Belfast American Football Writing

I write a column on American Football for a local paper - here you can read the reports a couple of days before they go in print; and my confused waffles...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Steelers kick off season with win

SUPER Bowl champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers, kicked off the 2006 NFL season with a win over the Miami Dolphins – thanks to a late rally in the fourth quarter with TDs from both the offence and the defence.

The 28-17 victory heralds the start of the defence, and that was despite being with talismanic young quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who after recovering from a close season motorcycle accident had plans to return to the helm interrupted by needing to have his appendix removed last week.

In the end one the decisive plays of the game came when back-up QB Charlie Batch connected with tight end Heath Miller who chugged his way down the line for an 87-yard TD.

While Miller struggled to make that distance – “It seemed like it took forever to get there,” he later said – it was a play that shouldn’t have stood.

TV replays clearly showed his foot out of bounds between the one and two-yard lines, but Miami coach Nick Saban was too slow to challenge the decision and the score stood.

And as the rest of the league gears up for the return to Sunday night football, there are significant changes for some sides starting line-ups.

Although only about nine percent of the free agents available switched teams this year, it seemed that this offseason contained an unusual amount of big-name switches through free agency, trades and free-agent signings.

Quarterbacks with Pro Bowl experience like Drew Brees (New Orleans), Daunte Culpepper (Miami) and Steve McNair (Baltimore) will be under center for new teams in 2006.

A pair of running backs coming off 1,000-yard performances in Mike Anderson (Baltimore) and Edgerrin James (Arizona) will don new uniforms this season, as will fullback Tony Ricardson (Minnesota), a two-time All Star.

Even a few specialists – familiar names to all - like Mike Vanderjagt (Dallas) and Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis) will be kicking for new teams.

“Everything happens for a reason,” says Brees about signing with the Saints. “This is all going to be a huge positive for me in my life, my football career, for my family and everything.”


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