Steelers go conservative in preseason opener

The Sports Xchange
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Todd Haley's new Pittsburgh Steelers offense was unveiled for the first time in a game in Philadelphia Thursday (Aug. 9) and it went over like a lead football. There were no deep passes, and a lot of dinks and dunks and running plays.

However, that is just what Haley set out to do in the preseason opener. The Steelers have shown they can throw deep - at least they did so when Mike Wallace wasn't holding out. They've been working on ways to move the ball in shorter increments to keep drives going since Haley arrived as their coordinator to replace Bruce Arians and his bombs-away offense.

They were not particularly good running the ball nor scoring in the red zone under Arians, and Haley was charged with correcting that. He has not wiped the deep pass from his playbook and if/when Wallace returns, that part of the game should make things even better for the shorter passes.

Although Wallace still has not ended his holdout, a new weapon has emerged for the Steelers offense. Chris Rainey, their 5-8, 178-pound rookie from Florida, put into action to match all those words said and written about him since the spring. He is fast and he is capable of breaking things open with one play, which he did against the Eagles by taking a short pass behind the line of scrimmage and taking it 57 yards for a touchdown.

"He is explosive," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of the Steelers' fifth-round draft choice. "He brings a lot to the table and you never know what you are going to get. You just give him the ball and you sit there and watch because he is explosive and fun."

The Steelers did not run any no-huddle either, something they've worked on and something Haley said he'd like to have Roethlisberger use more often in 2012.

"We really didn't open up our playbook," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. "We just went with a small margin of our playbook. There's still a lot more to come, we didn't want to show too much. As the preseason games come along, we'll continue to expand."

Sanders showed what that new red-zone offense might do when he caught a 2-yard pass from Byron Leftwich for a touchdown. Later, however, the Steelers lost yardage on three plays starting at the Eagles 4-yard line.

Not only did they stick to vanilla stuff because it was the first preseason game, they also have a return engagement with the Eagles at Heinz Field in October, so they did not want to try to exploit matchups, etc. in a preseason game with them. Tight end Heath Miller, for example, wasn't even targeted with a pass and they expect him to be a big part of the new offense on the receiving end. The plays they worked on Thursday might not even appear often during the season.

"I think a little bit just basic stuff we want to be good at, so I don't know how much of that we'll use in the regular season," Miller said. "But it will certainly be part of our plan. If we can be good at it, we have the type of receivers who are quick and shifty, and if you get the ball in their hands they can make plays after the catch."

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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