View from the Sideline

Craig Wolfley worked the sideline for the Steelers Radio Network and then sat down to write these thoughts:

Though the first few mild tendrils of breeze from Hurricane Irene blew gently across Heinz Field during warm-ups, little did we know that gale force winds were brewing. Not from Irene, but from the gun that is Ben Roethlisberger's right arm and the fast flying feet of Antonio Brown. And what a show it was.

* I had a chance to get in a few minutes with former teammate and now Falcon offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. We compared aging knees and caught up on families; pretty much the same for former Steelers defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, who now coaches up the Atlanta secondary.

* Off the top of my very flat head, Brown's star is rising faster than the national debt, Jason Worilds showed the first signs of the player-to-be-he-can-be, Crezdon Butler is the "Amazing Crezdon," and Tony Hills did not grab the brass ring. We found out that Lawrence Timmons has Cheetah in him and though Charlie Batch may be thought of as injury prone, Byron Leftwich is "proner."

* After Brown cracked the first wave of flying Falcons on the opening kickoff, all that remained between the human cuisinart and the goal line was a lowly kicker. And the lowly kicker won. It took a horse collar tackle to be sure, but I couldn't help but laugh as the inevitable happened. Antonio's teammates descended on Brown to point out that a lowly kicker caught him from behind. Much amusing harassment was had by all.

* When Rashard Mendenhall crashed in from the 1-yard line; Tony Hills had to feel the laser-like heat sensors of Doug Legursky's eyes burning into his keester. Bronko was lined up as the fullback, with all 315 pounds on his tiptoes ready to bury the horns in the first Falcon jersey in the hole or the rump of Hills if he got stuffed. Tony got the job done, and Legurski whacked a UFO (unidentified football object) while Rashard did the rest.

* In between series, Ben had a serious conversation with the big shaggies up front after a couple head-hunters got home on the pass rush. I've never seen Ben this serious this early in the year as he got after the boys up front pretty good while they sat choir-like on the bench.

* The Antonio Brown show continued as he went yard on a 77-yard catch and run with such speed that if he ever ran with the bulls over in Spain, rest assured he would go untouched into the arena. What gives me concern is his fence climbing abilities post-touchdown. If that's the best he could muster in Spain, the bull wins, hands down and horns up.

* Timmons' closing speed has to be seen up close and personal to get the full effect. The only problem is he's got some Cheetah going on there. The Law Dawg, as he's known to his teammates, hits full speed quickly and then slows down like the Cheetah who can maintain top speed for only a short time. And the Atlanta Falcons' Harry Douglas finally hauled in the sputtering Timmons at the 4-yard line. In my mind, I don't think Lawrence is as fast as he is spectacular in his ability to react to situations. I'll bet he could crush the whack-the-mole game at Chuckie Cheese.

* Brown wasn't done for the night because he came back and did it again, 44 yards worth and one scintillating Mexican hat dance that would put any bull fighter to shame. Late in the game I interviewed Antonio about his TD dance and told him I was afraid he would "pull his lumbago."

* Yeah … apart from a polite smile from Antonio, that silence you just heard was his response.

* When Byron took off on the trot in the second half I could feel my warning beepers start to clang as Falcon "unfriendlies" began to close. When the grass settled after the dust up, Byron got up in obvious pain and clutched his arm. From my viewpoint there was something unnatural about the way his arm dangled and seemed to flop as if it were broken. The Turk up in the booth doesn't refer to me as Mr. Obvious without reason.

* Even more dis-comfortable was when Byron hit the sidelines and yelled as he pulled off his helmet. Byron's as tough as they come, has a pain threshold level on par with a mother undergoing natural child birth, yet you could tell and hear that he was in excruciating pain. Major league hats off to Byron for not passing out as he John Wayne-d it and walked to the X-ray room instead of riding on the golf cart "meat wagon express."

* The table was set for Tony Hills. O-line coach Sean Kugler wasn't going to pull Tony in the event of an injury to the tackles, as in the Eagles game. Tony would stay at G and get a chance to really show his stuff. Now, let me be clear: Tony didn't play bad; he did a lot of good things. Tony is so strong and quick, you expect him to manhandle everybody that lines up over him. But he didn't deliver with the slam dunk performance he was looking for. This is just my perception from the sidelines and I'd like to see some tape on it. He struggled some with twists on pass pro, and at G those twists hit quicker and can ambush you more than a shaving cream pie-in-your-face while you're doing an interview on TV.

* Pass pro at G is all about holding the point and re-directing the pass rusher. Tackle gives you more time and ground to see the twist and knock it down. I think the G battle goes into the Carolina game.

* There's been a real pitting of rookie OLB Chris Carter against 2nd year man Jason Worilds. Mike Tomlin came into camp putting the screws to Jason, building a little fire under him. I hope the intensity in Jason doesn't wane as Carter, who's been making a move, blew a hammie on kick coverage.

* Two plays in last night's game stand out as a barometer of this young buck picking up the pace. One was a pass rush where Worilds trapped the hands of a TE trying to block him on a pass rush. By trapping I mean using his own hands to knock down the extended hands of the TE. By doing so Jason shaved the corner of the man trying to block him giving him a full step that resulted in a pounding of QB Chris Redman. That shows me that Jason is really starting to grasp the close-quarter combat range of pass rushing by using his hands to gain the edge rather than pure speed to turn the corner.

* In pass rushing, it's all about cutting the steps or shaving the angle from the outside. The sharper the angle, the quicker you get home. When a pass blocker has arms extended advantage, the angle gets rounded. Knock the hands down, and you flatten the angle, gaining a half-step. Knock the hands down so that the pass protector is pulled forward, and you gain a full step turning the corner. Serving up a steaming plate of butt-whoop on the QB is just 2-3 strides around that corner.

* The second play was an off-tackle to his side where he refused to be hooked, set the edge and turned the back inside. Worilds then flowed by using momentum, spinning back inside to reduce the edge and squeezing the hole, never giving up outside leverage the entire play. It's one of the little things that all the great ones make look as effortless as breathing. He looked very natural in doing so and that says to me that holding a fluid point of attack in run defense is another area that he's showing growth.

* Crezdon Butler went amazing with a 95-yard pick-six return when he high-pointed a "7 route" and hit the after burners showing that the troublesome hammie is troublesome no more. Crezdon is going to make trouble for some of the other young corners.


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