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Steelers Radio Network sideline reporter with his must-read notebook

Re-live the best moments of the Steelers' win over the Giants from 'ground hog level' with Craig Wolfley.

Jason Pierre-Paul, the exceptionally gifted DE from the Giants, has always intrigued me. At 6-5, 278 pounds, he has a wingspan of 81 inches and uses that to great advantage in his pass-rushing. Also, JPP is a terrific athlete and I was looking forward to watching Marcus Gilbert match skills with him. It certainly didn’t take long as on the Steelers' first play from scrimmage, Marcus sat in pass pro and then cut the legs from under JPP at the line of scrimmage. Pierre-Paul no sooner hit the deck than he was back up on his feet running after Le'Veon Bell and the swing pass he had gathered in. Though Lev gained eight yards from scrimmage, just watching JPP get cut like a redwood tree, scramble back to his feet and chase, and then catch Bell, was pretty impressive.

* The Giants took over the ball on their first possession and ran six plays. Four of the six were pass plays. Out of four pass plays, LT Ereck Flowers gave up two pressures, one to James Harrison, one to Stephon Tuitt. I thought to myself that somebody is going to get to Eli Manning while rushing against Flowers because he doesn’t look strong, he doesn’t play strong. Tuitt threw a great uppercut on Flowers, sunk it in tight and really turned the corner hard. And if Flowers thinks Tuitt’s uppercut is wicked, wait till he gets a whiff of Deebo’s no dip/just rip pure power at an angle that Flowers can’t lock out on.

* Bell ripped off the left side for 12 yards following TE David Johnson. DJ does an excellent job normally of running as the second man on the counter-trap. Dave DeCastro is first, either kicking out the end man on the line of scrimmage, or he “Logs,” using his inside shoulder to turn the man inside so the second man pulling can spill it outside. DeCastro mulched somebody, and Johnson turned up the field. DJ attempted to kick his man out but got caught too far inside and was in a revolving door. His only choice then became to reach out and hold the guy. The flag came out and you know exactly what happened. The aiming point was just a little bit off for DJ.

* The “Turk up in the booth” nailed it when he said “NFL officiating seems to change every week based on the officiating crew.” Boy, was he right. Late in the first quarter Manning went long ball to Odell Beckham only to see Beckham called for offensive pass interference.

* Only five or so minutes after I had thought about Flowers, Harrison forced a holding call on him in the end zone which resulted in a safety against the Giants. I actually thought that Flowers was going to get a holding/safety call two plays earlier than the actual play. Deebo got the back arc on Flowers and Flowers had to grab James from behind to keep him from sacking Manning. Nobody is going to be throwing any flowers at Flowers.

* I didn't need to go there, did I?

* In the second quarter, Manning threw a checkdown to RB Rashad Jennings. Closing from behind Jennings was Ryan Shazier in perfect “come to balance” breakdown posture, while utilizing his God-given speed to vaporize and drive through the tackle, a la Ronnie Lott style. Ryan is continuing an upward surge in big-time playmaking even when it’s merely holding an opponent to a two-yard gain. There’s a lot of space to lose a guy on a checkdown, and you have to appreciate how hard it can be. Watching Ryan stalk, surge and smash an opponent in true predator style is good family fun.

* Lawrence Timmons pulled off the play of the game when he had underneath coverage and picked off Manning in the second quarter. Timmons had the sideline, but seemed to slow down as he crossed midfield. As Lawrence told me later, “A 25-year old Timmons may have scored on the return but the 30-year old wasn’t gonna.”

* Antonio Brown caught a 22-yard TD pass from Ben Roethlisberger, and from the sideline I couldn’t believe that Ben could jam the ball into that small of a window. It’s not like Janoris Jenkins didn’t have good coverage, but Jenkins couldn’t get his head around and AB does what AB does: catch touchdowns.

* In the third quarter, DeCastro was flagged for holding Eli Apple. You know its David just by his expression. DeCastro was walking toward the official with his hands palms forward, like “Me? What did I do?!” Dead giveaway from my own playing days. Keep your hands on your hips with a little defiant snarl, David.

* Along with everybody else, I’ve been anxious to see Bud Dupree and how far he’s come in his rehabilitation and strength building. How much can he contribute after sitting as long as he has? From watching one pass rush -- even though he trapped or knocked the OT Bobby Hart’s hands down -- it appears Bud still couldn’t turn the back door arc. I think when he develops an inside move to give the OT something else to worry about than just sitting on the edge he'll begin to improve a lot. I’d love to see Bud get a nice club move so when those OTs get heavy on the up-the-field rush, feel the hip of that OT move out and plant the outside foot and club with that inside arm. Nobody ever did it as well as the Minister of Defense, Reggie White.
* The people who celebrate big plays more than players are the coaches. On a fourth-and-1 in the third quarter, Manning dropped back to pass and Timmons smoked untouched through the line on a blitz. Eli maybe fired the ball a little earlier than he wanted to TE Will Tye, but Shazier hunted him up, made another big play on a very big down by knocking the ball out of the grasp of the big TE. From the looks of it, Keith Butler and Joey Porter enjoyed that moment as much as the players.
* Later in the third quarter, Manning threw a screen to Jennings for a 13-yard score. From near the middle of the field, I could see Flowers hanging on to Timmons as Timmons tried to run to the ball. It was an obvious case of holding, except to the official not throwing the flag. Surprising that right in the middle of the field somebody 6-6, 330 pounds can grab a man by his shoulder pads flagrantly from behind and not get called for holding. Sheesh, we had to be much more subtle back in the day.
* In a bit of comic relief, Giants Jurassic Park-worthy, massive DT Damon Harrison, all 6-4, 343 pounds of him, injured his leg and went down to the ground. The training staff came out and helped him to his feet after checking him out, but they needed to have fellow big ’un, 6-2, 320-pound Johnathan Hankins, come out and be the actual human crane to pull Harrison to his feet. It’s all in the counter weight.

* Speaking of Damon Harrison, late in the game he got loose on a pass rush. Who stepped up to chop him down? Lev Bell, who took the legs out from under Harrison like he was a three-legged stool. Great pick up because if Bell doesn’t, it’s a sack. And possibly worse.

* I was able to interview one of my favorites, Ramon Foster, on the field after the game. To be sure there’s not a better, more articulate and well-spoken hog in the NFL than the Big Ragu. By the end of a game, I, as a player, was virtually incomprehensible. Not so with Ramon. Two minutes earlier he was beating up a guy who was trying to bend Bell backward. That part of Ragu is as ferocious as a hungry lion. Two minutes later he’s standing with me calmly speaking like the true statesman and gentleman that he is. Class act.

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