You simply couldn't hope for a more beautiful day to kick off the 2012 home season at Heinz Field than this gorgeous September day. As I headed down the tunnel to the field I ran into Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley heading out to the playing field. Todd is a Pittsburgher through and through. He grew up in the organization and Pittsburgh is where his heart is at. So the first sign that greeted us from the stands as we took the field read, "Haley-Lujah, the prodigal son returns home." We both had to chuckle at that.
* As I sat down on the Steelers' bench to chit chat with the "Kicking Canuck," Shaun Suisham, I marveled at the weather and the field conditions. Given the fact that the Pitt Panthers had played here the previous day, the field looked great. Until Shaun told me that the ground was moving under his plant foot. He felt the field would peel back and create spotty footing. Overall, though, I thought the field held up well. Shaun also observed that Tim Tebow must've thrown "over a hundred passes" in the pre-pre-game warm-up. Shaun said that he just kept moving around Tebow and kicking.
* One of the fashion statements being made by the players this year is the wearing of dress socks, like the fancy-schmancy ones that you wear to a dinner party. Ryan Clark wore them through training camp and Santonio Holmes wore them for warm-ups. My former teammate and fellow broadcaster Edmund Nelson said of Holmes: "It looks like he went into his granddaddy's drawer and got those."
* In the first quarter Willie Colon pulled on a trap block and came down the line. As he passed the C-RG area Willie tripped over some feet and fell. That of course led to a poor run by Isaac Redman, as the end-of-line player Willie was supposed to take out made the stop. To have success in the trapping game, a pulling guard has to be able to come down the line of scrimmage moving slightly into the line of scrimmage. Not parallel. If you can't "get up into the line of scrimmage," then you don't get the best angle to dump somebody.
* Stephen Hill and Ike Taylor got into a scrum on the first play from scrimmage for the Jets' offense. I'm sure Ike was ready for it. Sanjay Lal, the Jets WR coach, is a big believer in having his wideouts initiate a physical style of play. He wants his guys to go after the opposition. Sanjay reads Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese general, and his take on battle tactics. Sun Tzu says mysterious things like, "To beat your enemy, you must become your enemy." Well, in the NFL, when you become your enemy, it means you got traded.
* Heath Miller amazes me with his complete game at tight end, despite living in the uber specialist age of football. On a first-half, 13-yard Redman run, Heath was blocking on the end of the line and was stalemated. But he stayed with it. He locked down hard and both strained mightily to hold the position. When Redman went through the hole, the defender had to make a move. That's when the dam gave way and overwhelmed the enemy. In other words, Heath mulched the Jet. There's a little Wolf-Tzu for you, Sanjay.
* The line of the day came from "The Turk Up In The Booth." During a TV timeout, with the Steelers' defense out on the field, the jumbotron lit up with Mike Tomlin's anti-concussion message, "Don't hit the head. Don't use the head." Right after that, Lawrence Timmons drilled Mark Sanchez in the grill and was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Said the Turk, "Ï guess he didn't see the message."
* Mike Wallace outdueled Antonio Cromartie for a 37-yard TD catch and walked by me on the sideline with a stone face, the most stone-faced-WR-after-a-great-TD-catch I've ever seen. All of his teammates were whooping it up, but Mike barely acknowledged it. I could only surmise that Mike thought the play would be overturned on review.
* Football fundamentals are the most important ingredient in any player's tool kit. Whether it's blocking, tackling, pass catching or punt –catching, it's all part of the same deal. When Jets return man Jeremy Kerley took his eyes off the ball and got donked in the mush with the ball, Ryan Mundy came a flying. Ryan showed all the fundamentals of recovering a football properly: break down and curl your body around the ball. Don't dive on it and don't try to advance a ball when there are unfriendlies in the area. There's an old Turkish proverb that translates to "The ball is not round."
* The NFL is going to get its hand forced at some point with the replacement refs. When Clark lit up Holmes, the flags came a flying. I had a great view of the thing real-time and feel there's no way it was launching, helmet-to-helmet, etc. The refs gathered and for a while I was getting the idea that "I know I saw something, but I'm not sure what so let's throw a flag and vote on who dunnit." So does Tomlin. Mike is so incensed afterward that he threw his headset on the ground and allowed it to drag after him as he stalked the sideline.
* It's now the fourth quarter and the Steelers are in the midst of that 14-play, 10:13 penultimate, will-destroying, game-winning drive on the Jets. The sidelines are tense and I happen to find myself closer to the coaching staff than I probably should be. On a third-and-3 from the Jets' 23-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger threw to Miller for a first down and Tomlin turned to the sidelines, forcefully pumped his fist and yelled, "Always go to Heath Miller! Always go to Heath Miller!"
* When Redman bounced, bounced and then scored, there was pandemonium on the sidelines. Guys, of course were ecstatic, but Redman showed grit and determination to get into the end zone that is special. I don't know his future story, but Ike sure has a talent for the difficult, highly combative short-yardage run situations.