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Steelers Radio Network sideline reporter with his must-read notebook

Burn the tape, bury its ashes following the Steelers' 34-3 loss

The usual pre-game drumbeats methodically played in my head as we bussed over from the hotel to Lincoln Financial Field. Though in my day  we played in the old Vet Stadium, but I've been well aware that I had never been on a winning team that played in Philadelphia. As a matter of fact, the Pittsburgh Steelers had not won in Philly since 1965.

As I sat in my seat on the bus, memories of playing against the likes of Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner and Mike Golic flooded my mind. Going back further into the 80’s, Dennis “Bigfoot” Harrison and Carl Hairston were dominant defensive lineman. Yeah, there was a lot of history going on here to be sure.

* Taking a seat on the Steelers bench during early pre-game, I sat and watched Ross Cockrell -- who is always one of the early guys to come out and walk the field -- stroll around Lincoln Financial Field in bare feet. He then proceeded to start stretching and I wondered if this was an aberration, or was it normal? I’ll have to wait and see further down the road. It kind of reminded me of several years ago Bears QB Jim McMahon at the Firestone Country Club in Ohio. It was a celebrity golf outing and Tunch and I broadcast a show from there. McMahon was barefoot in the clubhouse and on the course, something I thought was a real faux pas in the golfing world.

* All the pre-game talk shows leading up to this moment had characterized the game as the battle of Bensylvania vs Wentzylvania. I found the hype a lot of fun and I was as intrigued as everybody else to see Carson Wentz and his skill set match up with a defense that had allowed only seven third-down conversions in 26 attempts.

Markus Wheaton walked by me on the sidelines with an anguished look on his face. The Steelers had taken the opening kickoff, marched it down the field and Ben Roethlisberger got into one of those extend-the-play moments and did a magnificent job of moving in the pocket until Wheaton was able to break coverage and get behind Eagles CB Nolan Carroll in the back of the end zone. Ben threw back across the field, dropped the ball in perfectly, only to see the ball slip through Markus’ normally reliable set of hands. I do a weekly show with Markus, and have had the pleasure of getting to know this fine young man. He’s a hard worker, very conscientious and detailed. I know how thrilled he was and excited to get back on the field after dealing with multiple injuries. I also know the pain of not having performed in the moment as you would expect, and hope. Those are the plays that loop endlessly through your gourd and make one see the clock at 3:01 am, 3:02, 3:03 etc.

* Eagles TE Brent Celek caught a ball going over the middle a series later and shook off an attempted tackle by Ryan Shazier. Ryan gimped, hobbled and with a lot of pain on his face got to the bench after Celek rambled 22-yards down the field. The trainers began looking at Ryan’s taped up knee and Ryan apparently jacked that knee pretty good while trying to tackle Celek. Having had a few knee surgeries myself I can empathize with Shazier. I have torn ligaments and cartilage, hyperextended, sprained and otherwise abused both of my knees. I have a deep affinity for knee health. Playing linebacker in a knee brace is tough on a guy who runs like Ryan. You simply can’t make the plays you want to at times, because you are held back by the mobility issues of wearing the brace.

* If there were any questions about Wentz’s arm strength, or football poise under pressure, they were answered on a 3rd-and-11 on the last play of the first quarter. That was a big league throw over the middle to WR Dorial Green-Beckham for 19 yards.

* Second-quarter action had the Steelers at their own 23-yard line on a 3rd-and-4. Ben saw Sammie Coates in single coverage with one safety in the middle of the field. Ben dropped back and let a howitzer fly down the right sideline. Sammie outran his man and caught the 41-yard bomb as the whole bench area exploded in smiles and high-fives. I don’t know what Sammie’s average per catch is, but I’m guessing it’s pretty astronomical.

* This is what I love. After catching a 41-yard bomb that leads to a FG, Coates “flipped the switch” and cowabunged the next kickoff to tackle return man Josh Huff short of the 25-yard line. Watching the lack of “diva-ness” required to catch a 41-yard go-route, then turn around a few plays later to lead the charge on the kickoff team without flying a parachute (slowing up), says a lot about the character and toughness of this young man.

* At the two-minute warning of the first half, we received word that Lawrence Timmons was getting his shin stitched up at a local hospital, Jarvis Jones was probable to return with an injured foot, Shazier was probable to return with a knee injury, and Robert Golden was doubtful with a hammie. Add Ramon Foster with some sort of chest injury and it’s starting to look like Fife and Drum time in the “City of Brotherly Shove,” as Mike Prisuta likes to call it.

* In the third quarter, Wentz showed the ability to get out on the hoof and get creative. When Darren Sproles ran down and out while being covered by Shazier in the flat, Sproles showed why he’s been in the league so long making big plays. As Wentz scrambled from the pocket, Sproles turned the down-and-out into an out-and-up along the sideline, turning a medium gain into a masterful 73-yard open-field running clinic. I must say there were a lot of stunned faces in the bench area after Sproles ignited a home crowd that didn’t seem all that fanatical at different points of the first half.

* I think I’ve seen just about every sort of catch Antonio Brown has to offer, not to mention post-TD celebration dances. And just when I thought it safe to say I’ve seen it all, AB pulled out something new to make me shake my head. When Big Ben fumbled, picked up the ball and fired a 19-yard back-shoulder strike to AB, who does, not a toe-tap, but a double heel-slap to get his feet in bounds. That’s right, a double heel-slap. The catch was challenged by Doug Pederson but upheld by replay. Feel free to shake your own head.

* Some time in the third quarter, the “Big Ragu,” Foster, was on the sidelines wearing civvies. The young buck B.J. Finney had the rest of the game. As for Finney, I’m sure there are those who will be critical of his play. I can only tell you from experience that to come into a game when the game is getting out of hand, and the offense is one-dimensional, and to simultaneously be handed the cheek-slapper duties that starts the silent count, that, my friends, isn't easy. All things considered, I thought B.J. fought hard and did a number of good things that he’ll take as a learning experience. If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll only make you stronger, that sort of thing. He’s a player.

* The ageless wonder, James Harrison, has pulled back-to-back rushes on 13-year vet LT Jason Peters and twice got home as Wentz unloaded the ball while Deebo was knocking him down. That’s about the only time Wentz was pressured, other than when Stephon Tuitt was flagged for unnecessary roughness for driving an offensive lineman into the backfield and knocking Wentz down. Later on, James attempted a “Dwight Freeney” spin move. I think James is better served with his just-rip/no-dip backdoor turnstile move.

* That was as quiet a post-game locker room as I’ve been around in some time, which is as it should be. This type of game required contemplation, a 24-hour mull and get it out of your craw time frame, and then bury the video somewhere after you burn it. That’s right, torch it, get a shovel out and dig, then drop it into the hole and cover it up. I’m absolutely serious.


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