Looking on from the sideline

Craig Wolfley is the sideline reporter for the Steelers Radio Network and every Tuesday his game notes of that up-close view will appear in this space. Here are some of the Wolfman's insights from the Eagles game.

Philly is a great place to play when you are a team in search of a little identity. That's a pretty rough, tough football team over in the eastern half of the state. But even in losing to the Eagles, as I used to tell former line combatant Mike Golic when we'd have a go, we still won because "you guys have to live in Philly."

The mashing in the pits got a little nasty. Early on I got to eyeball several primo gorings. A good goring happens when you throw an opponent to the ground and then drill him again while he's wallowing on the turf. Good family fun. Unless, that is, you happen to be the gor-ee, rather than the gor-er.

Gorings are a barometer of the level of intensity in the trenches. They speak to having the right mind-set and finishing the job. They also help to establish a "top dog" mentality among the hogs. And it never hurts to gore an opponent a time or two right out of the gate. That gets it personal and turns your opponent's attention more towards you and less of getting to the ball.

What wasn't good was the omnipresent Darren Howard who made himself a regular customer at the team meeting held by the Eagles D line at the Roethlisberger Grill. I'd say any durability questions about Ben's chin were answered the 3rd or 4th time he hit the deck. What was bothersome about the goings on were that most of those hits had nothing to do with scheming. They were all about guys winning one-on-one match-ups. Things have to tighten up before Miami pass pro wise.

One trench-man that distinguished himself was Kendall Simmons. Nice job on his coming out party at the Center position. Good job of directing traffic, shotgun snapping, and using his quickness to get into those monsters from Philly. Kendall needs a little work with some of his aiming points, particularly when he combo blocks and moves to the second level. Overall though, give him a passing grade for his first live go as the snapper.

Anthony Smith keeps making big time plays. Timing is everything. He's got the knack for showing up on center stage at the right moment. He could do Shakespeare without missing a mark. As my buddy Tunch would say on that punt cover, it was a PY-yaah! hit.

From the sidelines, I'm watching Smith's chasing the pigskin approach on a wide play, and he showed ability to pick his way through the trash (bodies) and adjust his chase angles. He shifts gears nicely and has that homing pigeon gizmo going on in his noggin. Think back to how short a time it took the "long haired flying Hawaiian human crash test dummy" to get on the field, and where Troy is now. Apply the same curve to Smith.

The running game has got to get more push from the hogs. Yes, I know things are pretty vanilla as far as schemes go right now, but to have some of the jail breaks (missed assignments) that occurred (Duce's 4th down attempt) was just not acceptable.

Penetration kills any short yardage plays and that's when a hog has to get into his bag of tricks if guys are burying themselves. Its prime-time technique to cross-face (turn the head) the groundhog and roll them with your knees. Where the head goes, the body will follow was sage advice years ago, and it works now.

Of course, depending on the quality of your adversary, there can be downsides to the technique.

Years ago, playing these very same Eagles, I attempted the maneuver on a young Reggie White. I crashed into Reggie and he dropped one knee to the ground while taking on the attempted trap block. He must have decided that he'd had enough of the cross-face/knee in the ribs treatment. Reggie simply stood up and I hung on him like a coat draped over his shoulder. Now I'm six feet off the ground and flailing my arms and legs like I'm on fire. It was at this point in the ill fated anti-groundhog-cross-face-knee technique that he tossed me aside like you'd throw your coat to a friend.

Ah, well, at least I didn't have far to go to huddle up.

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