I had the good fortune to chat with the new NFL Commish, Roger Goodell, on the field. Knowing that he was from Jamestown, NY, I couldn't resist asking him if he ever attended the Lucille Ball film festival in his hometown. I guess he's not a big fan of the flaming redhead.
Flaming is the word I'd use for the pre-game warm-ups. They crackled energy befitting a slug fest which this game quickly turned into. Most warm-ups before the game are "thud" sessions with a willing partner. Miami knew they were in the World Champ's house and prepared for it.
I'll say it now, Miami NT Keith Traylor is a man. He battled all game long and the Steelers line had to work to move this mass of humanity. Trench Warfare was as slow as the Allied advance in World War 2. Getting to Zack Thomas required a game plan that banged away all night long like a hammer on a stubborn rock. Even the biggest rocks eventually crack. And it did.
Dolphins CB Andre Goodman didn't have a good night. He had Cedrick Wilson's arm hooked under his arm as he ran with him on a dig route in the second quarter. When the ref threw the flag on the obvious interference penalty, he didn't say one word in protest. Not one. I don't think he had much to say after Hines smoked him in the end zone either.
After Santonio fielded that punt on his own four yard line and slipped and fell, he came to the bench and changed his cleats. I don't understand why these guys don't get all the gription they can get by wearing the old 7 cleaters. Shoot, I used to wear spikes that looked like the ice climbers on Mt. Everest used.
I had the chance to talk to Willie Parker after the game. One of the things Willie has gotten better at is letting the hole develop and then exploding into it. But Parker also said that there were a couple of times that he was actually too patient, and the hole closed on him.
He also went on to explain how watching former Lions RB, Barry Sanders, has made him a better back. He has been trying to jump-stop and accelerate in his cuts the way Sanders used to. As a matter of fact, he did a lot of work this past off-season on that technique in prepping for the upcoming season. And you can't help but notice how he pushes the pile after contact. He "runs strong" in the words of Steeler RB guru Dick Hoak.
Charlie Batch showed why he's the guy. That was one cool dude running the offense. I loved the way he baited the Miami secondary by eyeballing Hines Ward at the LOS and then going to Heath Miller. Wex, this is where you need a safety to "roll over the top" in coverage. In case you're counting, I believe there really was only one bad decision on Charlie's part. That being the lob into the end-zone with double coverage. Other than that and the fumble-rooskie, pretty great stuff.
Aaron Smith owned Vernon Carey. Big Vernon likes to take a big step when he reach blocks on stretch plays to the outside. His aiming point is too wide for somebody Smith-quick. Aaron beat him inside before Carey got his second step down. Aaron was just too much of an athlete for him when Dick LeBeau would cut Smith loose on a ram.
And what to say about Joey Porter? I'd have to say that his knee looks pretty good to me. Two sacks and a TD spell a very good night. Good job of hustling by Brett Keisel on the return and rag dolling Culpepper in the end-zone. That was a mercy kill for the "Deisel" who, by the way, absolutely creamed some faceless Dolphin on a KO return.
By the end of the game, the Dolphins body language looked like that of a young and upcoming neighborhood tough who thought he had a shot at the belt, scrapped well for awhile, got whipped and knew it.