The state of Pennsylvania have two solid quarterbacks that have big questions entering 2007 on display Sunday night at Hienz Field, as the Steelers took on the cross-town rival Eagles. The QB’s in question were the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger, trying to overcome a frustrating and disappointing 2006, and Donovan McNabb, who for the Eagles is trying to make it back off yet another injury and show the team that drafting QB Kevin Kolb was a waste of time. While both QB’s had their moments of troubles, for the most part both played well as the Steelers topped Philly 27-13.
Roethlisberger put up the more gaudy numbers, going 13-for-25 with 247 yards and an interception. The Steelers all offseason with new coach Mike Tomlin and new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians have promised a more wide open approach to the offense, and this game was about the closest the Steelers have come to showing anything like that in the preseason. Big Ben looked more like Peyton Manning or Marc Bulger with as many times he put the ball in the air, and for once the teams O-line did a good job in not letting Ben take hits or even get sacked.
The weapons for Roethlisberger on offense appear to be there, as he spread the ball to numerous receivers, backs and tight ends on Sunday night. From the ever reliable Hines Ward to tight end Heath Miller bowling over guys in the secondary, to back Willie Parker out of the backfield, if given the time, Ben looks as if he will be able to find these guys. Of course the same thing that plagued Roethlisberger last season reared its ugly head again on Sunday night – the interception bug. That took place on the opening drive on a play where he simply should have went down but instead tried to force something. Another learning process for the now 4th year quarterback who overall was not all that pleased with the way he played. “No, I’m not real happy,” he said. “We missed a couple of things, some things could have been better, but I told some of those guys I’ll get better and I’ll be sure to hit them.”
As for the veteran McNabb, he was under pressure by Steelers D-coordinator Dick LeBeau quite a bit, and had to hurry some throws and made some decisions I am sure he wanted to take back. He was sacked twice, and overall on the night went 5-for-11 for 60 yards. He made some sharp throws and once again did not show any ill effects of the knee injury that stopped his season in November last season. He knows that trying to get back to form with his wideouts is going to be all about timing. “These two games were critical for us, we wanted to get that timing down,” McNabb said. “There were some good things we did but there’s work that needs to be done.”
The Eagles look back to form for the most part on offense, with Brian Westbrook leading the way carrying the football, and McNabb finding him as well as wide outs Reggie Brown, Kevin Curtis, Greg Lewis and others down the field. As long as McNabb can say upright this season, it looks as if the Eagles can find themselves right back in the race in the competitive NFC East. “If you let him sit back there, he’ll pick you apart. The whole thing is to get him antsy and try to bring as much pressure as possible,” Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said of McNabb.
So for both Roethlisberger and McNabb, it’s all about making amends for letdowns last season. Ben wants to show that what happened two seasons ago when the Steelers won the Super Bowl was no fluke, and McNabb wants to prove to the higher ups in the Eagles organization that he has a lot of gas left in the tank. So far so good for both, and with the way both teams are constructed, I would bet both signal callers are going to have big seasons in 2007.