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The Steelers' loss to the Chiefs through the eyes of a sideline reporter

Craig Wolfley with an up-close report from the sidelines of the Steelers' loss in Kansas City.

Every stadium has its own unique characteristics that a home team may try to exploit, be it on the field, or off the field.

For instance in old Mile High Stadium in Denver, there were many references posted around as to how far above sea level you were to remind you, as the visiting team, that the air was much thinner here than elsewhere.

Or down in Phoenix before the “Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven” Stadium was built and we used to play outdoors in the September heat, Cardinals team officials deemed it necessary to hang a big ol' temperature gauge right behind our bench to remind us how far above 100 degrees Fahrenheit we were cooking in.

So I wasn’t really surprised walking into the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room at Arrowhead Stadium and seeing the huge mural painted on the tunnel wall outside the locker room. In giant numbers and letters it informed you that the Chiefs fans had set the NFL record for the loudest stadium noise ever recorded at 142.2, surpassing the Seahawks a couple years ago. At 140 decibels, it's equivalent to standing about 100 feet from a jet engine. I’d say that was loud.

* During the pregame festivities, Chiefs mascot Warpaint & Susie rode around the field. Susie is a former Chiefs cheerleader and champion equestrian who sits atop Warpaint, the pinto, and rides across the field after Chiefs scores. Their trainer might want to check Warpaint's cleats though, because Warpaint almost fell down after slipping on a hard turn. I’d recommend the three-quarter-inch cleats over the half-inch. Extra gription, you understand.
 
* The Steelers won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Good stuff I thought, get Landry Jones out on the field right away and let the butterflies out. I remember waiting on the sideline my first year as a starter and wanting badly to get on the field right away so that I could get rid of the fluttering in my stomach. Nothing like a P-10 or P-11 straight fullback plunge to set the tone.

* A P-10 was the equivalent of a 5-yard human crash test dummy sprint into a wall. By the way, Alejandro Villanueva, Landry and I share a little history. I made my first regular season start against the Kansas City Chiefs, too, although at Three Rivers Stadium, way back in 1981. Yes, I am old.

* In the first quarter, as the Steelers threw a pass, I was naturally drawn to watching “Big Al." He was matched up against a pretty formidable guy in Chiefs DE Allen Bailey, a serious carnivore who plays with a low pad level and had already racked up four sacks. Bailey got top-heavy and extended. Alejandro trapped, or knocked down Bailey's hands, which left Bailey plowing up some of the Arrowhead stadium grass with his facemask. Big Al then “put some jelly” on him, as we used to say back in the day when you were able to apply the finishing blow, or “coup de gras,” on a downed player. Would you expect anything less from a Ranger and Bronze Star Medal award winner?

* Gee, it only took the “Beloved Agitator,” Cody Wallace, approximately seven minutes to honk off not one but two Chiefs in one play. Cody is obviously upping his game. The Chiefs' Tamba Hali and Bailey both seemed to have a beef with Wallace, who sports the unusual duality of having the nice guy demeanor of a Fred Rogers in between whistles, but snaps the ball and attacks with the ferocity of an ancient Viking “Beserker.” Love watching this dude go about his work.

Bud Dupree has been making big strides ever since he got to punching some people in training camp. When the Chiefs ran a sweep to his side, Bud trashed Chiefs TE Travis Kelce like it was re-cycling day in the 'Burgh. Kelce tried to hook Dupree, who was having none of it as he “set the edge” on Chiefs RB Charcandrick West and tossed him for a 4-yard loss.

* There was a “Big Foot” sighting at Arrowhead when West released from the backfield and Dan McCullers dropped into fire-zone pass coverage. Dan ran at West who, either couldn’t see the ball or the ball was way off target. When you have a 6-7, 352-pound giant running full speed right at you, and you happen to be 5-10, 205 pounds, well, I imagine your eyes might not be on the ball.

* It’s rumored that National Geographic is going to show up in Kansas City this week.

* Chiefs TE James O’Shaughnessy looked like a tree on Arbor Day because he got planted. O’Shaughnessy took a pass on the sideline, made a Steeler or two miss, only to get freight-trained by a diesel named Cameron Heyward. I think some ancestral O’Shaughnessys from Cork County might have felt that hit in their bones.

* Alex Smith, because of his two-second snap-throw release, was as elusive as a UFO sighting as he looked downfield just before the half. But Arthur Moats rushed hard off the edge, making Smith tuck the ball and step up into the pocket and look for a soft landing somewhere. Heyward obliged Smith, except for the soft landing part. The sack pushed the Chiefs out of field-goal range as the 54-yard attempt failed.

* Joey Porter’s old Miami Dolphins teammate Sean Smith made a nice play on a “now” pass to Antonio Brown at the line of scrimmage. Smith tackled Brown for a loss, then proceeded to get to his feet and do a fine “das boot” imitation of Joey’s old signature celebration. Smith then looked at the Steelers sidelines. I’m assuming he was looking for Joey.

* Smith may not be Colin Kaepernick fast, but he’s considerably faster than Dan Marino or Joe Montana from my era. When the Chiefs' QB rolled out in the third quarter toward the Steelers' sideline, I happened to be about 12-15 yards away when Ryan Shazier closed on Smith from his inside linebacker position like an eagle swooping in on a sparrow. You really can’t appreciate Shazier’s closing speed unless you’re at groundhog level and see him up close. Reminded me of an old song from many years ago called “Hot Rod Lincoln.” It was sung by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, describing a drag race between two vehicles with the verse “telephone poles looked like a picket fence.” Yep, Ryan is that fast.

* Speaking of all things fast and furious. Lawrence Timmons busted through on a fire-X cross dog on an inside rush, and on his heels of course was Shazier. They divided the sack between them, but that was one of the quickest, cleanest fire-X’s I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve been on the wrong side of a fire-X and I’m here to tell you that it’s no easy feat stopping that rush.

* When Le'Veon Bell raced around left end on his way to picking up 42 yards, I could see Big Al out front trying to get a block. Serious effort by Al, but if he had thrown a cross-body block on a couple of closing Chiefs, it would have been like a log rolling down the hill. You have to appreciate the effort to get that far down the field by the big shaggy.

* It’s been said that discretion is the better part of valor, and it would seem so on a Dri Archer kickoff return after the Chiefs had gone up 23-13. Upback Jordan Todman signaled Dri to take a knee after the Chiefs' kicker had drilled the ball nine yards deep into the end zone. Big Ben, watching from the sideline, put his hands up as if to say, “take a knee Dri” as well. Dri didn’t.

* Hali got the edge on Big Al with a sack/strip of the ball to close out any chance of the Steelers getting a win. I saw the look of disappointment on Al’s face. I know it myself from personal experience. It’s nothing that Mike Munchak hasn’t experienced, Tunch Ilkin either. Offensive linemen are a special breed with a special burden. Getting recognized is as popular as a visit to the dentist’s office. If there’s a more thankless job in the NFL, I don’t know it. The fraternity of offensive linemen (FOOL for short) has a short list of guys that have never experienced something of this nature. And it’s only because they haven’t played enough. It’s hard to register what just happened when you experience a sack/strip. And sometimes the timing of it makes it so final.


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