against Buffalo and averaged 15.8 yards per return, which has been consistent with the rest of his preseason. Most NFL special teams coaches believe if a punt returner can get a first down (10 yards or more), then that player did his job. But Logan is exceeding that on most attempts.

  • Both teams have a short week upcoming. The Ravens travel to play the Atlanta Falcons Thursday. The Steelers play at Carolina on the same day. Don't expect the starters to play much as both teams proved this weekend they are ready for the regular season.