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Steelers vs. Eagles: Roethlisberger and Receivers Settling Into Haley's New Offense

Without wide reciever Mike Wallace, the Pittsburgh Steelers spent most of their opening drive of the NFL preseason in 22 personnel, with two receivers and two men in the backfield. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley had quarterback Ben Roethlisberger nickeling and diming his way through the Philadelphia Eagles defense, opting for lots of high-percentage looks and quick reads, particularly to targets emerging from the backfield.

Roethlisberger was excellent, connecting on all but one of his eight pass attempts on the evening. While we're used to seeing Roethlisberger shrug off would-be tacklers, run for his life to the flats, and chuck the ball 40 yards downfield to an open receiver—either that or, you know, get sacked—it might be prudent for him to evolve into a more cerebral, deliberate pocket passer. Roethlisberger is now in his 30s, so who knows—perhaps doing his best Kurt Warner impression and getting rid of the ball could extend his career by a couple years.

Haley's attack is also a good fit for wide receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Both guys shifty, immaculate route-runners with great hands, so Haley's West Coast scheme suits them perfectly. Brown is more of a known quantity, particularly after signing a new deal, but I'm weirdly more excited about what Sanders could do. His finest moment of the evening came when he smoked Philly cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on a double slant route for a red zone score. Sanders, a former third-round pick, has always had the talent, but lingering foot injuries have kept him on the sidelines. Hopefully this is the year he can stay healthy.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.