There was a whole lot of shaking going on when Mike Tomlin hit the sidelines at Heinz Field. With the crowd roaring, the normally placid Headmeister of the Steelers got animated, and punctuated his arrival with more emotion than I've seen all this year. Good stuff.
Alright, Big Ben is on his "A" game on that first series. He goes 5/6 and then Najeh hits a nice ten-yard run that was nicely blocked when Trai Essex got to the second level and walled off a linebacker.
From the beginning of the week I said that the Steelers should move Faneca to tackle and go with Kemoeatu at left guard. I was wrong. Trai showed me more than I thought he had. And I told him that to his face afterwards. The young man came out and did an excellent job almost the entire game. He pass blocked very well. Run blocking is something he needs to continue to work at, but there was a big difference in Trai from the pre-season.
Whoosh! That was the breeze I felt on the sideline when Mojo Drew blew by me on the kickoff return and sucked all the vigor out of Heinz Field. There are plenty of guys who know the how-tos of kickoff coverage. There are not enough want-to guys though. Kickoff coverage is all about wanting to blow somebody up. Make a mark. Carey Davis has it. James Harrison does too. Bob Ligashesky needs eight more of them.
Dick LeBeau is every bit the genius that almost everybody proclaims him to be. Right away it was apparent that he was not going to allow the Jags to rip his run defense. In the base Okie 3-4 alignment, the defensive ends were playing outside shoulder. They couldn't be hooked. Travis Kirschke was a different man on this night. Stout against the run, and he even got a consistent pass rush going.
The other thing that LeBeau switched to was moving Troy to blitzing the "C" gap on the weak side. It had the run game all fouled up most of the night.
When Hines Ward caught the tipped ball in the first half, I'm thinking o'l mo is going the Steelers way. I wonder what Bruce Arians calls that play? Flanker-right-136 tight end slant and tip to post pattern?
Rashean Mathis is the luckiest guy going. He cheats more than Gaylord Perry ever did. Primarily a man cover corner, he's always looking into the backfield. He's a perfect set-up for a double move.
I don't think Mathis even had to bust a move to run it back for six. When the ball is thrown downfield, the line has to cover like the punt team. There was nobody out there covering. Zippo.
That third interception was a killer. The big hog Landri goes down and then pops up like a jack-in-the-box to pick Ben. The screen was all set too. That play was just bad karma.
Potsie Farrior makes plays. His coverage skills for his age are terrific. What a great pick on his third quarter INT that kick starts the comeback. Later on when the game is all but done, he drops a bomb of a hit on Jones-Drew. I have a lot of respect for Farrior. He plays hard all the time.
The offensive line still has problems with being on the same page on pass pro. Twice I have seen sacks come when two guys are area protecting, and one guy is manning it. There's no excuse at this stage of the game for confusion like that.
You got to be kidding me. The holding call on Sean Mahan was a joke. Especially when you get a look at the Garrard draw play later on. Look, I know there is no crying in football. To call a holding call with the play going the opposite way and overlook three muggings at the point of attack on Garrard's draw is inexcusable.
The bottom line is this game essentially was a microcosm of the entire season. The running game was a problem, special teams got zapped, and the defense couldn't close the show.
But this I will say. To come back from deficits of 21-7 and 28-10 in a playoff game is unbelievable. There is character on this team. There is strength. There is a core of guys that make up a foundation that sets the stage for next year. This off-season should be interesting.
I want to thank Wex and Dale for making this year possible. Mucho thanks guys. Also, I appreciate and thank all "yinz guyz" who took the time to read my thoughts and comment on them. You folks are the best. I'm sorry I wasn't able to get back and post more often, but life is what it is and time was short. Stay healthy, get in shape, and God willing, I'll see you at camp!