My anticipation on this day was all about seeing the Washington Redskins' phenom QB up close and personal. As the rain sputtered on and off throughout the pre-game warm-up, I started wondering whether or not the thoroughbred known as RG3 was a mudder or could only shine on dry tracks.
* Jonathan Dwyer has been on a roll and it continued today. I've had a number of conversations with Jonathan and I've always come away impressed with his lack of being impressed with himself. He has a humbleness that is so often lacking in today's professional athlete, whatever the sport. When Jonathan got introduced to the Heinz Field crowd he simply jogged onto the field, helmet on sans the normal fist-pumping gyrations of other players. It didn't surprise me.
* The very first play from scrimmage set the tone for the Steelers run game, the offensive line, and Dwyer. Three WRs and a TE, Dwyer ran smack into the blocking backside of Heath Miller, and appeared to be stoned for a 2-yard loss. Somehow Jonathan, who does such a good job of having two feet on the ground when he takes on a defender, bounced off and turned it into a 5-yard gain.
* It's the Redskins' first possession of the first quarter and third down. The 'Skins make a run for it on a stretch play with Alfred Morris toting the pigskin. Casey Hampton roared out of the blocks and bench-pressed C Will Montgomery into the lap of Morris., forcing Morris to continue laterally and into the waiting arms of edge-setter Brett Keisel and Larry Foote. Hamp can still turn up the juice even 12 years into his NFL journey, and watching him overpower guys is just good family fun.
* Ben Roethlisberger's 7-yard pass to TE Heath Miller, tying Elbie Nickel's club record for TE TD pass receptions, was all about two guys on the same page and reading the same book. After Ben started scrambling to the line of scrimmage, I thought sure he was going to tuck it and go. Later Heath told me that he caught Ben's eye and moved to an open window in the 8-man drop the Redskins used. Heath also said he had no idea where the ball went after he scored, and I quickly excoriated him for not keeping it.
* While I was perusing the Redskins' offense throughout the first half from groundhog level, I couldn't help but gape at the fact they employ so many weapons. The sheer multiplicity of the option series, the cross-buck series (where the backfield action reminds me of a card shark in Times Square in Manhattan playing the shell game), play-action, boot-legs, throwback screens, going downtown with the ball, I mean I had problems following the ball at times. Add to that the various personnel packages and crazy formations such as the pistol, the inverted wishbone and adding a TE lining up behind the guard had me discombobulated more than once. Not that that's much different from most games, but you get my point.
* When Josh Morgan of the Redskins hung a reverse pass up in the air for RG3 to catch, I could see from my vantage point Ryan Clark steaming towards the Griff while Ike Taylor had coverage. I knew this was not going to end well for RG3. Clark vaporized Griffin with a hit so hard that RG2 and RG1 must have felt it, too.
* Just before the first half ended, Steelers punter Drew Butler hung a nice 39-yard punt into the air that was caught by Curtis Brown on the 1-yard line. My first thought was there had been no penalties of the egregious or repeat offender nature thus far on the special teams. I should have kept that thought out of my head, bad mojo. But I will say this, I often overlook the set of skills needed by a punter and his coverage team to hang that ball in the field of play with a gunner having 4-5 seconds to beat coverage, get down to the goal line, locate and catch the ball. Try it sometime in your backyard. It's not near as easy as Curtis made it look.
* When the Steelers kicked off to start the second half, it looked like Shaun Suisham got a little more than he expected. While 'Skins return man Brandon Banks was getting tackled by Brown, ol' Shaun found himself mud wrestling with the 'Skins' 6-4, 318 pound DT Kedric Golston. Shaun showed some Canadian survival skills I didn't know he had. I guess if you come from a land that has grizzlies and polar bears, there's got to be an innate survivability gene in there somewhere.
* Two thoughts crossed my mind when I watched Antonio Brown turn around backwards while he finished off a 78-yard punt return for a TD and I saw the flag drop. One, whomever this was against, it would have to rise to the egregious level, given the fact that it took 6 points off the board and I hoped for that player's sake he wasn't a repeat offender. Secondly, Brown was going to have a conversation with Mike Tomlin, which probably would end with, "We're the Pittsburgh Steelers. We don't do that."
* In the third quarter, after being battered by the Steelers' offensive line for nearly three quarters, the Redskins' defense started to get chippie. Willie Colon was up to his dreadlocks in a pile-up that brought in Ramon Foster to yank on dudes in the pile, and Max Starks, Mike Adams and Maurkice Pouncey joined in as well. Love to see the fellas rally around each other.
* LaMarr Woodley dropped a runner on one of those hybrid option/cross-buck handoffs where I couldn't tell if RG3 was reading a guy on the option or the handoff was pre-determined. I talked to Lawrence Timmons after the game and he said there was more option than anything else being run out on the field but I was having trouble seeing it.
* DeAngelo Hall had a prolific meltdown right in front of me after scuffling with Emmanuel Sanders. He literally brushed aside Sanders to go after the referee with an initially calm demeanor that steadily rose in antagonism like in one of the cable TV Repo shows. You know, one Repo man gets the vehicle while the other gets the owner talking. Then the threats start flying after the owner realizes talking is getting him nowhere. Meanwhile you know the entire time that the car is gone, man, and then so was Hall. The look in Hall's eyes while all this was going on reminded me of a linebacker with the Detroit Lions whose name eludes me at the moment, but his nickname was "Norman Bates," after the Anthony Perkins character in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller "Psycho."
* I too found it amusing when Brett Keisel picked his little boy up outside the locker room doors and carried him into the locker room with him as Mike Tomlin said, "Good thing that boy looks like his mama."