Wolfley: A View From The Sideline

Former Steelers guard Craig Wolfley, now the sideline reporter for Steelers Radio Network, has another post-game column for us here at SteelCityInsider.com.

Normally the preseason can be unmerciful, heat-wise, for a hog. After taking the field for the Buffalo game, and feeling the beautiful summer breeze that Frank Sinatra captured in song, I watched from the sideline and here's what I saw:

* The Steelers starters did what they needed to do. I asked Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell at the start of the second half if he saw what he needed to see from the defense. His big grin said it all. A defense that held the Bills to 3 first downs, 50 net yards of offense, enough pressure on Bills QB Trent Edwards to make him want to make a plea to get rid of the hurry-up offense (to extend the time in between the beat downs), and James Farrior making like a young buck with a pick six.

* Big Ben looked mighty comfy sitting in the pocket with a line that had all the right pieces in place for the first time since early in camp. Ben had a 15-19-168 night that looked as easy as fishing with dynamite. The line did a terrific job of switching and grinning while picking up a weak Buffalo rush.

* Rashard Mendenhall looked frosty and feisty as he one-cut his way to 16 carries, 48 yards and one express lane-wide touchdown run. The only no-no was a fumble on the opening series when Big Juicy Kemoeatu got stuffed in the hole by Buff DT Kyle Williams, who shoulder-padded the ball out of Rashard's hands. Chris got too high and Williams got the hands inside position and drove Kemoeatu back. Williams looked like a guy pushing his out-of-gas car into a service station. Still, Rashard has to protect that ball better.

* Hines Ward never changes. And that grin never gets old. Whether he's catching, scoring or blocking Hines's smile lights up his teammates. I'll be that is one man who flosses daily.

* Willie Colon is the undisputed leader of that offensive line. And he's just a plain mean ol' dude on the field. On a first half Mendenhall run to his side, Willie jacked a Buffalo linebacker with a shoulder/forearm so hard that from groundhog level it made the Bills linebackers' head look like it was sitting on a Pez dispenser, a real head snapper.

* Keyaron Fox hits as hard as anybody on that defense. Whether it's a coverage situation where he drilled kickoff return man Leodis McKelvin on the 18-yard line or the lights-out hit on a forgotten Bills receiver (Fox hit the guy so hard that I forgot who it was), he was impressive.

* Okay, so maybe there's one guy who hits harder than Fox and his name is James Harrison. I'll bet Dominic Rhodes remembers who lit him up on a short pass out to the flats. Picture perfect smack-u-lating form as Harrison hit nose up, dead center, rolled his hips through, lifted Rhodes up and pile-drove him into the Heinz field turf. The more I see of the fearsome hits by James, the more convinced I am that the idiot fan who ran onto the field in Cleveland got off easy that day.

* Another guy that didn't get off easy was the right tackle from Buffalo. Brad Butler got entangled in a little scrum action with LaMarr Woodley on a first-half pass rush and LaMarr decided to forget about Trent Edwards and sack the Butler instead. Haven't seen LaMarr's finishing move he threw on Butler since the day Bruno Sammartino air-mailed Dominic Denucci in a grudge match.

* Ramon Foster continues to impress me as a guy that doesn't want to go home. He's got a little bit of Willie Colon nasty and what he lacks in athleticism he makes up with enthusiasm in hitting people … hard.

* I can't help but throw in a note about backup – or rather, starter-in-waiting – nose tackle Chris Hoke. On a running play, Hoke threw a fine uppercut on the center and turned the center's shoulders so smoothly it looked like Hokie was pushing on a revolving door. Gap penetrated, the Bills' running back had to alter his course right into the backside-chase squad and the play went for zippo gain. All in a day's work for Chris. He just makes plays.

* This column wouldn't be complete without mentioning Stefan Logan. Watching all the veterans come off the bench again to watch this young man says it all. In "Tomlin-ese," Logan has earned the right to be watched even more than what he's already earned.

* Somehow it comes out a little better when Tomlin says it.

* Speaking of coming off the bench, if you want to capture the pride the defense takes in pitching a shutout, even in a pre-season game, then you needed to be ringside when Joe Burnett blocked the field goal attempt by the Bills. The vets were full force urging the young bucks on. When Burnett came through with the blocked kick, the sidelines erupted as if it were a December game. Do you know why the Steelers' defense is great? Because it WANTS to be great, all the time -- in practice, in practice games, in season, and post-season.


Steel City Insider Top Stories