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Craig Wolfley reports from sideline in Seattle on Steelers' most recent game

The noise and the Seahawks combined to do in the Steelers, according to this report from Steelers Radio sideline reporter Craig Wolfley.

This had to be the loudest pre-game ever. Seriously. I don’t know what the decibel level was but certainly the presence of monumental music speakers -- woofers, tweeters or whatever they're known by these days -- positioned at each end of CenturyLink Stadium added to the general feeling of chaos. I could feel the vibration of the music through my feet both on the field and while I sat on the Pittsburgh Steelers' bench as seemingly everything vibrated to the cadence of the music.

* Oh, yes, there was a storm arising, not by the close-at-hand ocean, but by land in the form of the much anticipated Seahawks 12th man, which took the form of Spencer Haywood, former NBA and SuperSonics great. Haywood raised the 12th man flag with great ceremony and roar from the crowd.
 
* Just prior to the 12th Man ceremony I visited for a bit with former Steelers OG Brenden Stai. Drafted in the 3rd round out of Nebraska in 1995, Brenden played eight years, five of them with the Steelers. Brenden was in Seattle with his son, and while attending to business interests in the area did what any righteous Steelers fan would do and took his kids to a game to "set them right" early on in life.

* As the stadium filled up with music, noise, electricity and excitement, it was time for the coin toss. The Steelers called “Tails,” but again failed to issue the entire tails credo, which is “tails never fails.” Works like a charm when called correctly. Whomever called it for the Steelers needs to learn from Tunch Ilkin. Back in 1989 I stood on the sideline with then defensive coordinator Rod Rust at Pro Player Park before our game with the Dolphins. Tunch had been on a winning streak of late, winning every coin toss on the road. Rod and I laughed together as Tunch’s seemingly invincible win streak grew that day in Miami. When Tunch came to the sideline, he offered the key to winning the coin toss to Rod and me: “Tails never fails. Gotta say the whole thing.”

* When Seattle kicker Steve Hauschka booted the opening kickoff, it had to be the loudest roar I’ve heard at a game since 2005, when the Steelers played the Indy Colts at the old RCA Dome with its piped-in sound. I remember looking up as I walked along the sidelines and seeing some sort of microphone/speaker confab positioned every 10 yards. Suspiciously enough, when the Steelers went back to the RCA Dome a couple months later for the playoffs, they were nowhere to be found. One probably could have written an “X-Files” storyline around that game.
 
* Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Lev Bell -- scratch that -- I mean, DeAngelo Williams put on his best Lev Bell imitation yet when he played hopscotch on the way to a 5-yard gain in the first quarter. DeAngelo patiently waited while moving his feet very much like Bell, playing peek-a-boo with the linebackers, getting them to commit to a run-fit, waiting for the O-line's second surge and then darting into a gap. Williams is a great teammate, very unselfish, and obviously still growing as an NFL-caliber RB. He is well-respected by his peers in the locker room. There’s a lot to like about the guy.

* After a 16-yard Russell Wilson-to-Doug Baldwin TD pass in the second quarter, and extra point, I saw Seattle RG JR Sweezy come over and start bending the ear of the Ref after getting himself flagged for unnecessary roughness two plays earlier. He was cited for diving on the pile, or as we used to say, “sherriffing the pile.” That’s when one your guys is churning away in a rugby-like mass of bodies as unfriendlies scream in to take a shot at your guy. You naturally have to launch to protect your brother’s best interests. Personally I think it should be called “necessary roughness” because you must protect your own.

* Teachable moments are everywhere, and if you’re a good coach you use that moment to imprint a lesson. Such was the case when Martavis Bryant didn’t connect with Ben Roethlisberger on a go-route in the second quarter. With Deshawn Shead in trail, Martavis went up for the ball not as forcefully or strongly as you would like. When Martavis got to the sideline, Todd Haley astutely pointed out various technical points of elevating, high-pointing and drawing attention to pass interference to a young and potentially lethal WR. When Martavis puts it all together, it’s going to be fun to watch. Shoot, it’s fun now.

* I didn’t see the hit but I saw the aftermath. Ryan Shazier must have had a serious collision with somebody. He arose unsteadily to his feet after Tyler Lockett returned the kickoff 16 yards in the second quarter. The Steelers' medical team looked like a NASCAR pit crew in immediately getting to Shazier before he got to the sideline. Ryan was whisked to the locker room as Nogginology Protocol requires.

* Watching Wilson fire a 12-yarder to WR Jermaine Kearse for a TD caused me to hold my breath momentarily as Mike Mitchell closed hard on the post route. Wilson fired the ball into a small window to just beat the fast-closing human projectile. Mitchell has been playing some very physical football, and doing so without drawing flags or fines. Mike banged Kearse hard, driving him back as they came together in serious impact. Though his see-do reactionary opportunity was very small, Mitchell managed to pull off the hit without involving the head. Let’s be honest though, when you have to do that, the opponent’s touchdown catch percentage rises a great deal.

* Williams' 6-yard touchdown run in the second quarter showcased four-wheel drive and hamhock power when “The Big Ragu” double-underhooked a Seattle defender and literally, brutally and powerfully moved him from "Point A to Point B against his will,” as the legendary Pitt O-line coach Joe Moore once uttered. Ramon Foster has put some serious footage on tape and at times resembles a one-man moving company, complete with spiking a body, not a ball, but a body, in the end zone. Now that’s something you don’t see every day!
 
* Markus Wheaton was having himself one serious coming-out party. Antonio Brown and Bryant were looking at a lot of double-team action, which opened up the middle of the field. And Markus was the man for the job. But Wheaton is also one of those guys who’s not afraid to stick his grille in someone’s face to get a block. When Williams took a short pass and gained 17 on second-and-12, much of it was due to Wheaton's blocking. Even in the midst of what would turn into a personal record performance, Wheaton still was in there getting his “grind” on. That’s well-rounded professionalism.

* After a delay-of-game in the third quarter moved the Steelers back from the Seattle 1-yard line to the 6-yard line, Big Ben came over to the sideline to talk about what had just happened. Body language and facial expressions at this time tell a tale, but you can’t be sure exactly what's transpiring. But one thing I can tell you from years of doing this as both player and broadcaster is that whatever the look and the situation, Mike Tomlin was OK with it, and under whatever circumstances that confronted Ben on the fourth-and-1, taking the penalty and kicking a FG was preferable to a timeout. When nobody was within five yards of Coach Noll back in the day, you knew he was not OK with it nor did he like either your choice or your representation of the circumstances you were facing.
 
* On second-and-9 on the first play of the fourth quarter, Ross Cockrell looked as if he was going to pull off another big play. A quick “now” pass from Wilson to Kearse with Cockrell in off position at first appeared to go nowhere. Ross, after initially missing the ball carrier, moved quickly back into the action as Will Allen, holding Kearse up, allowed Ross to tear the ball out of Kearse’s hands. The sidelines exploded into bedlam as the Steelers thought they had the ball, but upon further review the ball had agonizingly gone out of bounds a heartbeat before Cockrell could recover. It was good to see the DBs actively working at stripping the ball. Gleeful faces turned glum as quickly as a brief glimpse of the sun in cloudy Seattle.

* He may be 37 years old, but James Harrison provided a perfect picture of how to destroy a trap or TE wham. Closing from the outside while maintaining leverage on setting the edge, Seattle TE Luke Wilson attempted to “wham,” or trap, Harrison. Harrison closed the gap between Wilson and himself, essentially trapping the trapper as we used to call it. Wilson looked like a ship busting up on a rocky shoreline as Deebo hammered the attempt and then backed up on the tackle. Love watching this guy perform.

* Hear me now and believe me later when I tell you the Steelers' offensive line did an incredible job not false-starting even once during the entire game. Ear-splitting decibel levels notwithstanding, the Hogs get one of my three stars of the game when you look at that four-man front of the 'Hawks, factor in noise levels that regularly run north of the 130-decibel level and the use of the no-huddle attack virtually all game long, and you have quite a feat of discipline, nerve and composure. Back in 2005 the visiting New York “Football” Giants' offensive line jumped offside 11 times in a game against the Seahawks. That’s just an example of how devastating the crowd noise can be to an offensive line. CenturyLink Stadium is as loud an outdoor venue as I’ve ever visited.
 
* Not to get all Nietzsche (the German philosopher, not the Packers' former middle linebacker) but “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” There are no “seeking comfort” wins in a loss, but there are important growth-producing steps to be found in a great effort falling short, individually and collectively. This, I have no doubt, was one of them.


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