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Offense finally passes a test

| Monday, Aug. 27, 2007

Thanks, the Steelers offense really needed that.

Needed it more than Ben Roethlisberger needs stout pass protection.

More than Willie Reid needed a hole to climb into following his fumble and subsequent replacement by Cedrick Wilson as the No. 1 punt returner.

More than the Steelers needed to stop being so reliant on their defense Sunday night in an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field.

The Steelers' clear-cut, hands-down, best drive of the preseason netted 80 yards in nine plays and produced Willie Parker's twisting, 18-yard touchdown run behind an oft-criticized offensive line that shoved the Philadelphia Eagles defensive front into the Allegheny River.

It was a creative, momentum-changing march designed by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians featuring a pair of clutch third-down conversion passes courtesy of Roethlisberger, including a 22-yard bullet to Santonio Holmes into the teeth of the Philadelphia secondary.

(Side note: Holmes continues to make big plays down the field. He knows how to get open deep against all types of coverages, and Roethlisberger left no doubt with his toss that Holmes was where he wanted to go on third down.)

It was a drive that consumed 5:09 off the clock, began with Parker being tossed for a 5-yard loss, and ended with him high-stepping into the end zone as the Steelers took a 7-3 lead they never relinquished.

It was also a drive that featured Roethlisberger completing 3 of 4 passes for 56 yards.

Enough about the drive. How about Roethlisberger, who atoned for a careless interception on the opening series (take the sack, No. 7) and completed passes to seven different receivers for 247 yards in the first half?

And how about the way Roethlisberger utilized his running backs in the passing game?

Don't look now, but the screen pass is fast becoming an important part of the Steelers' passing attack.

Najeh Davenport caught two of Roethlisberger's screens for 58 yards in the first half. Parker caught three Roethlisberger screen passes for 40 yards in the first half, including a 20-yarder on the second-quarter touchdown drive. Even fullback Dan Kreider got busy in the passing game, catching another Roethlisberger screen for 22 yards.

Nearly half of Roethlisberger's passing yards were on screen passes to running backs.

Roethlisberger's longest completion of the game was a 38-yarder to tight end Heath Miller in the first quarter.

Roethlisberger had completions of 38, 33, 22, 22, 20 and 18 yards. Talk about your big-play potential.

Finally, the Steelers offense showed what it can do for more than a play or two at a time.

Enough so that coach Mike Tomlin can finally rest easier until the season opener at Cleveland.

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