View from the Sideline: Imposing their will

Craig Wolfley walked the sideline and reports on the sights and sounds of the Steelers' suffocating performance against the Tennessee Titans.

I hit the field at LP Stadium going from the cool air conditioning of the press box to brilliant sunshine and triple digit temps that barbequed everybody on and off the field. I had enough SPF sunscreen on to sit on the sun for a week.

* The intros were interesting. How fast is Chris Johnson? So fast was he that running out of the tunnel they only had enough time to announce "Chris…" and he was on the sidelines.

* I was barely into my sideline routine when I looked up and Mewelde Moore was the deep man in the kickoff return. "Now that's odd," I'm thinking, because I would much rather have Mo blocking for Antonio Brown than vice-versa. We all know what happened next. Brown took the reverse, got some blocks from Stevenson Sylvester and Ryan Mundy, and was off to quiet all the honky-tonkers in the raucous stadium. It was a sensational, gutsy call with a nerves-of-steel rookie, who waited until the proper moment to reverse his direction and giddyyup.

* Dennis Dixon tried a bubble screen on first down to Hines Ward but ended up hitting Heath Miller in the helmet with the pass. It set off what resembled a gang fight minutes into a game. After some semblance of order was restored, the ref announced offsetting penalties that, given the involvement of everybody on the field, was only fair. But when he announced the offending Steelers player was No. 62, I could only surmise that the ref was already heat stroked or that he worked back in the 90's and was flagging the Turk up in the booth for past indiscretions.

* Dennis, Dennis, Dennis, when there are gap calls by your line – and that means all the hogs are squeezing to the inside gap to pick up a Titans defender – there's got to be a clock ticking in your head. You know the pressure isn't coming from inside, so it can only come from the edge. You can see one edge, so the clock is your only friend. The alarm didn't go off and Dennis was sacked and fumbled.

* Dixon came back strong when later when he scrambled for 21-yards on third-and-2. The entire sideline erupted and Mike Tomlin waved Dennis as Dennis reached the perimeter. Up in the booth, Bill Hillgrove roared "Run Forrest run!" It was a catalyst, something the guys on offense needed.

* Bruce Arians is right when he says that Dixon doesn't need to be exposed to more punishment by designing run plays, there's enough danger of Dennis getting hurt when he scrambles.

* Charlie Batch stepped in and did what a backup QB is supposed to do: rRun the offense. Yes, he's hampered by the fact that he's not gotten reps, but on a third-and-11 from the Tennessee 46, Batch threw a beautiful pass to Mike Wallace, who had split the safeties and smoked Chris Hope. Mike needs to make that catch. That's leaving a play out on the field, and when something happens like that, you never get it back. That play is either worth 3 or 7 points going into the locker room at halftime.

* Jonathan Scott came out of the locker room after getting IVed up at the half and immediately ran out on the field to replace Tony Hills. The way these guys rotated was amazing. It was a fierce hitting game and the Steelers' line fought their butts off. I have nothing but respect for the effort they put out Sunday. It wasn't Steelers offensive linemen who threw in the towel in the fourth quarter.

* It's funny how so many people understand that the Steelers' defense without Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu is decidedly not as good as with them, but don't want to say the same thing about the offense minus Ben Roethlisberger, Max Starks, Santonio Holmes, and Willie Colon. Remember Flozell Adams was brought in because the best offensive lineman the Steelers had went down in the pre-pre-season. Nobody would be happy if Ben was gone for the year and it was on Byron, Dennis, or Charlie to replace him. No matter how well they played, a franchise QB is a franchise QB for a reason. A Willie Colon, who was on the cusp of upper-echelon tackles, is hard to replace a few days before the opening of camp. Flo plays hard, but he was out there on the free-agent market for a reason.

* I can't tell you how many times I went "oooh, that must'a hurt" when Chris Johnson was whacked by the Steelers' defense. In the second half, James Harrison barreled down the line on the backside with perfect timing and triangulation to plant Brown in the ground, holding him to a 1-yard gain. The crunch from the field hurt me to my bones. As it apparently did Brown, who got up slower and slower throughout the second half. This is known as "Marinating the Meat."

* Fourth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 1, the "Flying Monk," Troy Polamalu, timed his steps, leap, and stuck the landing dropping down on Collins like a flying monkey from the Wizard of Oz pulverizing the Scarecrow. An exhausted sideline rallied with a bunch of screaming and shaking of the heads. From the look of Collins, I don't think he ever saw Troy, and Collins took part in the head shaking.

* Lawrence Timmons had a ridiculous game. His acceleration, right before impact, ranks up there with anybody suiting up on any given Sunday. His speed is almost deceptive, because I think backs don't realize how fast he gets there from anywhere. His play on Johnson sprinting to the flag was all about a test of wills. Battered, bruised, shook up more than once, Johnson didn't want any part of the "Law Dawg," who took Johnson down without a fight. This play, more than any other, spoke loud and clear to the message Chuck Noll preached over two decades ago. "Impose your will on them. Take their will to fight from them."

* Were it not for a sensational coverage from Bryant McFadden, and Ryan Clark stripping the ball from Nate Washington in the end zone, we might be talking about a different ending to the game. And it was fitting that the game was signed, sealed and delivered by the Law Dawg one more time as he put the crunch on Johnson. He went down with a whimper.

* There's an old boxing axiom pertinent here: Take the body, the head will follow. Beat them up so bad, their desire to fight back goes. After Timmons dropped Johnson, players from both teams lurched to the center of the field on legs quivering from heat exhaustion to shake hands. A game that started with so much animosity and fire, finished quietly and with respect.


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