Wolfley's View From The Sideline

Steelers Radio Network sideline reporter Craig Wolfley shares his amusing notes, quotes and antecdotes from the Steelers' win over the Browns.

I have to say that it was a confounding, almost surreal, moment to be sure as the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive unit was introduced to the Heinz Field crowd before the Cleveland Browns game as Ben Roethlisberger stood on the sidelines in full battle regalia. Who’da thunk it?
* Shades of Johnny Unitas! There was Landry Jones getting the finishing touches of his pre-game on and sporting a pair of black high-top cleats just like my old hero. Although it’s a safe bet that the shoes Unitas wore were not made out of the same space-age, high fa-looting technology that Landry’s were. But if you’re trying to channel the mojo of the great one, then it starts with footwear. (Yeah I’m the kid who grew up believing that PF Flyers could really make you “run faster and jump higher.”)
* On just the third play of the game, you read that right, the third play of the game, “The Neighbor,” as Mike Tomlin calls center Cody Wallace, was just out “Checking the mail.” That would be code for Wallace getting involved in a dust-up with an opponent, this time the NT from the Brownies, 339-pound Danny Shelton. Shelton is a one-man cheeseball in backing up run offenses. Big ol' Dan obviously took umbrage with Cody driving him into the Heinz Field dirt and continuing to do so until “the echo of the whistle” died out. One could spend many an enjoyable afternoon sitting in the stands just watching Cody assault whomever. Old school with a capital O.

* Haha. I like the lead power with Ramon Foster leading up into the hole. Wash, rinse and repeat what I said about Cody for the “Big Ragu.”

* It only took eight plays from scrimmage, sandwiched around a Johnny Manziel swing and whiff throwing attempt, to bring a standing ovation from the Heinz field faithful after Jones got his foot mulched by Marcus Gilbert. I watched Landry ride off on the cart that had escorted Big Ben off the field a week earlier, and the week before that Le'Veon Bell. I’m starting to get suspicious of that cart.
* Ben’s third-and-15 pass to Antonio Brown on a crossing route over the short middle that AB turned into a 16-yard gain featured terrific hustle by both DeAngelo Williams and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Both men got down the field and threw blocks to let A.B. turn the corner at the second level and snag the first down. I’ve long wondered how Todd Haley would distribute the ball enough to keep all the ballers on offense happy. Maybe self-sacrifice and a willingness to enter into “the enthusiasm of the moment,” as Chuck Noll would say, is the key to ball distribution.

Steve McLendon continues to impress me with his play. Isaiah Crowell took a handoff and Steve out mano-y-manoed the Browns' excellent center, Alex Mack, by busting through the play side shoulder of Mack to get to Crowell and drop him for a 4-yard loss. I've watched Steve take rep after rep every pads-day practice on the South Side, going through the numbers for John Mitchell on taking on the center while stunted. Precise body lean, footwork, a two-handed hand punch that would stun a bull and then the ability to disengage, combined withathletic, competitive speed to bring down a RB for a loss. Outstanding to see Steve take the drill to live game play.

Arthur Moats got a great rush going, only to see the slippery Manziel skate underneath the flying linebacker. Art reached out and caught the face mask of Manziel, which then proceeded to turn into a re-enactment of the memorable scene from Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” And you thought only owls could do that.

* Body language is funny. It’s hard to figure out. Watching Haley and A.B. kibitz on the sidelines after Brown scored both the touchdown and the 2-point conversion in the second quarter left me feeling that somebody screwed something up on either the TD or the conversion attempt. But as the saying goes, all’s well that ends well.

* When Williams fumbled just before the half and Heath Miller recovered by going groundhog, the Turk up in the booth began to reminisce about a major screw-up of mine in Seattle years ago. I missed a blitz, Cliff Stoudt got sacked, lost ball, that sort of thing. Now there’s a mosh pit diving on the ball with a couple Seattle guys having a head start on me. In a frenzied state-of-mind, I began peeling players off the pile using some tactics that in today’s market would have cost me some serious moolah, not to mention taking me off more than a few Christmas card lists from the Northwest. When I got to the bottom of the pile with some unruly Seahawks trying to rip my helmet off and exact retribution, I found my teammate, LT Ted Peterson, at the bottom of the pile curled up around the football, I was so relieved I could’ve kissed Teddy. I didn’t. Just saying.

* The Browns got the ball on their own 1-yard line and Antwon Blake came in late off the sideline and lined up at linebacker depth as if there was no WR to his side. Andrew Hawkins was lined up on the short side, outside the numbers about 10-15 yards away from Blake on the side of the Steelers' bench. Antwon was oblivious to Hawkins setting out there all by his lonesome and Hawkins was trying to frantically act as if he was a tree in the field of play, while at the same time hoping that Manziel would notice that no cover corner was in sight. Manziel didn’t and sneaked the ball as the sidelines erupted with coaches and players screaming to get Blake’s attention.
* Big Ben hooked up with Martavis Bryant for a 32-yard touchdown. I heard a yell through my headphones as Martavis broke free from the coverage of Pierre Desir and before the ball was halfway there, somebody standing next to me was screaming touchdown. How about that? James Harrison “had it all the way.”

* Halftime brought out members of Super Bowl 40, to be cheered by the enthusiastic crowd. The “Bus,” newly minted Hall-of-Famer Jerome Bettis, drew roars, as did a clean-shaven Tommy Maddox to Da Beard, Brett Keisel, an overly skinny Aaron Smith, to a non-skinny “Big Snack,” Casey Hampton. They took their bows and love from the crowd. It was tremendous to see this core of Steelers Super Bowl legends get together and hang out once more.

* Speaking of Deebo, Jarvis Jones just did something I don’t think I remember Harrison ever doing. Jarvis ran over Browns LT Joe Thomas and got half a sack. I mean THE Joe Thomas, 8-Pro Bowls and counting Joe Thomas. Jarvis got under and up as Coach Noll would say, and Joe went down on his back like tall timber. I wouldn’t be surprised if James has trucked Thomas a time or two, but I don’t think James has gotten a sack off Joe.

* The neighbor, Wallace, was “just checking the mail” with Browns DE John Hughes in the third quarter. Hughes got all bent out of shape over something and Wallace had that bemused look about him that said, “What me?”

* Friendly fire happens more than you’d like to admit. I got Tunch so bad on a West Coast trip back in the day that he was honked at me for a week. He couldn’t sit down comfortably for a week, either, I speared him so bad. When Anthony Chickillo collided with Ross Cockrell on a kickoff-coverage tackle, Cockrell kept moving his neck around like Chickillo had given him a ballistic chiropractic neck adjustment. Don’t worry Chick, I’m sure Cockrell will forgive you -- eventually.

* Ryan Shazier showed some “ballistic” power of his own when he shook, then ran over, Duke Johnson for one of the six QB sacks on the day.

* That helped Confluence Financial, which is partnering with the Washington City Mission for operation “Renew Honor” to assist our military veterans in providing housing for our homeless heroes. For every Steelers sack, they donate a lot of money to build, house and feed veterans in a veteran’s only dormitory setting. So I hope the Steelers set an NFL sack record. I hope they sack more “goods” than a Giant Eagle bagboy on a Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Way to go Greg Wymard and Confluence Financial. Love you guys for desiring to make a difference in the lives of those who have put their lives on the line for us.

* Antonio Brown is a unique animal, I will give you that. He is also the best pound-for-pound WR in the NFL. He also could be the Nadia Comaneci of the NFL when he stuck the forward flip on his 56-yard touchdown dismount, and like Comaneci, scored a perfect “10.” Well, I guess it would be a six in NFL jargon. I can’t imagine the conditioning it would take to run 56-yards away from an NFL caliber CB and then having the leg power, ligament strength and graceful athletic ability to plant your legs and somersault in full equipment and stick the landing. It really gives new meaning to the Tomlin saying of “Stick your foot in the ground and cut.” Or vault. Incredible.

* That Will Gay is a friendly guy. After Manziel threw a pass to Taylor Gabriel, and Will Allen UNLOADED, and I do mean UNLOADED on him, Tomlin threw the challenge flag onto the field to challenge the spot. Will, with a smile on his face worthy of a politician “working the room,” as they say, picked the flag up and gave it to the referee. Nice gesture, Will.

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