The Christmas spirit was everywhere as I entered into Heinz Field. Lotta jolly fellows were hanging out and prepping for the Thursday night bash.
* Up in the booth pre-game, I had a conversation with former player, adversary on the field, general manager, and TV analyst Matt Millen, whom I have come to love and respect through the years. Matt and I have locked horns many times throughout our careers in both the college and professional ranks. He has a son serving in the military currently deployed overseas, and me, as a father of one of those incredible young men going off to serve their country, we got to share the thoughts that only parents of military men and women can whisper. It was a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life.
* As was the opportunity I had to participate in a "Terrible Towel Wave" pre-kickoff to salute the men and women of our Armed Forces serving all around the globe. To do so with my eldest son Kyle Jacob Wolfley at my side, a First Lieutenant Army Airborne Ranger serving with the 172nd in Germany, and with orders for deployment to Afghanistan, this was truly a gift from the Steelers that I'll cherish forever. As every father must feel, I'm very proud of my son. He's a better man than I could ever hope to be.
* It only took four plays for the Heinz field crowd to welcome Heath Miller back from a concussion-induced hiatus. Heath caught a 20-yarder while stomping a couple of would-be Carolina defenders and set the holiday crowd chirping early. There's no doubt in my mind that if I had to drive cross-country and needed companions, I'd choose Heath and Troy Polamalu. As a father of six, with a grandson to boot, less is more and silence is golden.
* In the first quarter, Jonathan Scott missed a couple of cut calls on the backside (circa Jets Mo Moore, safety) and he missed a cut call on Derek Landri that resulted in a Mendenhall loss. Scott was immediately yanked by Steelers line boss Sean Kugler. I can truthfully say that this was the most upset I've seen Sean all year. He was smoking hot and J-Scott caught an earful before he found a seat on the bench. Trai Essex filled in for the rest of the series. A few moments later, Mike Tomlin had a conversation with Jonathan and things seemed to calm down. Jonathan eventually returned to the game and played solidly, as best as I could tell.
* One thing that every player enjoys is an even-keeled coach who doesn't lose it in the midst of the chaos that is every game. Kugler has been the calmest of even-keeled dudes all year, especially so given the five separate line combos he's had to start. But every coach has his limits, and sometimes it takes a two-by-four between the eyes before a player gets the message.
* One guy getting the message Tomlin offered (and a challenge, I'm presuming) earlier this week when he referenced the advanced age of the Steelers is James Farrior. James blitzed on a straight fire through the "B" gap, if my noggin hasn't frozen up on me, in the second quarter and was cut by one of the Carolina backs on a blitz pick-up. Rather I should say the Carolina back attempted to cut Farrior, because James put one hand on the ground and bounced off the hand to keep his feet and sack Jimmy Clausen like a Giant Eagle bagboy cramming a Christmas goose into two-ply for his sixth quarterback knocker-ator of the year. Fourteen years of top-notch football week in and week out, huh? Show me another guy in the league with those numbers with that athleticism.
* I cozied up to the jet engine heater turbine at one point with Potsie. James winked at me and said, "I like watching the offense working." James was enjoying the shut-down work the defense was laying on Clausen and his cohorts and the turbine heater down time it provided.
* Later on in the same quarter Clausen went deep and Bryant McFadden caught a beautiful over-the-shoulder INT, but in doing so doinked his hip when he stuck the landing. The turf was hard in some spots and B-Mac just found one of them.
* The Christmas spirit really is taking hold. Was that Flozell Adams playing the peace-keeper role out there?
* Ben Roethlisberger took one to the schnozzle earlier, but it just bloodied his nose. It sure didn't hurt his ability to "sniff" out a Carolina hot read and drop one in to Mike Wallace on a 43-yard gallop to go up 10-0 over the Panthers. Interesting how Bruce Arians, always seemingly under fire, switched up and lined Hines Ward to the outside and put Mike in the slot. This is contrary to what they have been doing. Again, it's BA getting the best match-up and putting Ben in the best position to work his magic. That's just good coaching folks.
* You can't imagine the monumental problems sideline reporting, tacky gloves, Jolly Ranchers, and frigid conditions are combining to make right at this moment. This does not include the brief moment I thought I was on fire from the dad-gum volcano-like heater. It is truly feast or famine around here.
* After two unsuccessful whacks at the goal line by Rashard Mendenhall in the third quarter, Big Ben decided to take matters into his own hands and dove in from the 1-yard line. While trotting to the sidelines after the TD, Ben patted Mendenhall conciliatory-like on the head as if to say "That's how it's done."
* Lawrence Timmons was talking to himself. First he blitzed and whiffed on Clausen. Coming from off, Timmons smoked around the corner on a delayed (?) dog and Clausen sensed danger and eluded Timmons by stepping up. Lawrence missed by inches. Clausen had to feel like a guy changing a tire on the Parkway while a car whizzes by. LaMarr Woodley got the sack, but from ringside seating I could see Lawrence was honked at himself for missing a pigeon shoot like that. Sacks are coveted by all defensive players. Lawrence just missed his stocking stuffer.
* "LT is talking to himself II" just happened on a fire-x with Larry Foote taking over for the now-vacationing-on-the-heated-bench Farrior. Footer hit one gap, LT hit the other so hard and fast he didn't even see the Carolina RB Stewart going the other way. Two ships passing in the night? The Titanic should've been as lucky as Stewart was.
* Game, set and match. Well done, Steelers win and it's time for family. As the Turk up in the booth likes to say, "Wise men still seek Him." As do I and my family. God bless and Merry Christmas everybody!!!