Sabtu, 13 Agustus 2011

A count your blessings start

Saturday, August 13, 2011

LANDOVER, Md. -- For those of you who walked away from February's Super Bowl muttering something about how if you never saw Keyaron Fox (pictured above) again it would be too soon, well, too soon arrived on the first bus.

Disguised as a Washington Redskin in a maroon shirt with a 51 on it, Fox can't hide anywhere in the wounded memory of a special teams faux pas that might have sent the Steelers tumbling backward down the Stairway to 7, depending on how far you want to stretch credulity.

Fox's totally unnecessary unnecessary roughness penalty (maybe that's why they call it that) on a kickoff return sentenced Ben Roethlisberger's offense to start at its 13 rather than the 28 with 2:02 left on the Super Bowl XLV clock in Dallas. Five plays later, the Packers celebrated a six-point victory.

How all that escaped mention in the August issue of Men's Journal is known only to James Harrison, his rant coordinator, and the editors. Roethlisberger got ripped; Rashard Mendenhall, too, but Fox somehow escaped scrutiny for that dark night.

Apparently, the Super Bowl audience included several members of the Redskins coaching staff, which, after signing him as a free agent, shrewdly kept Fox off special teams for the inaugural exhibition game. So the first time you actually saw Keyaron since Feb. 6 was at 8:32 p.m. Friday, when the Redskins sent him in as a stuntman for veteran linebacker London Fletcher.

At Fox's first appearance of 2011 and. unlike after his last appearance in a Steelers uniform, Pittsburgh scored. Isaac Redman danced 22 yards through the gizzards of the Washington defense to tie the score, 7-7, long after just about every Steelers starter had departed, most of them unscathed.

Lest you have forgotten, here is a little football refresher: The object of these exhibitions is almost purely to be the team that escapes with most of your crucial components unscathed.

The high risk, little if any reward nature of August football was illustrated early in the second quarter when linebacker Lawrence Timmons and safety Ryan Mundy arrived simultaneously between the 8 and the 3 on the shirt of Redskins tight end Fred Davis.

They broke up Rex Grossman's pass most assuredly, but Mundy crumpled to the grass and Timmons rolled over and over like a bear shot with a tranquilizer gun. Both left under their own power, but some damage had already had been done.

Cornerback Ike Taylor apparently broke his thumb, and it wasn't clear at deadline whether that would keep him off the field for long, or at all, for that matter, and it won't impact his ability to catch the ball very much, as catching the ball never was among his abilities.

Backup quarterback Byron Leftwich repeatedly escaped injury, most notably when 306-pound defensive tackle Stephen Bowen flattened him 10 yards deep in the Steelers backfield, having slipped through the responsibility area of second-year offensive lineman Chris Scott.

Leftwich hung around long enough to complete six of 10 passes, including a 29-yarder to Antonio Brown and appeared to enjoy cavorting on a D.C. area lawn much as he did as a high school quarterback at Washington's H.D. Woodson High School during the Clinton administration.

Scott was playing right guard in that particular second-quarter configuration of the offensive line, and there were three sets of interchangeable blockers in the first half alone. For a team that used five different offensive-line combinations on the way to Super Bowl and then released both starting tackles (Max Starks and Flozell Adams), that helped to show how unsettled the front wall will remain at least until starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu's knee settles into something the resembles health.

By the time the third quarter started to leak away, a fourth combination consisted of rarely used Tony Hills at left tackle, rookie Keith Williams at left guard, former Pitt grinder John Malecki at center, the inexperienced Scott at right guard, and the never used Kyle Jolly at right tackle. In a fifth version, second-round draft pick Marcus Gilbert came in at left tackle, bumping Hills all the way to right guard.

Of course, it's not as bleak as all that. Pro Bowl but not Super Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey started, Super Bowl center Doug Legursky started at left guard, and veterans Jonathan Scott and Willie Colon opened at tackle.

"It feels good after resting," Pouncey said about getting back on stage. "But I've got to get in the groove of playing against other guys. We'll get ready for it. I'm a little rusty, but we'll pick it up next week."

Coach Mike Tomlin did well to get them to the sideline almost as fast as Roethlisberger, who stopped by the huddle for a cup of coffee, but didn't take more than a slurp before bumping his hand and thumping his hip. Neither was considered serious. So, after their first halfway serious appearance since the Super Bowl, the Steelers will return to Latrobe counting their blessings:

No one left on a cart.

And it was good to see Keyaron Fox again, especially in another uniform.

Gene Collier: More articles by this author

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