As I surveyed Sports Authority Field at Mile High, or whatever they call this place now in Denver, from the radio booth, I couldn't help but take in the breadth, width and expanse of the scene unfolding before me. There's something about The Opening game of the regular season that jumpstarts the heart of every NFL fan. No matter how bad your team was or wasn't the year before, when the regular season hits, there is always hope.
* Ahhh, no hope now for the prone and stretching Casey Hampton as he lay on the field in the pre-pregame warm-ups, where the players come out and go through light stretching drills. Larry Foote and Ike Taylor have just pounced on "Big Snack" in their usual ritual of ambushing Mighty Casey and pinning him to the ground amidst gales of laughter.
* I enjoyed a nice chat while sitting on the bench watching the pre-game warm-ups with former Steelers defensive lineman Travis Kirschke, who lives outside of Denver. I caught up with him on the ta-doings of the Kirschke family. Travis looks like he's on the get lean bandwagon among retired NFL players, a la Alan Faneca, Chris Hoke and Tunch Ilkin. I must be missing something.
* The day and age of ACL reconstruction among players who have torn a ligament is amazing. If you had told me 11 years ago when I watched a still-in-college Willis McGahee blow out three of four ligaments in his knee that years later I would watch him warm-up in Denver after posting a 1,200-yard, 4.8 average-per-carry season in his 30th year of walking the planet, I'd have said you would be lying.
* The winds were tricky in the stadium. The pre-game parachutists had to practically do a "death-dive" like a hungry eagle diving on a swallow. To avoid the lines and cables that hang over the stadium and adjust for the gusting wind one guy was blown toward the bench where Travis and I were kibitzing. Needless to say, I pushed Travis in front of me.
* After Denver's first two series, Larry Foote had two tackles, a sack of Peyton Manning, and defensed a Manning pass to TE Joel Dreesen. Then he knocked the ball loose from Willis McGahee, which was recovered by Lamar Woodley. Only halfway through the first quarter and I'm knuckle deep into my second bag of Peanut M&M's.
* In the second quarter Jonathan Dwyer made a nice 11-yard run that really showed off all the qualities he'd been exhibiting in pre-season, namely balance, vision, and instinctive movement within the flow of the play. But a holding call on Mike Wallace brought it back. How do I know it was Wallace? Because as he walked by me on the sideline muttering to himself like the "Rain Man," and disdainfully waving as if he could dismiss the officials call. Always a dead giveaway.
* After Ben Roethlisberger missed Heath Miller in the end zone and Shaun Suisham knocked down a FG to put Pittsburgh up 3-0, Roethlisberger high-fived the FG team coming off the field with a Mea Culpa sideline greeting. Big Ben knew he missed an opportunity to convert a 7, not a 3. When you face a Manning or a Brady, that's always large.
* Ryan Clark may not have been in pads, but he was coaching up Ryan Mundy. After the kickoff following the FG, and during the TV timeout, Mundy was on the sideline discussing things with Clark while the rest of his teammates were huddled on the field. Clark has huge weight when he talks and his presence on the field was greatly missed, according to the guys. Denver needs to come to the ‘Burgh and play a game.
* It was monstrously loud, and the fans became louder after Knowshon Moreno went off LT for a Denver TD. Ziggy Hood was screaming, his arms held wide open as if to say, "Can't you see the holding?" I did, Ziggy, but unfortunately the officials didn't as Broncos RG Manny Ramirez tackled Ziggy.
* Well, the Spill-kin is at it again. Up in the radio booth Tunch Ilkin just accidentally dumped water on some Denver fans who were unlucky enough to be sitting right in front of the open-air booth. Way to go, Tunch.
* Steelers massive OT Marcus Gilbert was rolled up on the field and it took two trainers and a doctor to pull Marcus to his feet. Another doc was out there looking like a supervisor on a construction job.
* The Steelers had problems with the crowd noise and their silent count while running the no-huddle. They had several illegal procedure penalties. I think they should take a lesson from the Marine Corps "Silent Drill Platoon" Team performing here at halftime.
* Third-quarter action, Dwyer made an outstanding effort to score from 11 yards out, but it was overturned by instant replay. Jonathan went to the bench and I saw RBs coach Kirby Wilson talking Dwyer up excitedly. I spoke to Kirby pre-game and said "This is a special night for you isn't it?" He nodded and affirmed it was and I thought about all Kirby had suffered. The fact he made it back to Denver after missing the January playoff game is a testament to God's grace and Kirby's fighting spirit. I must say I do admire Kirby. He's a special man.
* Ike Redman tried to plunge in from the Denver 2-yard line in the fourth quarter. On the backside there was a double-team between RG Doug Legursky and RT Mike Adams. They didn't get hip to hip, and the penetration from the DT allowed Von Miller to drop Redman for a 1-yard loss. Crucial it is to get your keesters side by side when you double-team. When you don't, somebody gets smoked. This time it was Ike.
* I'll tell you how bad this loss hurt, Foote just walked by me on the field with a "thousand yard stare" that might've allowed him to see all the way back to the ‘Burgh. That's a long stare.