In 24 hours I went from an idyllic chair session on a Fort Lauderdale beach – while enjoying a fine macanudo cigar with a gently blowing breeze off the Atlantic Ocean under a full moon – to a monsoon just prior to kickoff at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. The beginning and end of this game would prove to be just as erratic as the Florida weather.
* Emmanuel Sanders is young, and will learn to tuck the ball when he returns a kickoff. Carrying it like a loaf of bread will get you baked, and though he was understandably frustrated by the next kickoff being un-returnable, he didn't compound bad play with bad decision-making when he touched a knee on the second kickoff. That's a sign of maturity, when you are eager to make amends for a fumble, but realize that discretion is the better part of valor.
* First play from scrimmage for the Dolphins confirmed what I already suspected: Fish center Joe Berger couldn't block big Casey Hampton on-on-one. Against a 2-back set, Hamp blew up Berger, gobbled up lead blocker Lousaka Polite and drove Polite into Ronnie Brown. LaMarr Woodley got the tackle, but it was all Snack.
* First-quarter action, third-and-9 from the Pittsburgh 21, from a shotgun, Ben Roethlisberger has an over-loaded left side of his line. Randy Starks, Cameron Wake and Yeremiah Bell are on the left side and the wall is going right (O-line from the center out is turning to the right). Backside, the Dolphins run a Will-Lion game which has Max Starks running a twist with Wake. Wake comes behind Randy Starks. There's no excuse for Chris Kemoeatu not seeing Starks coming around. But it happens. I can't sit here and tell you why that happens, other than your mind sometimes betrays you or somebody made an incorrect call, but a lost fumble is costly anywhere on the field.
* It's second-and-7 from the Pittsburgh 13-yard line. The Bronko, Doug Legusrsky, didn't have his best game, and that goes for the O-line across the board. Whenever you go from spot-duty to full-time status, it's a big jump. Legursky pulled on a trap to his left leading Mewelde Moore. Wake closed the trap, setting the edge, and Doug tried to trap him. When Wake spun out to go after Moore, Doug became a man of the cloth and pulled on the jersey. Holding. Wake closed the trap with his inside shoulder. So Doug tried to kick him out. Moore saw that the trap was closed, so he bubbled over the top to run wide. Doug's problem was he didn't hit with the "Same foot, same shoulder" that a good trapper needs in order to dig the hunkered-down dawg that was Wake. No movement
* It's second-and-6 from the Miami 44-yard line. Roethlisberger passes to Heath Miller, but Legursky is called for holding. Shazaam! Now you know the officials are looking at you intently. It's a bad feeling when you know the ref's got your number memorized. Doug got caught on the backside of a wall left. He has to sit down tight to take over the nose while the center works front side. Doug had too big a split for starters (you gotta invade the center's space a little). But the killer was that Legursky dropped his head while trying to El-kabong the Miami nose tackle. Starks threw a quick arm-over, or swim, technique and because Legursky is so short Starks didn't have to swim high. It was a straight beeline to Roethlisberger.
* In the second quarter, Miami QB Chad Henne threw a pass to Brandon Marshall. James Harrison blitzed off the edge, going for a two-handed pommel horse hurdle over Polite, but couldn't stick the landing. It was an absolutely astounding physical display of strength and agility that didn't score any points. Still, Whenever the Silverback is out there, you are sure to see some amazing things.
* All I can say is when Big Flozell Adams fell over after injuring his ankle, it was like watching a giant redwood tree hitting the deck. Truly one of the biggest human beings I've ever been around. Let's just hope Flo is back soon. He's been playing real well and the Steelers need him.
* The Steelers' defense went to a lot of the Fire-X stunts up the middle after it was apparent that Miami was not going to let them get mismatches with a RB on either Harrison or Woodley. Backside of a wall protection, with a two-back set, both backs would double-team the backer. So Dick LeBeau went up the gut with his blitzes.
* One of those was a sub-package blitz in an obvious passing situation. Second-quarter action had the nickel defense on the field and Harrison at inside linebacker alongside James Farrior. Last week, I asked Harrison about Farrior always being the lead crash-test-dummy on the fire-x and Lawrence Timmons always being the trail guy. Harrison just laughed and said that's the way it is. But this time, the Silverback fired straight ahead into the inside shoulder of Dolphins left guard Rich Incognito and knocked him straight into the lap of Henne. Farrior actually became the trailer on this stunt but unfortunately the back cut Harrison as he twisted around. Because Harrison mulched Incognito so badly, Henne threw the ball away. But again, think about the raw power necessary to drive a 325-pound man straight back into a QB.
* Sometime in the fourth quarter, the aforementioned Incognito spit in the face of a very honked off Nick Eason. Nick went absolutely bonkers and how he held back a cheap shot of his own and managed to keep his cool and not get a personal foul says a lot about his professional attitude.
* It also became apparent in the fourth quarter that attrition was taking its toll. After Aaron Smith was lost and Woodley had already checked out, the defense began to tire. The Steelers went to their nickel defense that is usually reserved for 3-wide receiver sets (only 2 DTs) to try to give the DTs a blow, even when the Dolphins went with two tight ends.
* The Steelers brought an extra doctor to administer IVs so the guys wouldn't lock up. Boy, could I have used that back in the day!
* Roethlisberger's fumble brought mucho anguish along the sideline. Guys were milling about and for sure I thought referee Gene Steratore was under the hood talking to the Buffalo Wild Wings guy. The final call was the only call that could've been made, in my most humble opinion. What I really liked was watching coach Mike Tomlin. He wasn't fazed by the pressure; he was organizing and discussing strategy and making sure that battle plans were in place, whichever way the call went. That's coaching.
* I guess the pressure of waiting for the call wasn't handled as well on the Dolphins' sideline. I was told that one of the Dolphins' trainers had a run-in with a game official. According to the report a trainer "accosted" an official.
* When I talked to the guys in the locker room after the game, it was like Woodstock. It seemed as if everyone on offense, at one time or another, had the ball in their possession in that pile-up, just like you hear all these people that tell you they were at Woodstock. That was their story, and they're sticking to it.