View From Sideline

Craig Wolfley returned from JerryWorld and has this fresh set of notes from the Steelers' overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

JerryWorld is one big shindig of an operation by anyone's count. When we drove in on the buses from the hotel, I was amazed at the two-lane tunnel/road that circled the inside of the stadium. This is like the Disney World of NFL stadiums. The pre-game atmosphere on the field was almost surreal, with the music blaring over the world's loudest stadium system, the go-go dancers up in their perches, the mascot on his trike-bike leading cheers and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (complete with their own highlight film) taking turns at drawing the attention away from the ta-doings on the field. This is my beef: It's like the game was part of the show rather than being the show.

* I glued my eyes to David DeCastro on the first snap of the game. I talked briefly with him at the pre-game meal at the hotel and he was as cool as a cucumber. Surely the young man must be nervous, but you wouldn't know it by talking to him. The Cowboys surprisingly came out in a 4-3 stack defense rather than the 3-4 they had been showing. The ball was handed to Jonathan Dwyer to the left side of the line. DeCastro had a seal block on the backside with Maurkice Pouncey on the off-set NT Sean Lissemore. David took great steps, bumped Maurkice off onto LB Alex Albright, who got mulched by Pouncey, and drove Lissemore back. Easy as pie, Jonathan gained 6-yards. Whoa…

* OK, I know everything is big in Texas, and in the "Death Star," as the locals call Cowboys Stadium, things are generally over the top (i.e. the cheerleaders have their own bench area). But when the ref went under the hood for a replay, the security people quickly unrolled crime scene tape from the replay area to the field, hustling people out of the way so that the ref could walk down in between unencumbered as if hordes of people were milling around waiting to get into an after-hours New York City nightclub. The only thing missing was Robin Leach and a red carpet. Puh-lease…

* Aha, I see DeCastro is quickly entering into what Chuck Noll used to call the "Spirit of the thing," meaning competing hard. In the first quarter, after David lost his feet on a pass rush with an unidentified Cowboy, he leg-whipped the guy, though not viciously. As they used to say back in the day, "If you ain't cheating, you ain't competing!"

* Still in the first quarter with the Cowboys driving, Brett Keisel made a great defensive charge by whipping Cowboys guard Nate Livings to get a hand on DeMarco Murray, slowing him so that the tomahawk supplied by James Harrison knocked the ball loose. Keisel stayed alive on the ground after losing his grip on Murray, and he recovered the ball by not staying on the ground. That's just the type of big play that's been missing from the Steelers defense as of late.

* With the Steelers driving in the second quarter, Ben Roethlisberger attempted to hand the ball to Dwyer. Either Dwyer ran to the wrong hole or Ben was slow coming to the handoff point. Ben threw it away. After the play Ben turned to Jonathan and said something to him and Jonathan with his hands palms out down by his side looking exasperated, yelled something back. That's what you call not being on the same page.

* Love that Gi-Norma-Tron instant replay board hanging over the field. The high def quality is so good during replays that after Miles Austin dove for an incomplete pass over the middle you could see him looking at his forearm and all the skin he had lost while sliding across the field turf. That's gonna hurt in the morning.

* In the third quarter, after the Dez Bryant TD, rookie TE David Paulson scooped up the squib kick. As Paulson was making his way East to West across the field, Leonard Pope gave a veterans perspective on the matter by coming alongside and pushing Paulson forward as if to say get North-South young man!

* Same quarter and Cowboys DE Marcus Spears rammed to the inside and got an inside uppercut on DeCastro. David has to move his feet and flatten Spears out. Ben rolls to his left, which takes him right into the path of Spears for a sack. David lost his edge while attempting to flatten Spears's charge to the inside and by not putting a hand on Spears's hip, move his own hips back, and re-gain the leverage. Still, it wasn't a blow-by sack, just an unfortunate roll-the-wrong-way sack.

* That's gonna leave a mark. Steelers team physician Doc Yates (my doc when I played) got trucked in the fourth quarter by a flying Jason Witten, who got launched by Lawrence Timmons into the sidelines where Doc apparently couldn't get out of the way. Guess he's not as quick as he used to be. Rule of thumb, Doc: Always look for the camera guys on the sidelines. They're always the slowest to respond to traffic because they're busy snapping the shots. Get behind them and you've got yourself a human cushion. Poor guy, I had to go over and give him a hug.

* Antonio Brown motored up the far sideline on a fourth quarter punt return as I watched from behind the bench. All I could see was Brown going up field and all of the coaches on the sideline running parallel with hands in the air signaling TD. Suddenly he fumbled and it looked like someone stuck a bloody leg of lamb into the Piranha tank and it was feeding time at the Aquarium.

* After Keenan Lewis boned his hip while defending a pass in the end zone, he came out for a few plays. Keenan tried to cowboy-up and give it a go, and after tentatively running up and down the sidelines, he attempted to return the field. Mike Tomlin called him back and made him go to the bench. It's a difficult decision for a player as well as the coach. You expect to play hurt; it's part of who you are and the other men who are counting on you. You understand this, but sometimes the injury prevents you from being able to do what you need to do and you hurt the group effort because you're unable to get the job done. Good call by Mike T. to take it out of the player's hands.

* Antonio Brown is a big-play guy who has had a lot of success in a short period of time. But he still has growing pains to endure, as they came up in the latter part of the game. After fumbling the punt, he dropped an out cut at the first-down marker, let a punt roll an extra 17 yards, and ran out of bounds when the Steelers were trying to run time off the clock. It all tells me one thing: The young man was still thinking about the fumble. That's part of growing up in the NFL, which is part of every man's journey. Things go well, then you face adversity, then things go well etc. It isn't as easy or as glamorous as it looks, folks.

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