View From Sideline

Craig Wolfley woke up early to provide these fresh Christmastime tales from the sideline of the Steelers' 27-0 win over the ho-ho-horrible Rams on Saturday.

"Oh the weather outside is frightful,

But the fire is so delightful.

And since we've no place to go,

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

Well the weather outside wasn't frightful, and the only delightful fire came via the turbine heaters on the sidelines (no major mishaps for The Kid here thus far), but 60,000 Steelers had a place to go to watch the Steelers turn the Rams into lambs with a punishing performance.

* Hitting the sidelines, I quickly noticed a distinguished-looking elderly gent holding court and getting ready to amp up the crowd with a pre-kickoff "Terrible Towel" wave. After asking around, I got the opportunity of a lifetime to meet and greet a real American hero by the name of Buzz Aldrin.

* Of course everyone knows Aldrin as an astronaut aboard the Apollo 11 Lunar Pilot, the first manned lunar landing in history. He followed that act up with a July 20, 1969 stroll on the moon just after Neil Armstrong. What they might not know, though, is that Buzz was a 165-pound center on a high school state championship team back in the day. For a man of 81-years of age, that was an iron grip of a handshake he gave me. I was impressed.

* Congrats are also in order for the man with the "View from down under" -- Steelers long-snapper Greg Warren. This was his 100th game as a Steeler. One hundred of anything is not an easy feat, especially when it has to be perfect every time.

* The warmups themselves seemed rather subdued despite the festive Christmas atmosphere encircling Heinz Field. The biggest surprise wasn't that Ben Roethlisberger would only be an official observer, but that rookie tackle Marcus Gilbert was not a starter. Jonathan Scott rolled out for pre-game intro's and ended up doing a fine job replacing Gilbert.

* When a young guy suddenly disappears from the lineup, but still makes the field for extra point/field goal duties, there's a lesson to be learned, whatever that lesson is. All he had needed was a word from Rashard Mendenhall to see if Coach Mike was as serious about proper preparation as he seems to be. Guess what Marcus: He is.

* After much media chatter about how Charlie Batch should play to the Rams' weaknesses against the run, I asked offensive coordinator Bruce Arians about it. Bruce had that twinkle in his eye and a hearty laugh to back up his "Don't believe it for a minute!" reply.

* In the first quarter I happened to get a great angle from behind the lines on Ziggy Hood. The Rams ran a straight play to give plenty of lateral leeway to Steven Jackson on the front side. It caught my attention because earlier in the week I had read an interview in which Ziggy talked about his improvement at the point of attack and how he's able to use his monstrous (my words, not his) strength to lock out on opposing offensive linemen in that regard.

* Ziggy seemed to be channeling his inner-Aaron Smith and was as good as gold on this play. While locking out on OT Harry Dahl (who seemingly ran in place), Hood got full extension and played the outside edge of the off-tackle area by expertly disengaging at the proper time to make a tackle. He planted Jackson after a mere 2-yard gain. No lump of coal in the Hoodster's stocking this night I tell you.

* OK, I've been around more than my fair share of game action and sidelines in my day. I've seen a lot of amazing athletic feats over the years: The athletic grace of Lynn Swann; the ferocity personified in a fearsome Joe Greene pass rush; Greg Lloyd on the hunt; Kevin Greene; a 75-yarder from Willie Parker that told the meaning of instant acceleration; on and on, great athletes doing what they do. And then there is the Silverback, James Harrison. What he consistently does game in and game out is surprise you with yet another rub-yer-eyes, did-I-see-what-I-think-I-just-saw display of power, speed and skill.

* The Rams' offensive line is lousy. The tackles are so bad they go double TEs and "chip" with the TEs on the outside pass rushers. I have never seen a team with double-chippers before in the (to quote Rocky) "History of my life."

* On a third-and-2, the Rams went double TE, but the TE couldn't get a chip on James because James drove so hard to the inside. So hard in fact, he drove the tackle and the guard (Adam Goldberg and Jason Brown) backward and knocked both of them on their prodigious keisters. Folks, I've seen a ton of bull-rushers come and go, but save for Reggie White none compare to this guy. James is a freak's freak.

* The Big Legursky, subbing for the injured Maurkice Pouncey, went down in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Trai Essex got bumped to center. The "Turk up in the booth" made an astute observation that the Rams weren't turning the heat up on Trai by putting a snorting 330-some pound nose guard on his head. That seemed a logical thing to do.

* Mendenhall had a big day. But the big days only come when the big boys are playing their butts off. When Rashard took off on a long run in the first half on a counter-trap weak-side, it was because of Max Starks drove on a double team, and then came off on the second level to lock up with MLB Jim Laurinaitis. What made this a great block by Max is that he stayed with Laurinaitis to the whistle, as Rashard wove in, out and past the Rams' leading tackler. It's hard to tackle a guy with an SUV rolling over you.

* The Rams aren't a good team; that became obvious. But Stephen Jackson is a great player. He's a competitor of the first class, a guy who knows no quit. So it was no surprise when the song Renegade hit the Jumobtron and all the Rams hid in their huddle, save for one. Jackson was at the line of scrimmage, pointing to the screen and conversing with some of the Steelers who were up on the big screen making big hits. Gotta hand it to Jackson, I enjoy watching tough guys play.

* With the clock ticking down, the great Hines Ward, after catching four passes to come to five short of the 1,000-catch milestone, was standing by the water cooler with five seconds left on the clock and all his teammates heading out on the Heinz Field turf to shake hands. Hines turned and trotted off the field without so much as a goodbye in what some believe was his last game in a place he has performed so brilliantly for so many years.

* It's a tough moment. Coming to grips with the end of the ride is not an easy thing. And I'm not saying here that it is. But it may well be so. Here's hoping that Hines reaches his goal, and we still see him back next year.

* I interviewed Antonio Brown for the Steelers Radio Network on the field after the final gun. Brown had eclipsed the single-season all-purpose yards team record and gone over 1,000 yards receiving with one game to go. He remains amazingly humble despite his accomplishments and is a joy to be around.

* It's not often a young man these days uses the word "blessing" to describe how he feels about breaking a record. His mantra of "Chest Up, Eyes Up, Prayed Up" is something to teach our young people.

* And on that note, Merry Christmas everybody. We are all blessed by the Good News of Christmas!


Steel City Insider Top Stories