Sunday, August 23, 2009
Steelers and Browns preseason observations
By James Walker
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Half of the AFC North division saw action Saturday night in the preseason.
Here are several observations on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns:
- The Steelers were wise to take precaution in sitting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (Achilles) in a 17-13 exhibition loss to the Washington Redskins. In fact, I said on ESPN radio Saturday night that I wouldn't be surprised if Pittsburgh sits "Big Ben" the following week as well. In my time with the Steelers this summer, I came away feeling one of their biggest priorities was making it through training camp and the preseason with as few injuries as possible. So the Roethlisberger injury Thursday had to give the team a scare. The Steelers already have well-defined roles, and besides a few backup jobs and bringing along rookies, Pittsburgh doesn't have as much use for the preseason as most teams.
- The first-team offense minus Roethlisberger did not look sharp in the first quarter. Starting left tackle Max Starks was called for holding on the first offensive play, fullback Carey Davis had a false start and quarterback Charlie Batch also contributed an intentional grounding penalty all within the first two drives. The unit still produced a touchdown with Willie Parker's 3-yard run, but there are some minor procedural things offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will want to clean up after he watches the tape.
- This week was Stefan Logan's turn to return kicks and he looked impressive. He had the longest kickoff return in the game (60 yards), in addition to averaging a solid 12 yards per punt return. The Steelers are looking to boost their special teams and have turned over every rock this offseason to do so. The team signed Logan from the CFL, and his best chance to make the roster is to become the best returner.
- Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson responded in what was a make-or-break game for him in Saturday's 27-10 win over the Detroit Lions. Anderson completed 8 of 13 passes for 130 yards and a interception as he moved the offense well. The performance likely evened the competition with Brady Quinn, who outperformed Anderson in the first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Expect this competition to go down to the wire.
- Josh Cribbs is doing all he can to prove that the new regime in Cleveland should give him a new contract. The special-team's ace returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown and had another return to start the game called back. Cribbs, who is also competing for the No. 2 receiver job, has been impressive in both preseason games. But Cribbs says he is undecided if he will play in the regular season without a new deal.
- Rookie tailback James Davis provided the big play Cleveland is looking for from its backfield this season. Davis, a sixth-round pick who has been a pleasant surprise, broke through for an 81-yard touchdown run against the Lions. The Browns are looking for a change-of-pace tailback to pair with Jamal Lewis, and big plays like that will earn the trust of Browns coach Eric Mangini.