Sideline View: Browns just a tomato can

Watching from the sidelines, Cleveland looked like an aging, battered and bruised fighter climbing through the ropes yet another time in search of a payday. Down to their last quarterback, the fourth in line, a dispirited warm-up preceded a sound thrashing by the Steelers. And this is what I saw:

Willie and the jets. No, not the Elton John "Benny and the Jets" song, but the re-emergence of Fast Willie. I know everybody is saying it doesn't matter what Willie's rushing total was because it's the Browns. Well it does matter, for two reasons.

First of all, I subscribe to the theory proffered by the Turk up in the booth. According to the Ilkin theory of quantum butt kicking, if you can't lump up the stiffs, you can't play in this league. Or make a deep run into the playoffs. Willie needed to do this because that's what you do when you run into teams that you should boot them in the keester, you do it. Racking 116 yards is exactly what you do when you're faced with the Browns defense.

Secondly, break the runs down individually. When you do, two things jump out at me right away. Jets, or the acceleration factor on the 34-yard run is something that we haven't seen in quite some time. I haven't seen Willie be able to make the jump into his normal hyper-drive. It leads you to think that maybe the knee is starting to feel good. The return of the Parker stiff-arm that prevents guys from wrapping him up was a weapon that disappeared from the Fast Willie arsenal for a while. (I think it coincided with the shoulder injury, genius that I am). Willie pre-shoulder injury sported one powerful stiff-arm for such a small guy. He lit up the mush of several people along the way to his best rushing out put since many moons ago. It leads you to think that maybe the shoulder is starting to feel better. Now with a little more rest up and coming, Willie's mojination is starting to roll. A healthy body equals healthy mojination.

Justin Hartwig is the leader of that offensive line. He's got it going. Two games into the "Classic Jurassic Park Meat Eaters Match-up" of Shaun Rogers vs. Justin Hartwig, Hartwig is 2-0. As I watched that battle unfold from the sidelines I was shocked at two things. (Today is twos-day, right?)

The explos-ivity of Rogers, and the countering work of Hartwig. Rogers is a biscuit under 400 pounds. You'll not find a bigger, more powerful guy this side of a Tokyo Grand Sumo Championship "Basho." I'd give Rogers the title of "Yokozuna" (top dog) right now. Yet time after time I watched as Justin battled him all day, showing some absolutely tremendous core strength. The reason the Steelers brought Hartwig in was for this very reason. Shut down the T-Rexes of the AFC North. Job well done Justin.

Tyrone Carter I knew to be a tough guy. After vaulting Dante Stallworth into the air with a hard tackle that time warped Carter into next week, a little time on the bench let the gelatin in the noggin stop sloshing. Carter came off the field groggy, like a guy in need of a quad venti latte at the local Starbucks. After a while T.C. checked back into reality and re-entered the game to pick off two passes and late in the third or early in the fourth quarter, that cat made a hard tackle that I watched carefully to see if he was going to be a little gun-shy. Nope. Carter lowered the boom on a running back and came up all smiles. That's the way to cowboy up T.C.

If Byron Leftwich throws the football any harder he might have to get a license to carry that arm around in public. He gives new meaning to the word "firearm." That right shoulder is a concealed weapon. The receivers catch the ball more out of self-defense than anything else. I haven't seen an arm like that around here since the blond bomber. Again, it reaffirms in my mind that when Byron is in there, he's quicker to release the ball. Which is both good and bad. Good in the sense that it gets the ball out quick, and offensive linemen like when the ball is out quick. It becomes like extra point protection without the kick. The bummer is that when Byron doesn't get rid of the ball he's harder to keep alive in the pocket. Although that was a pretty durn good 8-yard run for a TD. Nobody will mistake that run for Willie or Mewelde, but it served its purpose.

Sheez-louise it is agonizing whenever that stretcher comes out. I have tremendous respect for Doc Joe Maroone, the noggin specialist employed by the Steelers. When you see concern on his face as he's giving Ben the once over like I did, it makes your heart thump momentarily into your gullet. Spinal cord stuff freaks you out. We all know that goblin is in the room, but nobody ever wants to take a good look-see at it, until you're faced with it. Ben left the hospital that same night. Ben and his family got a double dose of Christmas cheer. Having been on the field during a game when it happened, on the practice field when it happened, and on the sidelines when it happened, I can only tell you that when you get the word that all is well, all is well. Happy New Year folks, see you in the playoffs!


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