* Former Steelers guard Kendall Simmons was at the game and participated in the "Terrible Towel Wave" before the kickoff. Kendall works with the Diabetes Association and speaks all over the country. Kendall serves as a great role model for others who suffer from diabetes. I remember being at training camp some years ago when – after not having seen Kendall all off-season and not knowing that he had been diagnosed with diabetes – I saw this young man standing in shorts along the sidelines. I didn't even recognize him. Kendall had lost 40-some pounds and looked nothing like the stud of a man who had been playing for the Steelers. For Kendall to come back and resume his career after losing all that weight and strength says so much about him. Kendall is a very strong-minded and determined individual and can't help but be an encouraging person to be around.
* Obviously this game was to be played in a never-ending, day-long drizzle and I quickly found out that water-resistant clothing is not the same as waterproof clothing. Nope …
* On the very first play, Detroit Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew caught a 5-yard pass and was tackled instantly. He didn't jump up immediately after the play was over, and as he rolled onto his knees and hands he pounded the Heinz Field turf in frustration, which in my mind meant something was hurt. Brandon eventually got up, gingerly, made his way to the sideline and later returned to game action. Getting hurt on the first play is always a downer. I've had my share of first-play-something-pops and its painful the rest of the way. So while I was watching Brandon make his way to the sideline, it poignantly reminded me of how much I love this game, and how very happy I am that I never have to take a hit like that or can rest in the knowledge that a paper cut is a much more likely injury these days than blown-out ligaments.
* Ben Roethlisberger is no-huddling so much on the first series and keeping such a fast pace going that the Lions had to roll eight guys deep into their rotation because "the big shaggies" up front were sucking wind after four or so snaps. I remember the rules of no-huddle for a fat guy. Blast away, quickly get to your feet at the line of scrimmage, taking big, deep, relaxing breaths to slow your breathing down so you can hear your quarterback's voice. I have been in such oxygen debt that I couldn't hear the play called because I was breathing so hard that I sounded like a rhinoceros with asthma, according to Mike Webster.
* I'm not saying, I'm just observing. My training camp phenom, otherwise known as former Mountaineer linebacker Terrence Garvin, just might have missed an assignment on the Antonio Brown punt return. Terrence looked glum while Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith was moving his jaws rapidly and ferociously, and standing rather close to him.
* On a first-quarter Lions running play, Cameron Heyward, playing in the sub-package the Steelers refer to as "Quarters," because they have three safeties on the field, split a double-team and swallowed, then spit out Reggie Bush like Jonah and the Whale.
Cam has really come on strong in the last few weeks and seemingly has an unending motor. He's really starting to play with violence, and people tend to eat dirt when he's around, which is as it should be.
* MIKE T MIKED UP: Second-quarter action and Megatron has only one catch. Matt Stafford throws to the north end zone corner and Ike Taylor is in position as the pass falls incomplete. Mike Tomlin walks out on the field and gives a thumbs up to Ike yelling "Ike T, Ike T!" letting Ike know what he thinks of the play.
* Lawrence Timmons scooped up a Reggie Bush fumble and took off down the sideline in front of me, with Stafford in hot pursuit. Immediately, Tunch Ilkin's note from his Lions film study ("Stafford looks goofy running") came to mind. Hmmm, Tunch might want to re-think his notes because Stafford didn't look too goofy catching LT from behind.
* Detroit's Rashean Mathis, a renowned Steelers killer of years gone by, just dropped an easy Rothelisberger pick. Mathis, while playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, had six picks against Steelers quarterbacks, three of which were returned for touchdowns. Even the great Hines Ward "tipped his hat and gave it to him" when he said that Mathis was the only corner he feared.
* Speaking of Hines, Tunch and I just talked to him on our daily radio show not too long ago. Hines once took a cruise and brought his own life raft after viewing the movie "Titanic." For the upcoming Steelers cruise in March, and after watching the movie "Captain Phillips," starring Tom Hanks, about the Somali pirates capturing a ship, Hines said he's going to bring a baseball bat.
I don't think the Somali pirates operate in the Caribbean, Hines.
* There's that Heyward guy again. Cam smelled out a Detroit screen and slammed 312-pound Lions guard Rob Sims on his back and stood over him for awhile to make sure Sims knew who did it and who was the Alpha Male of the moment.
* TUNCH'S CRYSTAL BALL MOMENT: Late in the second quarter, Taylor can't squeeze the Charmin on a pass play and drops the ball. The Turk up in the booth remarks that when you are playing against a high-octane offense like the Lions, you have to make those plays or they'll come back to haunt you. He was right, and they did, as the Lions scored a few plays later. Ike was in a world of hurt at this point covering Megatron, but I have to tell you he wasn't hanging his head or backing down when he came to the sideline.
* EXCUSE ME BUTT: Cortez Allen is covering Lions receiver Kris Durham on a go route. Cortez is one of the better man-cover corners transitioning to playing the ball, maybe the best on the Steelers' roster. Cortez tracks the ball and uses his keester to know where Durham is as he widens and Durham starts to play the throw. With impeccable timing, Cortez makes a play on the ball to knock it down. It looked like he was playing Tai Chi Chuan "Push Hands" sparring with his butt, er, sort of.
* HUH? Jerricho Cotchery has been on a tear for the last month and change. On a pass in the third quarter, J-Co, as his teammates call him, caught a ball and headed up the sideline on the Steelers' side in search of a first down. Lions safety Louis Delmas came screaming up and he and Cotchery had a severe collision at the first-down marker, right in front of Tomlin. Delmas went down; J-Co slowed to a jog out of bounds. Delmas sprung to his feet and balled his fists while looking to the sky. He screamed like the alien in the movie "Predator" after racking up the kill shot, right in front of Mike T and a bunch of players. Tomlin just laughed. I had to laugh, too, because apparently getting trucked by an opposing player on non-friendly sidelines, right in front of the opposing head coach, is something to celebrate these days.
* After the ill-fated fake field goal was thwarted by Steve McClendon, and the fumble recovery by Ryan Clark, Danny Smith's sideline demeanor sure changed because he was a fist-bumping maniac. Danny's attitude and enthusiasm is so infectious. If you could bottle it as an energy drink, you could make millions.
* Jonathan Dwyer seems to be getting out of the doghouse. Check that. Tomlin says he doesn't have a doghouse, but if he did it would look an awful lot like Dwyer. After Jonathan ran for a first down and had another snap on the field, Dwyer came to the sideline and Tomlin greeted him with "Good job, Johnny."
I get what Tomlin is trying to say. If you have a doghouse, players tend to view themselves as in a state of perpetual disdain. Mike is after results, results that speak of production, and if you produce you get out of the doghouse that you really aren't in … or something like that.
* On one of the two Renegade videos the Steelers burnt through on Sunday, I happened to be watching the Lions huddle while the Jumbotron rocked the house. All concerned in the huddle resolutely fixed their attention on anything but the video. Lions center Dom Raiola eventually sneaked a peek at the action on the board, but most in the huddle refused to acknowledge it.
* After Will Allen intercepted Stafford, he came by me on the sideline, and I was so close I got to look deep into the intense, searing glare of his eyes. They reminded me of what I think the eyes of a Samurai (of whom I've studied for enjoyment) centuries ago must have looked like. Will displayed the essence of Zanshin, the word Samurai used to describe the state of mind, mental alertness and intensity of the Samurai, post combat.
* Think Tom Cruise in "The Last Samurai," after he was jumped by a half-dozen bad guys and emerged victorious, kneeling on the ground, retracing the battle in his head. I know many reading this may believe me to be overly dramatic, (I probably am) and I certainly am not comparing Will's gaming to our brave Armed Forces men and women and what they suffer through, but it's moments like those, when you accomplish the improbable and sit in the aftermath, that you truly appreciate what just happened. Those are the things I miss from my playing days.