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Notes on Steelers' Heart-Pounding Win

SCI publisher Jim Wexell with his notes column following an epic Steelers playoff win.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who understands the frustration of a thrilling, edge-of-the-seat, 6-FG/0-TD win, but who begs you, Pittsburgh Steelers fan, to try to enjoy these games, just a little:

* Social media was one thing with its unbearable play-by-play meltdowns, and we all can do without being awakened at 5:30 by an alarming plea for at least one touchdown in New England, but those of you with heart conditions - like the friend texting early in the morning that he "should leave the defibrillation pads on my chest next week" - need to take a deep breath while smelling the roses right now.

* After all, you could be Eric Fisher.

* They're calling it "The Eric Fisher Hold Game" in Kansas City, and from that perspective, yes, what a tough way to lose. But, of course, the two-point conversion that was wiped off the board by his hold of James Harrison had only tied the game with 2:43 remaining. Ben Roethlisberger had time, and he plays much better with a shot of adrenaline.

* Dear Chiefs fans, we're chuckling at the irony of someone losing a game because of a hold against Harrison, who, had half the holds been called against him, would have double the rings he has now.

* It was also justice on the Pittsburgh front that Sean Davis broke up the subsequent two-point try from 12 yards out. His break-up of the third-and-9 pass with 4:49 left appeared to have put the Chiefs in a difficult situation: field goal or fourth-and-9? But he was flagged for unnecessary roughness because his dive into the ball with his shoulder caused helmets to collide.

* I'm still having a hard time understanding that rule, and it's probably just my obstinance, I know, because maybe I just don't want to understand it.

* While I'm doing that justice thing, Ross Cockrell getting shoved by Travis Kelce for a 15-yard penalty was quality payback for the ludicrous 20-yard pass interference penalty called against Cockrell on the previous Chiefs possession. That was a slight bump on a horrible and uncatchable second-and-13 pass.

* I'm getting a bit worked up here. Better send me one of those defibrillation pads.

* Never much liked reality TV "stars," and Kelce had his own brand of karma coming his way anyway.

* Seriously, the so-called key offensive player for the Chiefs caught 5 passes for 77 yards but dropped a deep pass at the Pittsburgh 10 that could've tied the game as well. Stop blaming others.

* Would love to see HIM working at Foot Locker some day, not the official he had blasted after the game.

* OK, so I'm on a karmic roll, and that means I'm worrying a bit about Antonio Brown. But not too much, because his, um, sin, for lack of a better word, is his crying need for attention on social media. He Facebooked his coach's post-game speech in which Mike Tomlin let his anger about the unfairness of the NFL's scheduling to be broadcast. It just blows me away that a player could be so selfish, AB.

* The Patriots, no doubt, understand Tomlin's justifiable anger about having to play a team on 8 days rest when his own team wasn't scheduled to touch down until about the same time Pittsburghers were waking up and texting their local sportswriters.

* It's unfair. No doubt about it. And Tomlin used a few choice words to what he thought was the inner circle, the team, before the locker room was opened to the media. And Tomlin probably should learn to monitor his comments for these very social-media moments.

* Good thing he didn't call the Patriots anything worse than what they are.

* To Brown's credit, as he stared interminably into his phone instead of sharing in the joy of his teammates, he seemed truly thankful for what had just happened.

* All right, may as well join the crowd and get my other complaints out of the way.

* Second-and-2 at the Kansas City 5 with the Chiefs on their heels during the first Le'Veon Bell-dominated drive. And Roethlisberger checked into a pass. Incomplete. Now he pretty much had to pass. Complete for a yard. Kick.

* Second quarter, with a 9-7 lead, first-and-goal at the 5. Roethlisberger checked out of a run. Pass batted in the air by the D-end. Interception.

* I realize that the world believes the Steelers have this cadre of all-universe receivers, but, they don't. They have AB, and he's really not much of a red-zone threat. Run the thing when you've got them by the throat in these seemingly guaranteed situations.

* As for those No. 2 wide receivers (considering Eli Rogers is the slot No. 3): Cobi Hamilton played 27 snaps and was targeted once (1 catch, 4 yards); Darrius Heyward-Bey played 20 snaps, no targets; Demarcus Ayers played 12 snaps and was targeted once (1 catch, 6 yards); and Sammie Coates played one offensive snap, no targets.

* A bit surprised there wasn't anything for tight end Xavier Grimble, who played only two offensive snaps. The big guy hasn't been targeted since snaring that 20-yard laser beam from Roethlisberger in double coverage to score a touchdown against the Ravens several weeks ago.

* Final complaint: Justin Gilbert, we - and by "we" I mean media and fans - finally got you back there on kickoff returns, and you made us proud by returning the opener 28 yards to the 30. But what was that final return all about?

* With the hands team on the field, Gilbert didn't have any blocking when the Chiefs kicked deep to him at the Pittsburgh 7. And Gilbert proceeded to run sideways, and then backwards, before going down at his own 5. And the ball came loose to defibrillate a Nation before the official ruled him down.

* But at the 5, when the Chiefs needed only a field goal to win, a safety to tie, a touchdown to go to New England. Your team needed you at the 15, at least.

* I saw special teams coach Danny Smith late in the week and told him I heard Gilbert looked good returning kickoffs in practice. "Practice," Smith said. "They all look good in practice."

* Up the field, Justin. Up the field.

* Harrison not only drew a correct holding call at the game's key defensive moment, he had a sack, a team-high 6 tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss and a key pressure late in the game from which he came out of coverage to chase Alex Smith to the other side of the field and into a third-down incompletion.

* And Harrison undoubtedly went straight to the weight room after the plane landed this morning.

* Hope he got some sleep on the flight.

* Davis also made some big defensive plays, as did another rookie, nose tackle Javon Hargrave. And one of those plays was in coverage. Not that Hargrave did anything special on the third-and-7 pass to Spencer Ware, but he was there. And Smith didn't know he was a nose tackle before throwing wildly to the running back.

* Anyone notice Artie Burns? No? That means another job well done by the third rookie starter on the Steelers defense.

* OK, it's a bit of a stretch to say he wasn't noticed. He was beaten by a step on a deep incompletion, but followed up with a PBU on another deep ball the next play. Burns also caught my eye by fighting through a block to make a perfect tackle of Tyreek Hill on an early third-down screen pass.

* Hill was held to only 45 yards from scrimmage and averaged only 18 yards per kickoff return last night. Vince Williams' crushing, first-quarter hit at the 12-yard line on the second kickoff may have had a lot to do with Hill's lack of assertiveness.

* As did Andy Reid's game plan. But to Reid's credit, his use of Hill as a decoy was not only thoughtfully non-rhythmic, to steal from Tomlin, but at times ingenious. You can see why Reid has a 19-2 post-bye record.

* I mean 19-3. Sorry.

* Speaking of stopping the Kansas City weapons, I did notice Justin Houston. Once, when he was covering Brown deep, for some inexplicable reason, on a 52-yard completion, and another time in coverage, on Brown again. Houston dropped into zone coverage on the last pass of the game. That third-and-3 pass from the Justin Gilbert 12-yard-line was not only beautifully timed by Roethlisberger and Brown, it allowed Steelers fans to put down the defibrillator  because victory formation was at hand.

* Cockrell, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree, Will Gay were among the many other defensive stars. And of course, Marcus Gilbert and the rest of the O-line allowed Bell and Roethlisberger to win the game. So there were many stars, including the latest Killer B, Chris Boswell, who gave an outstanding post-game interview on national TV. "I just put the ball between the yellow pipes," Boswell said with his typical icy cool. "I was just doing my job."

* Enjoy it fans. The Steelers rightfully are underdogs with their three rookie starters, their one lonesome receiver and their history of tears in New England. But they're alive.

* And it's a great day to be alive, isn't it?


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