Overall, I was pleased with what little we saw from our offensive starters. Really didn't see much from the D secondary, though...
New faces start strong for Steelers
PITTSBURGH - As preseason games go, the Steelers had to look at Friday night's16-10 win against the Philadelphia Eagles as a rousing success.
There aren't a lot of new faces on this veteran team, at least those who will be playing come September.
But the new faces the Steelers will be counting on - mainly linebacker LaMarr Woodley, guard Chris Kemoeatu and running back Rashard Mendenhall - showed up in a big way.
And that has to be something of a relief for the Steelers, who were projecting how those three would play more than anything when these two in-state rivals took Heinz Field. The three have combined for two NFL starts, both by Kemoeatu two seasons ago.
Woodley, a second-year player, is being counted on to replace Clark Haggans at left outside linebacker and is likely to be the only new starter on defense.
Woodley, a 6-2, 265-pound mountain of muscle, played sparingly as a rookie in 2007, logging 80 defensive snaps.
He has looked very good at training camp, but practice is, after all, just practice.
Woodley's final stats Friday night - one solo tackle and two assists in three defensive series - aren't all that impressive. But they also don't tell the true story of his effectiveness.
Lining up opposite Philadelphia right tackle John Runyan, Woodley not only held his own against the respected 13-year veteran, he dominated him in the short time they went against each other.
Woodley brought so much heat on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Runyan was forced to resort to some illegal tactics to keep the young linebacker at bay.
After allowing Woodley to pressure McNabb a couple of times, Runyan was beaten by Woodley and knocked to the ground as McNabb tried to escape to his right. Runyan then tripped Woodley, a penalty that was offset by an illegal hands to the face infraction by Steelers safety Ryan Clark.
Two plays later, McNabb changed his protection to give Runyan some help with Woodley and fullback Jason Davis was penalized for a chop block on Woodley - blocking him in his knees while Woodley was engaged with another player.
Kemoeatu, who just began practicing earlier this week after sitting out the first week of training camp with a triceps injury, is being counted on to replace All-Pro Alan Faneca at left guard.
While it's difficult to judge the play of offensive linemen, Kemoeatu looked to be more than holding his own against Philadelphia defensive tackle Mike Patterson, a former No. 1 draft pick.
Mendenhall, the Steelers' top pick in this year's draft, made his professional debut and looked like a future star.
On his first carry, Mendenhall sliced through the Eagles' line, picking up seven yards before getting hammered by safety Quintell Mikell. It looked like a hit players like to call a kill shot - one a player doesn't get up from. In this case, it was, though it was Mikell who had to be helped from the field.
By the time Mendenhall's evening was finished, he had carried the ball seven times for 34 yards, a healthy 4.9 yards per carry average.
Unlike Woodley and Kemoeatu, Mendenhall won't be counted on to start, but he'll see plenty of action as a backup to Willie Parker and possible short-yardage back.
He showed in this game, as did Woodley and Kemoeatu, that the team's faith in him was not unfounded.
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at [email="email@example.com"]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email]