I was high above the First Energy "Factory of Sadness" Field looking out of the radio booth about an hour before kickoff to Steelers-Browns.
When you lean forward and look east, you can see Lake Erie and the mighty waves crashing over the break wall. It's an awesome sight, and the pounding of the wind-driven surf foaming white, as it breaks over the wall, is something I look forward to each time we come to Cleveland. The elements were going to play a role in the game, and watching it unfold along the sea wall was exhilarating.
* Cam Heyward came out to the field for pre-warm-up warm-ups, if you're following me here, wearing short sleeves and a t-shirt of some kind. I loved it. Chuck Noll advocated that we "Get into the spirit of the thing." And while he wasn't necessarily saying you should wear short sleeves and a t-shirt, he truly believed that embracing the weather, however nasty, was an essential element to success.
* With the pre-game tension building, somewhere along the way to kickoff I believe, and the crowd becoming more boisterous, the Browns unrolled a giant banner in the end-zone seating area, only to discover the banner was upside down. You couldn't have botched that any more if you had tried.
* I watched from the sidelines as Ben Roethlisberger threw a reverse roll-out pass to Will Johnson. The elder statesman of the offensive line, Ramon Foster, heavily taped ankle and all, was sealing on the front side. Ramon looked as if he couldn't get up on the toes of his injured ankle, and on a cold day like this he had to be feeling some serious pain. I've played with an ankle like that and it feels – when you run – like you're crunching glass inside your ankle. Ramon at times moved like he was playing hopscotch, to counter the instability. A high ankle sprain on a cold day in Cleveland is tough duty. Ramon Foster is one tough guy.
* Marcus Gilbert is starting to hobble on his injured and heavily taped ankle. Between Foster and his ankle and Gilbert and his, the two couldn't win a three-legged race at a family picnic.
* Go figure. On the extremely warm, heated bench where the offensive line headed after the first drive netted a field goal, four of the five hogs all cuddled up in capes to keep warm. The guy not wearing his was Florida's Gilbert.
* Back in the day, when the heated benches first appeared in the NFL, Coach Noll wasn't a fan. He believed they created lethargy. Chuck wanted us eager to get back on the field.
* In the first quarter, Cleveland QB Jason Campbell threw a bubble screen to Josh Gordon, and Jarvis Jones read it perfectly. He had to. Browns all-world tackle Joe Thomas was on a search and destroy mission to block the first guy on the scene. Jarvis beat Joe to the spot, got his breakdown on while lowering his hips, and made a nice play on Gordon to snuff the screen.
Read, reaction and making the play are starting to come to Jarvis. A month ago he would've been slow on the read, late on the reaction, and probably would've tried to fight his way past Joe Thomas. But Thomas only would've driven him into the turf. This is progress, folks.
* The Steelers were backed up on their own four-yard line, right by the "Dawg Pound." Since the re-emergence of the Browns, the Dawg Pound has more often resembled the "Westminster Kennel Club," genteel and high fa-looting. But today they seem re-born as a hooligan institution. There's nastiness to their edge again.
* Whoops. Alex Mack, the Browns' fine center, just, in the words of Bill Hillgrove, "had a check-swing" on a shotgun snap. Mack started to snap the ball and then tried to stop himself, resulting in an awkward looking snap that fluttered in the cold wind and was penalized.
* THAT HAD TO HURT: Kelvin Beachum has been getting better every week. And nastier, too. On this play on the backside, he picked up linebacker Tank Carder on a pass rush. As Carder attempted to cross Kelvin's face to the inside and disengage from the block, Kelvin threw him down like he was smashing a pumpkin to the ground. Carder ended up double-bouncing his facemask on the ground.
Now gore him, Kelvin.
* Ah, sorry about that.
* It's the second quarter and a wide-open Le'Veon Bell just dropped an easy pass. A frustrated Mike Tomlin took several steps up, and back, on the sidelines before composing himself and sighing heavily. It's hard to beat Mike T's leadership qualities. He's always in control of himself, and usually emotes precisely what the situation dictates.
* Well, now, Tomlin's "emoting" a little bit more after challenging Jonathan Dwyer's fourth-down spot by the officials.
When the ref came back with a thumb's down verdict on the challenge, I was totally surprised. It looked from groundhog level like Dwyer easily had made the first-down stick.
* California DREAMING; A very tranquil David DeCastro sits on the heated bench with a stocking cap, or a Tuque (in Canuckian, if you're Sean Suisham), on his head and a big heavy cape cocooned about him in the third quarter. He was in-between mulching guys on the field at the time.
* Tunch Ilkin used to say to me back in the day, while we were enduring similar circumstances and sitting on a heated bench, "I'm in my happy place."
* Beer cans hit the field after Billy Cundiff missed a field goal. It brought to mind a game I saw on TV a few years back. Cincinnati had some over-enthusiastic fans testing their beer-can throwing strength. Cincy coach Sam Wyche grabbed the microphone and reprimanded the mob. He finished by saying, "We're not Cleveland!"
* Will Gay just flashed for a pick-six and one of the chain-gang guys dropped the first-down marker disgustedly and wiped his hands together as if to say, "I'm done with this."
He looked up at me, noticing I was noticing him, and said, "I wonder if I can get out of the parking lot quick."
* One has to grudgingly respect the die-hard Browns fan. Fourth quarter, less than three minutes left and the Steelers have the ball and are running clock. You couldn't help but chuckle as the few remaining Browns fans not dressed as stadium seats take up the chant, "DEE-fense, DEE-fense!"