Just My Opinion ...

Jim Wexell shares his notes, quotes and anecdotes from the Steelers' 20-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who was left holding his goggles in anticipation of a champagne blowout last night in the Steelers' locker room:

* Didn't they just clinch a play-in game or something like it?

* I'll start with the last guy I saw at the stadium Sunday night, Dick LeBeau, the guy who's watched a town go from loving him to hating him and I'm guessing is now coming back to loving him -- for the time being -- after his defense held the Kansas City Chiefs out of the end zone. I says to him, I says, "Hey, Dick, what's with you allowing the Chiefs four field goals?" He had to smile. "You sound like a true writer, Jim," he said.

* I guess you're never too old to be affected by the shifting emotions of the general public, but Dick's certainly not as affable with the media as he used to be, and I can't blame him.

* His buddy Bill Priatko told me the Steelers are undefeated when LeBeau gives his "Twas The Night ..." reading the night before a game. And this one continued the streak.

* I love when someone asks James Harrison if the game has passed his defensive coordinator by. No one did last night. They concentrated on questions about whether this was 2008 or 2010 all over again.

* Harrison became a bit irritated with those. I did ask him if he was being held a lot by the Chiefs. "The holdin' was feelin' like the old days, that's for sure," he said.

* I watched the final two minutes from the sideline, and watched Harrison as he walked off the field to an uproarious ovation and down the steps past a row of screaming and reaching fans. The guy who's become a kinder, gentler and more appreciative veteran both on and off the field refused to crack a smile. He even pushed a bunch of hands out of the way so he could give one of his gloves to a kid.

* All I could think was God bless James Harrison.

* And that he's officially edged his way past Greg Lloyd and Joey Porter in my book as the franchise's greatest 3-4 outside linebacker.

* Hey, give me a break, it takes some of us sportswriters a long time to forget about those guys we watched when we first broke into the business.

* I'll even put Harrison on my all-time Steelers defense as one of the three linebackers, along with Lambert and Ham.

* LeBeau's tactics did have Jason Worilds smiling after the game, but in an ironic sort of way. Gun shy of media most of his career, Worilds rarely, if ever, says anything out of the realm of sports cliches. He's smart that way. But when I asked him if he appreciated being allowed to rush the passer consistently in this game, he smiled, quickly, and then wiped it off his face. I said, "Was that a smile?" And he did it again. And then again. He didn't say anything. He didn't have to.

* Worilds will be worth a multi-year contract that averages less than his franchise-tag money this year but will be more than what his statistics say he's worth. Those 265-pound outside linebackers that play defensive end all day against nickel offenses are hard to find.

* Oh, you could find him around Alex Smith yesterday, but that's not what I meant.

* I know, I complained long and hard about the Steelers' nickel defense earlier this year, but, wow, it held the great Jamaal Charles to 29 yards rushing. Stephon Tuitt has completed the rebuilding of the defensive line rather nicely, wouldn't you say?

* I voted for Tuitt as the team's Rookie of the Year. Changed my vote from Martavis Bryant for several reasons: 1.) As I gave our captain, Mark Kaboly, Bryant's name, I said I should actually be voting for Tuitt; 2.) I walked out to practice and watched Bryant cut short a route over the middle and the ball was intercepted; 3.) I thought of the hot reads he had blown this season, some at critical points; 4.) Bryant was inactive for six games and started only two; 5.) Tuitt will start his fourth consecutive game Sunday night against the Bengals at a position which the great Aaron Smith couldn't start as a rookie; 6.) Tuitt works so hard in practice and has the most demanding assistant coach on the team lording over him.

* After Tuitt stood up a double team and came off it to hustle downfield to force a fumble in the biggest play of the game, DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket scrolled that the fumble was caused by A.Smith. "I take that as an honor," Tuitt said later. He paused a second and added, "I can say nothing else to that."

* Tuitt's another in a long line of classy kids out of Notre Dame. I was never a fan of the team, so I have no hidden agenda here, but I have to give that school props for sending this caliber of young man into the locker room time after time.

* But here's what Cam Heyward said when asked about Tuitt's hustle: "We've been talking about that since camp. We had to work some kinks from Notre Dame out when he got here, we got that out and Tuitt's just gotten better week in and week out. I see the way he takes notes. I see how he wants to be better. He's showing it on the field now."

* And here's what Heyward said about the way the Steelers are coming together as a team right now: "We truly care about each other. We want to see everybody succeed on this team. There's not jealousy. There's not envy. These guys really care about just being selfless. That starts from the top with the Rooneys, our coaches, Coach LeBeau -- selfless man he is. We just want to show that on the field as well."

* Heyward has become the team's most eloquent spokesman and is the next man up after The Four Warhorses Of The Apocalypse leave.

* I didn't want to leave the Rookie of the Year conversation just yet, because I truly admire what Bryant has done this season. That 94-yard touchdown was athletic genius. And he's the guy the Steelers used Sunday to run deep on each side to throw some legitimate fear into both cornerbacks. Let's just say that each unit has a tremendous rookie.

* Ben Roethlisberger made the most aesthetic play of the game when he dropped that 44-yard bomb right into Bryant's hands like he was throwing it into a garbage can from 50 yards away. That's the first -- and probably last -- time I give any credit to this goofy training-camp drill.

* Special mention to two guys: Marcus Gilbert fought through an ankle injury and a quasi-benching to get back on the field and he came up big against monster pass- rusher Justin Houston; and Antwon Blake at the last instant broke up what should've been the first touchdown pass of the season to a Kansas City wide receiver. That touchdown would've given the Chiefs a 10-3 lead. Instead it was a surmountable 6-3 lead.

* Let's finish with the first guy I saw in the Steelers' locker room after the game, Troy Polamalu. I says, "Hey, Troy, I saw Antonio Brown took your spot in victory formation. He looked pretty good, too. You might get Wally Pipped on this." Troy laughed, but then he feigned seriousness: "Yeah, just wait until we fumble and he has to make a tackle. You'll see then."

* Gotta love going down the homestretch and into the playoffs with The Four Warhorses.


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