Friday, August 06, 2004

This is good news...or is it?

Just a quick thought from Steelers camp. Both the Post Gazette and the Tribune Review reported yesterday on what a good camp third-year free safety Chris Hope is having so far (of course they've only been in camp a few days, but that's beside the point). In fact, during the end-of-practice goal line drills, Hope stuffed Jerome Bettis on a 4th down play.

This is the first time in a long time that I've actually heard excitement in the voices of the fans and media concerning the defensive backfield as the Steelers head into another season. Usually (at least the past few seasons anyway) you'd hear something like this:

"Well it looks like the defensive line and linebackers are all going to have to have Pro-Bowl seasons in order to hide all the weaknesses in the secondary."

And every preseason I'd disregard the naysayers as just being contrarian as I let my loyalty to the team get squarely in between me and reality. The reality being of course, that the Steelers secondary couldn't cover Myron Cope on a fly pattern -- and it seemed like many of them graduated from high school with Cope too.

But now, there are three new faces (and one old face that has dispensed with the shenanigans in favor of preparation) swarming all over the field, using their youth and athleticism to make plays. I can't remember the last time I said to myself, "boy, I really do hope they (insert your favorite Steelers opponent here) have the cajones to throw the ball here." Usually, I'm lamenting the fact that the defensive has given up yet another third down and twenty-something late in the game.

But I digress. The reason I titled this post "This is good news...or is it?" is because one consequence of having a defensive backfield revitalized on the four-down goal line stand, is that the offensive backfield struggled. And I know on this particular occasion Cowher insisted that the offense run the ball on four consecutive plays (to get back to the old "three yards and a cloud of dust" football), but in my mind it still conjures memories of the nightmarish rushing ineptitude of a year ago.

But hey, like I said, it's early and there's still a very long way to go. Not only that, but Kendall Simmons has his diabetes under control and Alan Faneca says that the best offensive linemen in the first four days is...Todd Fordham (this is not a misprint). So maybe things are looking up (and if they're not, I'll do like I always do and just pretend they are).

But pretending or not, I do know that I'm definitely looking forward to watching a young and athletic secondary hit some people in the mouth.