Talking with Aaron after the game, he told me he's been waiting all early-season long for this game. The power of mojination for this game got rolling in the off-season I think. He's a man with a long memory. If you looked up the definition of vendetta in your local Funk and Wagnall Dictionary, they'd have a picture of Aaron in it.
A very nervous Darnell Stapleton took his place in the lineup alongside the rest of the boys. Just like last week, a slow start, but he grew more confident as the game progressed. I walked off the field in Jacksonville a little after midnight last night next to Darnell, and we talked about his first start. Let's just say his first start was wildly more successful than my first start. Darnell has a quiet confidence about him that makes me believe he's only going to get better.
When Darnell learns how to pull around a down block and seal with one hand (helping the tackle) and stay on the hunt to the next level, so that he's able to do two things, he will be better. Too often Darnell will help seal on the down block and Moore or Russell would have to contend with two Jax guys rather than one in the hole. But that's just time and experience.
I know the O-line has been taking a lot of heat, but I counted to three Mississippi a number of times and Ben Roethlisberger still hadn't got rid of the ball. And it's hard to say Mississippi after you've had a few sour apple Jolly Rogers.
I love the quick passing game. Ben cowboy'd up and delivered on time. Too often we speak of a franchise QB, how important it is and blah, blah, blah. But when you see Ben twisting and completing an ugly duck pass to Hines Ward when it looked like lady luck had left town, that is a franchise QB. That play is a synopsis of why the guys all believe in the power of "7." It is a mojinated number.
Big Ben's command of the no-huddle was terrific and really simplified things. Jacksonville wasn't able to run different packages at the Steelers because of the no-huddle. That also made the Jaguars have to declare their positions early, so Ben only had to read the two safeties. Two deep, throw the ball. One high, one low, run it. That's why Jacksonville went to their base defense later in the second half. Three and five-step drops, swing passes to backs, up tempo quick hitters, trapinations, and power running. Way to game plan these guys, Bruce Arians.
The power of the hair. Jags TE Mercedes Lewis dropped a critical 3rd down pass right by me on the sidelines. Just as the ball zipped into his hands, Mercedes took his eye off the ball. Troy Polamalu had closed on him like a voracious pit bull. Most receivers will deny it, but in a case like that, they heard "footsteps." Lewis heard hair.
James Harrison should be sent an apology by the league for the penalty he drew for his hit on Garrard late in the game. The Turk and I argued about this all the way from the airport to the Bridgeville exit at around 3 AM. Gadzooks, the next thing the league has to do is put a "Halo" around the QBs and say don't touch the merchandise. I understand that the rule calls for the defensive guy to make an effort not to follow through, that he has to roll off the QB, grasp and control, lower gently, tuck him into bed. Why not have the pass rushers read the QB a bedtime story and kiss him on the cheek, too? Is this still football?
Speaking of the Silverback, I asked him after the game why it took so long for him to go cross-face on Jags OT Khalif Barnes as he did in the last series to sack David Garrard on a pass rush. All night long he bull-rushed, edge-rushed, and came within Cats' whiskers of having another three-sack night. Still, no meat. Then he started upfield and went inside on Barnes to whack the David. He looked at me for a second, and then said "I'm supposed to contain…" and he kind of drifted off while stating the obvious.
In other words that was a game time, no, make that play time adjustment. James took a chance, and came up big. If Garrard had flushed free to James side, well, let's just say the Silverback would've either had to throw some bucks in the kitty for a blown assignment, or done pushups. Instead, he went with his gut instinct which said Barnes was sitting heavy to the outside, and sack nirvana was to Barnes' right shoulder.
Chris Hoke continued his outstanding impersonation of Casey Hampton. On one play he drove Jags center Dennis Norman so deep Norman could've been a sub for Fred Taylor and taken the handoff, except that Norman was doing the butt-bump with Garrard, who was trying to find somebody willing to take the ball.
LaMarr Woodley thrashed Jax's RB corps every time they tried to block him on a pass play. What mystified me was how they got away with hanging all over LaMarr time and again, even leg-whipping on one play, all to no call. By the end of the game you couldn't even see Woodley's number on his chest, so stretched and crumpled up was his jersey from all the holding. And it was in plain view of the referee. He must've been too busy making sure no one hit Garrard to notice.
I saw Steelers special teams coach Bob Ligashesky in the locker room after the game. I said, "Lig, you got some guys covering like mad men." Bob put his finger to his lips like he was shushing me and said in reply, "It's a long season." Good point. We don't want to jinx the good mojo. Smart man that Lig. He understands the concepts involved in mojination.