As any NFL fan registering a pulse knows, the four game preseason is going the way of the doe-doe. Debates on the merits and drawbacks of playing 18 regular season games will come later (perhaps here on Steel Curtain Rising). This is about something else.
Long-time readers know that I have lamented my inability to watch preseason football in the past (as you’d expect, they do not show Steelers preseason games in Buenos Aires). My reasons are simple.
- Preseason gives fans a real chance to evaluate talent for themselves
And while many moan about the starters getting pulled early, there is an upside:
- The guys playing after the starters depart are busting their assess ‘cause they want to make the team
Today, the Post-Gazette’s gave me another reason to miss preseason.
A Punishing… Punter?
Just a few days ago Steel Curtain Rising took exception with Mike Tomlin’s [apparent] decision to end punter Daniel Sepulveda’s foray into kicking off after only one game.
Ron Cook added fuel to the fire today.
When the Steelers shocked the world by drafting Sepulveda in the 4th round of the 2007 draft, they explained themselves by arguing that he wasn’t just a punter, he was a complete athlete.
Sepulveda started out as a linebacker at Baylor and never shed that mentality. Don’t believe me? Take a look:
Sepulveda did something similar last weekend against the Giants, as Cook explains:
….Sepulveda made one of the signature plays in their 24-17 exhibition win against the New York Giants Saturday night. All that stood between Giants punt returner Aaron Ross and the end zone was Sepulveda. Worse, Ross had a lead blocker — cornerback Courtney Brown — looking to hurt someone.
“I’m on the field thinking, ‘This really isn’t good,’ ” Sepulveda said.
But darned if Sepulveda didn’t fight off Brown to hurl Ross out of bounds. Forget for a moment that it came after a 45-yard return, which means the Steelers still haven’t solved all of their special teams issues from last season.
Cook reinforces the point made here in Steel Curtain Rising and in other places:
- Even if Sepulveda cannot kick the ball much deeper than Jeff Reed, he should be handling kickoff duties, because he can and will hit.
Dangers of Dependency
What, pray tell, does this have to do with the dearth of preseason football that members of Steelers Nation living outside the US suffer?
It is simple. I did not find out about the Giants almost punt return for a touchdown until reading Cook’s column, published five days after the game.
To be fair, I might have missed Ross’ 45 yard return in one of the post-game summaries I read, and I certainly did not pour over the box score too closely. No door prize for attention to detail for me, and no unleashing the Watch Tower on the press.
But the Steelers special teams were an appalling liability last year. If they can cover the opening kick off against Kansas City, Ryan Clark doesn’t need to worry about holding on to an interception, Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t get a concussion, and Charlie Batch doesn’t break his hand.
The “what if’s” only begin here.
The press didn’t make a big deal about Aaron Ross’ 45 yard return. They had other stories to cover.
But had I seen it you would have seen it discussed in Steel Curtain Rising and a lot sooner than 5 days after the game, because if the Steelers fail to right the ship on special teams, a lot else will go wrong in 2010.
Alas, those are the opportunities that those of us deprived of preseason football miss….