* When Mike Tomlin talks about starter's-in-waiting, the poster boy has to be inside linebacker Keyaron Fox. In the first quarter, Fox fired on a fire-x (try saying that 10 times and see if you don't get slapped in the face) and absolutely "trucked" former friendly face and now Carolina guard Keydrick Vincent. I mean all 350 pounds of "Shrek" was run through like a bull elephant charging through the wicker section at a local furniture store. Keydrick should've known better and stepped up to jam Fox at the line of scrimmage rather than letting the human cruise missile Fox gain so much momentum. Keydrick dropped back and sat on his heels too long, which gave too much firepower to a man that plays bigger than his already big body. Fox didn't slow down until Jake Delhomme was gazing up at the Carolina sky from a prone position. Talk about lighting somebody up! The city of Charlotte could've been powered by the energy Fox brought on that rush.
* During pre-game, just prior to kickoff, I happened to be standing near Arnold "Snelly" Harrison. Say what you want about this young man, but one thing is for certain: He has passion and his desire to play this game burns inside him like a smoldering inferno. I noticed with all the chaotic, high testosterone verbosity of a pre-kickoff sideline that Arnold was very emotional. While interviewing Snelly in the post-game locker room radio show, I asked him what was fueling the pre-game emotions. Yet, I knew the answer without even listening to Arnold. The fourth preseason game signifies an ending. All the hot, sweaty days of Latrobe have been forgotten. Reality sets in like a heart attack. It's very hard to describe in words what it means to come down to one game, one moment in time, when all your hopes and dreams, all your boyhood aspirations, collide and your entire future lies before you in 60 minutes of anxious uncertainty.
Yet it was a very cool and collected Arnold Harrison sitting across from me that was discussing how the previous two knee injuries, which robbed him of nearly two full seasons of NFL production, had weighed so heavily on him at that particular moment. The knowing of all the proverbial pain, sweat and tears of rehabilitation, and that he was a bubble guy, came together in a quick reflection of how far he had come since the last ACL injury that had wrecked a terrific training camp last year. Every man handles such pressure in his own way. Some fold up under the enormity of the moment like a card table. But Arnold?
Two tackles on special teams, a key fourth-down crunching heart-stopper of a hit on a Carolina short-yardage run, and what could have been the play of the night -- except for a gremlin named Logan. It was one of those rare trifectas of running over somebody, stripping the ball, and recovering that same ball that Arnold did what Coach Mike called for earlier in the week when he challenged guys to "make plays." I don't know if Arnold's performance got him that "seat on the bus" or even "a hat for Sunday" but I know if I'm driving the bus, I don't leave until Arnold gets on. You gotta love this young man.
* Stefan Logan's mojo had been steadily gaining momentum until it hit critical mass Thursday night. Watching Logan perform the last three games has been akin to being a storm tracker watching a hurricane grow from a nameless tropical storm to a class five "Hurricane Stefan." As Logan took his place on the field and waited patiently for the punt, veteran players grabbed a Gatorade and took up positions on the sideline to witness for themselves something that was missing in their super season last year. The storm was brewing, crackling even, as the anticipation grew. One by one, the players congregated on the sideline and all eyes came to rest on the smallest man on the field. Think Robert Redford in "The Natural."
The thump of the punt was the call to action, and I felt myself squeezing my nearly empty bag of M&M's as Stefan circled underneath the ball. Hurricane Stefan made landfall in the end zone 80 yards away after Logan accelerated, cut this way and that, leaving everyone in his wake. I had to step back from the sideline, while Logan sprinted the last 30 to 40 yards untouched, because Ryan Clark and James Harrison were running parallel to Stefan on the sidelines all the way to the end zone, screaming and jumping like it was a gamewinner. I was afraid the Silverback might pull a hammie as bedlam ensued in Mudville. And like I said last week, this young man is going to be a popular dude with his teammates. He's the only guy I know that draws SRO crowds from his teammates.