Heading into M&T Bank stadium I spent some time thinking about what Kelvin Beachum must be thinking.
Kelvin knew he was heading into a hornet's nest, he had to know that he would be targeted by the Ravens pass rush, and he was going to have to get it done while essentially playing without hearing the snap count. Add it all together and it's a perfect recipe for disaster or a great opportunity to prove that you are NFL capable.
* The frenzied atmosphere of the crowd and pre-game warm-ups pushed the consumption pace of the Peanut M&M's faster than I realized. Mojo washed over me when I realized I had just hit the trifecta of mojinology after I consumed three orange Peanut M&M's in a row. Never seen before "in the history of my life," to quote Rocky Balboa, I immediately informed Tunch, Bill and Steelers Nation over the airwaves that tonight's game was a lock. I wondered afterwards if it works for lotto numbers.
* With the second largest crowd ever at M&T Bank stadium in attendance, the game was all about setting an early alpha male dominance. From the opening kickoff, when Will Allen got into it with the Ravens' James Ihedigbo and nearly started a full-scale brawl that threatened to sweep the field, until much later in the contest, it warmed my heart to see some real, old-fashioned dislike for the opponent.
* I was eager to get a gander at the return of the "Long Haired Flying Hawaiian Human Crash Dummy" that is Troy Polamalu. Two things readily became apparent: The Ravens were coming out throwing, as their first six plays were all passes; and, two, Dick LeBeau was going to make sure that Joe Flacco knew Troy was back and that Joe would have to "follow the hair" by blitzing Troy two out of the first three plays.
* I also wanted to see how Maurkice Pouncey would handle the pulling duties at guard. I know as everybody else does that anything in-line would be normal procedural type stuff for Maurkice. But pulling from the guard spot and trapping a guy screaming at you is different than pulling to lead outside. On the Steelers' first possession, Pouncey pulled on the lead power to his right and turned up into the hole with Jonathan Dwyer hot on his heels. Ravens safety Bernie Pollard snuck up and blitzed into the hole and Pouncey crushed him. Pollard crumpled to the ground like a marionette puppet that suddenly had its strings cut.
* Two plays later, on third-and-5, the Ravens' Pernell McPhee lined up outside Beachum and Paul Kruger inside over Ramon Foster. They ran a twist with Kruger hitting the "B" gap between Foster and Beach, and McPhee came underneath to hit Charlie in the knees after a first down throw. Charlie came up limping and I realized that it was only the second pass play of the game, and I was out of M&Ms.
* In the second quarter, the Ravens were threatening and they ran Ray Rice up the middle. Massive Ravens FB Vontae Leach lined up as an H-back and motioned across to wham NT Casey Hampton. My jaw dropped when I saw what I've never seen in my 11 years of watching Steelers games from the sidelines: Big Snack got ear-holed. I mean Leach hit him, what we used to call getting levitated, and the resulting thud was felt with my toes when Hamp hit the deck. Casey got up more embarrassed than hurt and was seething. "Good," I thought. "A honked off Hamp is always a good thing."
* Sometime in the second quarter, as I was making my way around the offensive end of the bench that had been vacated because the Steelers had the ball, I noticed a very tranquil Jason Worilds looking as if he were meditating while sitting where the hogs normally sit. Don't know what to make of that, but if Jason continues to play at the high level he has so far, get out some incense while you're at it.
* Pouncey whiffed on a trap when Terrell Suggs slipped by him and dropped the back for a loss. I happened to lock eyes with Pouncey while he was sitting on the bench after the series and I mouthed "That trap was crap." He just looked at me and laughed.
* When Dwyer popped out of the pile on his 16-yardtd run, I noticed Batch suddenly move upfield toward Ravens CB Cary Williams. Dwyer reversed his field and Charlie was in position to wall off Williams as Dwyer motored around him. I found myself wildly cheering for Charlie, totally acting unprofessionally, only to suddenly realize that people were looking at me. Big woo…way to go Charlie!
* When James Harrison sack-stripped Flacco in the fourth quarter and Ziggy Hood recovered the ball, I don't think I've seen a more excited Ziggy Hood. Ziggy was running all over the place while waving the ball. The wow factor on the bench zoomed with anticipation as the offense took the field. Things were tightening up and down both sidelines as I could see a flurry of activity on the Ravens' side and coaches jumping up and down on the Steelers.
* Antonio Brown caught a "now" route, which is the quick snap pass from Batch to AB with the CB laying off. The Ravens' corner came up hard and dropped AB for a short gain and Antonio looked like he was slipping. I noticed pre-game that he had very small studs on the bottom of his shoes and they were spatted, or taped over, which reduces your contact surface with the field. I couldn't figure out why he would in essence reduce his grip-tion factor with small studs and tape over them. I was informed by people in the know that Antonio had tried the normal 7-stud cleats but they provided so much traction they were hurting his already hurting ankle.
* When Heath Miller sailed into the end zone, or at least to the corner flag, I thought he was in. While the ref was under the hood, I saw Mike Tomlin gesture to someone on the sidelines while holding his hands about 6" apart. I figured that Mike was of the opinion that the ref would overturn the call on the field and put the ball at the half-yard mark. He didn't and much mayhem ensued.
* Not near as much as when the Kicking Canuck connected for a walk-off game-winner that saw most of the combatants move for the exits rather immediately rather than spend much time catching up with each other. I interviewed Beachum after the game and he was vibrating with so much energy that I was afraid he'd overload the mike and we'd blow a gasket.
* On the bus heading for the airport after the game, I happened to be sitting a row ahead of Heath Miller. So I asked Heath how Kelvin Beachum had done. Heath said he played great and then went on to say that during warm-ups Beachum head-butted him so hard that Heath almost crumpled to his knees. Heath said, "I figured he was good to go."