I had watched the Sunday night game, in which the Chicago Bears lost to the Houston Texans on a nasty night in the Windy City, from the comfort of my couch at home. I had hoped that weather would take a little more time to get to Pittsburgh. But as I took my place on the sidelines just before kickoff, as our precious war veterans were being honored on the field in celebration of Veteran's Day, it was obvious there would be no ducking the wind and rain. Yet, there were these brave Americans, real American heroes, standing with their heads bared in the face of the steady rain and wind assaulting them during the National Anthem, and I must admit I was glad the rain on my face provided cover for the tears in my eyes. May God forever bless our Armed Forces.
* With the stakes as high as they were at kickoff, and the charged up atmosphere of Monday Night Football, along with the electricity from the very moving pre-game ceremony, I would've thought the Steelers would take the field in high energy. Instead it looked like the Kansas City Chiefs were the team with so much to play for. The Chiefs came to play at the appointed 8:40 kickoff time. The Steelers checked in somewhere after 9:00.
* Tunch Ilkin had been bending my ear all week long about Kansas City's linebacking corps. In particular he raved about Derrick Johnson, who, in my mind was good but not as great as Tunch made him out to be. I couldn't have been more wrong, and Tunch more right. Three plays into the Steelers' first series Johnson took down Isaac Redman like Batman swooping in on The Joker. There were a lot more Derrick Johnson sightings to come.
* Third-and-three for the Steelers from their own 20-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger drops back and pump-fakes downfield. The pass rush starts to collapse the pocket from his front side. Ben starts to drift to his left. Redman is off Ben's shoulder, just 8-10 yards away from Ben and easing out into the flats away from him. I loved this improvisational moment. As Ben moved toward Ike, Ike kept the same distance and then started to curve up like a wheel route was called in the huddle. It wasn't. Ike was merely a checkdown. When Ben threw it to Ike, Redman had a nice head of steam rolling and he caught the ball at about 70%, smoothly accelerating to 100% for an 8-yard gain. From groundhog level, and the angle from behind the line of scrimmage, it was Ike moving in perfect synchronicity with Ben.
* Of course, Derrick Johnson tackled Ike.
* One play later, Redman was pushed out of bounds after another 8-yard gain. A flag came out late as Willie Colon walked back to the huddle, and it was a holding call on Willie. Then Willie gave the ref some lip and another flag came out. Willie later said he was honked off because the flag came out so late. The ref said he had tried to pull his flag three times but it was stuck. Hmmmm. Things went from bad to worse as Redman fumbled the ball on the next play and guess who made the hit and the strip?
* Better just start guessing Derrick Johnson to the rest of these.
* When Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace for an acrobatic 7-yard catch, we all stood around watching the replay. The "Turk up in the booth" noted dryly (he was in the booth after all) that it was a great display of groin strength. Ouch.
* As halftime ended and the second-half kickoff was on deck, I saw Redman on the sideline doing a football kata (like the karate forms) while working every angle of tucking the ball, protecting the ball, and high carriage of the ball against some invisible attackers. It was obvious to me that Ike was going to get some reps after a brief banishment.
* In the fourth quarter, Tamba Hali, an absolute monster, split the double-team pass rush of Max Starks and Willie Colon. Colon was driven backward as Hali got the inside edge of Starks. As Hali separated to go after Byron Leftwich, Colon lunged at Hali. The ref, sitting behind Leftwich, started to run toward Willie while reaching for his pocket. Ultimately (and rightly so) he left the flag pocketed, but I thought for a moment that something bad was coming.
* Still in the fourth quarter, Lawrence Timmons showed some unbelievable "see-do." He saw a developing screen and reacted to it with terrific acceleration to not only beat the center blocking him but in tackling Peyton Hillis for little to no gain. The funny part was watching Hillis get up, look around, and then shake his head as if he couldn't believe he was caught by Timmons.
* The Chiefs were engineering their tying field-goal drive when Ryan Clark sat down on the sideline near me. Ryan was back from wherever the blow in the head had taken him to and he watched disconsolately as the Chiefs advanced. I got to wondering what lies ahead for the Steelers' secondary when your big gun got his second dinger just two weeks after the first.
* Pure joy swept through the stadium and the Steelers sideline as Timmons made a great interception and return to put The Kicking Canuck in position to win the game. For a moment I was worried that Timmons might get a little concussed with all the mobbing head shots he was taking from his teammates.
* As I slowly walked up the stairs behind Brett Keisel toward the locker room, I said "Brett, did you get a little beard on Timmons' interception?" Brett, who was moving very slowly, said simply, "I don't know, I'm too tired."
* He did. And he was.