F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column
Play of Troy, Ben good sign for Steelers
PITTSBURGH – We got a good look at what these Steelers hope to be in their third preseason game Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. And it looked a lot like what the Steelers have been for the past decade.
On offense, we saw Ben Roethlisberger standing in the pocket, avoiding potential sacks and delivering passes that only he seemingly can make.
On defense, we saw Troy Polamalu running around, masking his intentions and blowing up plays.
It’s been a winning formula for the Steelers since 2004, one that has led to three Super Bowls and a pair of championships.
The question is whether it can happen again in 2013?
It’s a lot to ask of players who are now in their 30s to perform as they did in their 20s. Then again, Roethlisberger and Polamalu aren’t typical players.
They’re probably future Hall of Fame players. Not having both in the lineup at times last season was a big reason why the Steelers finished the season at 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
If Saturday night’s play showed anything, it’s that Roethlisberger and Polamalu have placed their injury issues of 2012 behind them.
Roethlisberger, playing extensively for the first time this preseason, looked as he did before suffering a shoulder injury last October against these same Chiefs.
He was accurate. He was mobile. He was fearless.
In other words, he was Ben Roethlisberger.
On his first pass attempt of the night, he hung in the pocket long enough to deliver a 49-yard strike to Antonio Brown, taking a big hit from Tamba Hali – part of the Kansas City duo who wrecked his 2012 season – a split second after he delivered the ball.
Later in the first quarter, Roethlisberger avoided the rush of Hali, stepped up in the pocket, and, somehow in all of the chaos around him, completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to running back Jonathan Dwyer, who had snuck out into the flat.
Polamalu, meanwhile, ended the first two Kansas City possessions with his play.
On third-and-7 on Kansas City’s first possession, Polamalu started off deep and with 10 seconds remaining on the play clock, he ran up to the line of scrimmage, convincing Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith that he was blitzing.
At the snap, Polamalu quickly dropped off the line of scrimmage and picked up a crossing receiver, who was Smith’s first option. Smith was forced to hold the ball and defensive end Ziggy Hood pulled him down for a sack.
On Kansas City’s next possession, Polamalu read where the play was going on a fourth-and-inches attempt from the Kansas City 21, shooting through the line and forcing running back Jamaal Charles into the waiting arms of rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones and Hood.
Both plays showed Polamalu is displaying no ill effects of the calf injury that dogged him for the better part of the past two years.
There is certainly some questions as to whether Roethlisberger and Polamalu can be counted on to provide those type of plays over the course of a 16-game season. Their injury history and, more important, age would suggest otherwise.
But if those two can play the entire season at the level at which they displayed Saturday night, the Steelers have a chance to beat any team on any Sunday.
It’s a lot for the Steelers to be banking on. But there are worse things for teams to count on.
After all, if you can’t count players such as Roethlisberger and Polamalu, who can you count on?
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.