Dropping The Ball

By Chris Gates

Surprisingly enough, fumbles weren’t directly responsible for any of the seven losses the Steelers suffered in 2009.

Not one loss was the result of a fumble going the other way for points to win the game.

Nevertheless, fumbles happened frequently and the 2010 preseason has been no different. Running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore — both expected to carry much of the load in the Steelers ground attack — fumbled balls away in the first half against Detroit Saturday.

Isaac Redman also appeared to fumble, but video review determined he was down before the ball came out.

After 2009 — season plagued by mistakes — Saturday was really disappointing to watch. Especially when you consider Mendenhall, who knows the one major knock on him is how frequently he puts the ball on the ground.

Wasn’t he constantly carrying a ball around to correct this problem? That sure worked.

The running game has to be the Steelers strength. It has to be the one thing this team can rely on.

The Steelers will play at least four games without Ben Roethlisberger — maybe six — and, by the looks of it, his fill-in will be shaky.

Byron Leftwich was anything but impressive in his start, completing 6 of 10 passes for just 43 yards. Dennis Dixon came in and was exciting to watch but fled the pocket too early at times because of nerves and inexperience. And keep in mind: he did his damage against Detroit’s reserves.

Neither quarterback will light defenses up throwing the ball. So clearly the running backs need to step up.

Situations such as Mendenhall fumbling inside the Minnesota 10-yard line in Week 7 only to see Brett Favre march 18 plays down to the opposite end of the field can’t happen. Lucky for Mendenhall, Brett Keisel sacked Favre and forced a fumble that Lamarr Woodley picked up and ran 77 yards for a touchdown.

Neither can a situation like Stefan Logan’s in Week 4 when he fumbled a punt that was returned for a touchdown by San Diego to cut the Steelers’ lead to 28-14. Lucky for him the Chargers couldn’t pull off an unthinkable comeback in that second half, falling one touchdown short, 35-28.

And it’s lucky for Mendenhall, Moore and Redman that it’s just preseason game No. 1. They have a lot of growing up to do in a short period of time.

The real Week 1 isn’t far away.

And when it gets here, those fumbles could be more damaging than they were in 2009.

Read more from Chris Gates at his Area 4-1-ZOO Pitt Panther Blog and follow him on Twitter at @Chris_Gates.

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