2007 Hall Of Fame Game Preview
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By David Harrison
Real football returns on Sunday night when the New Orleans Saints take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the annual Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
The Steelers entered the weekend as a 3-point favorite in the game, but that could quickly change if Willie Parker can’t go. Parker has been bothered by swelling in his left knee throughout training camp and is listed as doubtful for Sunday. Even though he likely would have been limited to only one or two quarters, losing Parker would be a big blow to the Steelers’ offense. When Pittsburgh faced New Orleans last year in the regular season (a game they won 38-31 as a 6.5-point favorite), Parker was their offensive catalyst, rushing for 213 yards and two touchdowns.
Without Parker the rushing duties will fall to backup Najeh Davenport, which basically means it will be up to QB Ben Roethlisberger to get the Steelers into the end zone. Roethlisberger had one of his better games of the season last year against New Orleans when he threw for 213 yards with two touchdowns and, more importantly, no interceptions. Even though this is an exhibition game it will hold at least some importance to Pittsburgh, as it will be the coaching debut for new head coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin has some big shoes to fill after taking over for long-time coach Bill Cowher and he’ll be expected to turn the Steelers around right away after Pittsburgh slid to a disappointing 8-8 record a year ago.
The Saints are still riding high after proving all the experts wrong and winning the NFC South last season. Don’t expect the high-scoring Saints from last season to show up on Sunday though. New Orleans’ big guns like Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, and Marques Colston will likely be limited to a quarter or two at the most, which would only give them a chance to score one or two touchdowns. When Brees went up against the Steelers last season he threw for a huge 398 yards, but he only found the end zone once. Deuce McAllister and Bush combined for 104 rushing yards in the win, with McAllister scoring two touchdowns and Bush breaking the plain once.
The players to watch on the Saints side of the ball throughout the preseason will be Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem. With Joe Horn now in Atlanta there is an open starting receiver spot in New Orleans. After performing well last season Henderson appears to have a better shot at filling the empty slot, but Meachem, the rookie, could end up playing spoiler if he can prove his worth during the preseason.
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