By BOB LABRIOLA
As far as the Steelers' 17-0 win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night at Heinz Field, Coach Mike Tomlin said, "It's great when you can pitch a shutout, even in August. There were some really good things; there were also some things where we fell short. We're not going to over-analyze it."
With all due respect to Tomlin, here are some of the good things and the bad things to come from the game that gave the Steelers a 2-1 record so far this preseason:
*WHAT WENT RIGHT *
* While not as dynamic as he was against the Redskins, Stefan Logan again had a nice game as a return man. Mike Wallace got the only kickoff return and brought it back 24 yards, and Mewelde Moore got the first punt return and brought it back 6 yards. After that, it was all Logan. He returned punts for 17 and 13 yards in the first half, and he also made a couple of nice decisions on fair catches at the 13 and 11 yard lines. In the second half, he added a 27-yard punt return.
"I think he averaged 14 or 15 yards on punt returns," said Tomlin about Logan, who actually averaged 15.8. "I would have liked to have gotten him a kickoff return, but I'm not going to complain about a lack of opportunities in that area. That means you're playing good defense. He has earned the right to continue to be watched. I think he has our attention. We will take him down to Charlotte and see what he has down there."
* The Bills were seen as a team to provide a nice test for the Steelers defense, primarily because of their use of the hurry-up offense. But when a defense doesn't allow third-down conversions, all the hurry-up offense does is hurry up and give the ball back to the other team. In the first half, the Bills finished with only three first downs and were 0-for-4 on third downs. Their time of possession in the first half was only 8:14.
* In case anyone was wondering whether James Farrior had lost anything as he heads into his 13th NFL season at the age of 34, rest easy. In the first half, Farrior had an interception and a 22-yard return for the Steelers' first touchdown, and he also sacked Trent Edwards. Farrior finished the evening with four tackles, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble.
* Another Steelers inside linebacker who distinguished himself against the Bills was Keyaron Fox, and he did it on defense as well as special teams. Fox made the tackle on the Bills' first two kick returns – one punt and one kickoff – and he finished with three special teams tackles. He also had one tackle on defense, and his pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick led to an incomplete pass.
"This guy knows how to play the game," said Tomlin about Fox. "He probably has a better comfort with this being his second year in the system in terms of what is being asked and what is going on around him. This guy is a good football player. That's why we were interested in re-signing him. We're glad we have him. We have a great deal of confidence in him. He has earned that."
* In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Bills were threatening to ruin the Steelers' shutout, but after Buffalo drove to a first-and-10 at the Steelers 19-yard line, their pair of rookie cornerbacks made some plays to preserve the goose egg. On first down, Joe Burnett broke up a pass for Justin Jenkins. On third-and-5 from the 14-yard line, Keenan Lewis came up after a quick pass to Roscoe Parrish and dropped him for a 1-yard loss in the open field. And then on fourth down, with 10-year veteran Rian Lindell attempting a short field goal that would accomplish nothing except help Buffalo avert a shutout, Burnett came flying off the right side to block the 33-yard attempt.
*WHAT WENT WRONG *
* Maybe there weren't as many penalties for the Steelers this time – 6 for 40 yards – but Coach Mike Tomlin's goal to eliminate all of the pre-snap infractions was not met. Of the six penalties, there was one delay of game with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback; Trai Essex and Jason Capizzi each were flagged for false starts; and Casey Hampton was penalized for defensive offsides. "We had some pre-snap penalties, delays of game, false starts and offsides on defense," said Tomlin, "things that are going to beat us."
* At the time, it looked like it was going to be a very slick move by Roethlisberger. After a 6-yard pass to Limas Sweed set up a fourth-and-1 from the Buffalo 48-yard line, Tomlin sent out the punt team, but Roethlisberger waved them back to the sideline and quickly lined up the offense over the football. On two separate occasions, it appeared Roethlisberger's hard-count had defensive tackle Kyle Williams leaning offsides. But Justin Hartwig didn't snap the ball either time, and so no penalty was called. Roethlisberger then called a timeout, and Daniel Sepulveda came on to punt.
* Rashard Mendenhall carried 16 times for 48 yards, with a 4-yard touchdown run, and he also caught two passes for 16 more. But he also lost a fumble, and during his rookie preseason he also had some issues with fumbles. But after the game, Tomlin attributed the fumble to penetration over left guard Chris Kemoeatu.
"It looked like we got some penetration from (Kyle) Williams, who is a good football player," said Tomlin. "He got underneath Chris Kemoeatu and created some penetration there. It's just one of those things that happens. There's no question we have to do a better job of ball security. We will always be searching for the ceiling in regards to that. What we want is 100 percent ball security. When we get that kind of penetration, we're not surprised with the negative things that happen on plays like that where the guy is in the backfield."