View From The Sideline

Craig Wolfley provides his sideline perspective -- from pre-game to post-game -- on the Ravens-Steelers playoff game on Saturday.

I love any flyover anytime, anywhere. As the four F-15's, 16's or 20's (whatever it takes) thundered over Heinz Field and drowned out the deep baritone voice of country music star Trace Adkins, the whole stadium shook as the final notes of the National Anthem reverberated through the sound system.

* There was no official clock on this, but in regard to Bret Michaels' Terrible Towel wave pre-kickoff, I believe my son Kyle and I smoked him by going twice as fast and twice as long when we had the honor before the Carolina game. Personal honor thing, ya know?

* If you couldn't get a thrill over watching men and women of our Armed Forces receiving their Purple Hearts, you don't have a pulse. Watching these brave soldiers always gets me choked up.

* Oftentimes, playoffs bring back memories of the great Myron Cope. When Shaun Suisham made the tackle on the opening kickoff, I could almost hear Myron screaming "Squee-zum Swee-zum, Yoi!"

* Hines Ward and Ravens safety Ed Reed kick-started the bitterness right from the get-go by locking horns and setting the tempo. Hines was blocking Reed and getting the better of Reed when Ed decided to go for a little hip toss. After years of studying Jiu Jitsu and Judo, Ed, when you go for the hip toss, you gotta drop your hips. He didn't, and Hines mulched him. The problem was that Jeff Triplette was the referee and his crew had tied for the most personal foul and unsportsmanlike flags this past season. You figured that Hines had set the tone, but that it would be a long day.

* Reed didn't stop with the bad boy behavior there. On the same drive by the Steelers, Reed blitzed, was picked up by Mewelde Moore, and seconds after the play was over demonstrably threw Moore to the ground. Triplette intervented to avoid a fight between Moore and Reed. Later, on the play before Rashard Mendenhall scored, Reed tackled Rashard and while getting up, leaned over and head-butted Rashard, who was face up lying on the ground. No call on either play.

* After the Steelers took off on an opening 10-play, 80-yard drive and scored seven, Flozell Adams was slow getting to the sidelines. From groundhog level, as the Hotel passed by me, I couldn't tell whether he took one to the gourd or if something else was amiss. But there was no mistaking the fact that he didn't look right coming off the field.

* On the touchdown punt return that wasn't, the Ravens' Marcus Smith locked up with Will Allen. Allen, trying to separate from Smith, turned and tried to make the tackle. Smith held on with a death grip and pounded Allen into the ground and was properly flagged for it. Not seeing the flag lying on the ground behind Allen, immediately jumped up and began trash-talking Will. Allen calmly got to his feet and pointed the flag out to Smith, who was in the middle of launching a fuselage of verbiage. Smith suddenly realized in the middle of his rant that the TD return was negated by his hold/tackle. A much more subdued and chagrined Smith turned on his heel and headed back to the Ravens' sidelines. Hate when that happens.

* Ward went past me on the sideline for an animated conversation with the line judge. It included the word facemask and a hand gesture which re-enacted the event. Kinda led me to believe that Reed was up to no good again.

* When Cory Redding picked up the ball and scored, there were looks of disbelief on everybody on the sidelines. The officials just looked at the ball lying there after Ben Roethlisberger was whacked by Terrell Suggs. All but Redding and Suggs stood around. Redding cautiously picked up the ball and then took off for a TD, while Suggs ran to the end zone to strike a pose and rant at the fans. Suggs had no idea Redding was running with the ball. He too thought the play was dead.

* Sometime in the second half, Willis McGahee took a handoff and was met at the line of scrimmage by James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and I believe Potsie Farrior. McGahee dug in heavy with his cleats, but like a car spinning its wheels he came to a halt and began to slowly reverse direction. I had a direct line of sight to Willis's face as his forward momentum suddenly stopped, then realized that he was caught in an avalanche of black and gold as the trio of Steelers defenders started to lift and drive McGahee backward with overwhelming force. It was the same look I'd seen on a buddy's face just before we hit the big drop on The Phantom roller coaster at Kennywood.

* The Jumbotron went black. And then the opening notes of "Renegade" began to play. Naturally, the place went bonkers. Now I know that the Ravens had been practicing all week back in Baltimore with that song being played, so I was interested to see which players might watch the video. Only two offensive players from the Ravens dared to take a peek at the wrenching hits playing out on the big screen during the second-half timeout prior to a Ravens series, and those two were OTs Michael Oher and Marshall Yanda. Everybody else in that huddle kept his back to the screen and his head down like they were trying to avoid looking at a solar eclipse.

* During a pass rush, Woodley took great offense at a Yanda bear-hug and threw him on his … mug. LaMarr again came through with another big playoff game. When I interviewed him after the game for the Steelers Radio Network, the smile on his face was as wide as his shoulders.

* One of the great effort plays of the year had Harrison getting the edge and back door around Oher and nipping the ankles of Joe Flacco. Flacco escaped, but the Silverback didn't stay on the Heinz Field turf long. Just as in a good 1950's western, Harrison got up, gave chase and like a posse should do, got his man on the sideline, driving Flacco to step out of bounds.

* I talked to Ryan Clark and he said that prior to the snap, from a formation the Ravens always run out of, a thought crossed his mind that the Ravens might pass. Because, Ryan reasoned, like every offensive coordinator, Ravens OC Cam Cameron self-scouts for any tendencies to see if he's tipping any formations. Ryan reported to me that Dick LeBeau had said during the week to watch for a pass play from this particular set. It's the ol' "They know that I know that they will be thinking one way and I self-scout so I'll come back to what they thought they knew, but really didn't know" ploy. Sure enough, it was a pass and Clark played over the top to snag a big INT. That's a combination of instinct and good coaching, or just what you'd expect from Clark and LeBeau.

* When Jonathan Scott went down in the second half, there was a scurrying of action on the sidelines. Nowhere to be found was Flozell, who turned out to be "Flu-zell," so sick was he. Big Flo attempted to man up and take the field after coming out of the locker room, where he had been sitting in his uniform since halftime. Flo started out on the field and Mike Tomlin literally had to drag him off the field. Flo is a true pro, but was so sick the 6'8" Flozell unsteadily leaned on the diminutive shoulder of Antwaan Randle El. I hope Randle El had gotten his flu shot.

* Tomlin greeted his jubilant players outside the locker room after the game and, while waiting for Mendenhall to labor up the steps, yelled out "C'mon Rashard! I already forgave you!"

* Tunch Ilkin talked to Coach Mike after the game was over in the post-game locker room and Tunch asked Mike what he had said to his guys at halftime. Mike replied "We had a fight in here!" Meaning some strong words and conversation which included challenging guys carried the intermission period. I'd say it worked.

* When you boil it all down, the power of 7 comes into play. Now look, I'll be the first to admit I've flunked math a time or two, but No. 7, playing in his 7th year, going after the 7th Steelers Super Bowl, just racked up his 7th win in his last 7 starts against the Ravens, winning by 7 points. The Steelers have won 7 AFC Championship games and lost 7 since the AFL-NFL merger of 19-7-0. After the "Seven"-ty's dynasty, beginning with the 1980 season, the Jets game will be the 7th AFC Championship game hosted by the Steelers.

* To get in the spirit of it all, read that again with Myron's voice in your head ending. And then say, "Yoi!"

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