Thursday, August 18, 2011

Steelers-Eagles "Exhibition" Game Tonight

First off, Happy Birthday to the late, great Roberto Clemente. The Great One would have been a youthful, robust and passionate 77 today. Arriba, Roberto!

Now, on to lesser matters. The Steelers host the Philadelphia Eagles tonight for a pre-season exhibition game glorified inter-squad scrimmage.
Hopefully, it will be more entertaining than the doleful yawnfest in Washington last Friday.

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls used to enjoy pre-season games much more than we do now. Nevertheless, it can be fun to watch young players -- particularly undrafted free agents -- who show a flash of promise. Fast Willie Parker was one of those guys. And we distinctly remember watching James Harrison chase down a running back for a loss on an outside pitch, blow up another play up the middle aaand … promptly get cut by Bill Cowher, in all his talent-evaluation genius.

Luckily for the Steelers and us fans, another “genius,” the Ravens’ Brian Billick, also cut Harrison -- can you imagine James Harrison and Ray Lewis in the same linebacking corps? -- so Harrison eventually worked his way back onto the Steelers roster.

Tonight, we’ll be watching the secondary with interest, and also the offensive line. Four cornerbacks -- veteran starters Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden, second-year backup Crezdon Butler and rookie Cortez Allen -- will miss tonight’s game with injuries.

As a result, we’ll see guys like Keenan Lewis, rookie third-rounder Curtis Brown, undrafted rookie Donovan Warren and maybe even newly acquired corners Kevin Dockery and Macho Harris (ya gotta get a kick outta that name), who arrived only yesterday following the unlamented release of disappointing wide receiver Limas Sweed.

Too bad Sweed couldn’t put it together. The opportunity was there for him. He just dropped the ball, literally, too many times. On the offensive line, Tony Hills, of all people, will get playing time at guard, of all places. This may be the last chance for Hills to showcase what he can do.

That was a desultory affair at PNC Park last night, with the Pirates losing to the Cardinals, 7-2. Bleah. Too bad. After winning the first two games of the series in exciting fashion -- and probably burying the Cardinals’ flickering playoff hopes in the process, the Pirates reverted to their late-July form and thudded back to earth.

Enjoy the game tonight. With any luck, while he's in Pittsburgh, Michael Vick will get bit by a pit bull.

Photo courtesy of Clemente Museum, Pittsburgh, Pa.