This is what you want to see when you buy your ticket: A football game that's got some hot sauce to it. And if you happened to be lurking around the pre-game warm-ups like me, you saw Bengal DE Justin Smith mock Joey Porter by lifting up his jersey and dancing near the 50-yard line. The consolation is that it was Smith and not 350-pound Sam Adams doing the "truffle shuffle."
Of course that got Joey going, which then invited Chad Johnson to enter the fracas, followed by Houshmandzadeh, along with the return of Chad Johnson part deux.
Jeff Triplette, let it be noted, was the ref and the guy who sat Joey Porter in Cleveland. Bill Cowher and Marvin Lewis requested the entire referee's crew be on the field early due to the lack of affection each team had for the other.
Pre-game antics aside, the Steelers offensive line came out and played. Kendall Simmons re-enacted the ancient Russian sport of bear wrestling, circa 1600's, when it was a live go with a wild bear as he tangled with Adams. I'll bet they've been listing Sam as 350 pounds since the 9th grade. He's closer to 400 than 350.
Up and down the line they answered the bell.
The chess match started early on with the no-huddle. Palmer came to the line of scrimmage seeking primarily one man -- the man from Troy. Let the cat-and-mouse begin. Troy would start deep and and Palmer called a play. Then Troy became the eighth man in the box, which would necessitate a check at the line, or vice-versa. It was that way all day as both players applied the time-honored sciences of skullduggery and bamboozle.
Deshea Townsend, a bit wounded from a few mis-tackles in Jacksonville, tackled solidly and in general played an outstanding game, even though he should have had that second INT. 'Shea was in the end-zone before he caught the ball. The jump ball caught by TJ "Pushmandzadeh" over Deshea should have been a penalty.
Speaking of Houshmandzadeh, his wide receiver screen that picked up 18 yards was a perfect example of what the Bengals receivers are learning from Hines Ward. The Cincy WRs are improving as downfield blockers. That shape-shifter of a 14-play drive for the Bengals in the second quarter gave them the juice for the rest of the game. When an O line can go 97 and punch it in, they come off the field with a serious attitude problem. As in "you call it, we'll run it." They believe they can do anything. By the way, that's shape-shifter as in the drive that shifted the shape of the game.
MLB Brian Simmons will have a "most embarrassing moment" when he takes a look at the block Ward laid on him during Willie Parker's first TD run. Hines planted Simmons and tried to send him to South Korea … straight through the earth.
The undersized street fighter of a center for the Bengals, Eric Ghuicic, had a rough day with Casey Hampton. But who doesn't? When Dick Lebeau let the dogs loose early and ran the fire-x with Foote and Farrior crossing in front of Ghuicic, the young buck had the look of a New York Subway turnstile at rush hour. As my old line coach used to say "Just get yourself one and hang on."
A tale of two halves. The first half the Steelers were able to bang Palmer and pressure him. The second half they put Palmer on the ground. And don't let anybody kid you how much heat was in the Palmer kitchen. Carson Palmer was nearly a victim of internal combustion in the first half. Two fumbles in a row, then a pick. Amazing that he had enough poise to come back and keep his poise.
I was about eight yards away when Mike Logan lit up the snapper, St. Louis, on that return. That was a serious hit. If Mike was standing over the guy, I think he was doing just what I was doing -- making sure St. Louis was breathing. I don't know what to make of that taunting call. Honestly I didn't see anything that brought taunting to mind.
All in all, it was a good game with a disturbing finish for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but nothing that can't be righted in a short time.