The first slightly chilly game of the year always brought me comfort as a player. I've always looked forward to that first blast of cool air in the fall. As a lifetime fat guy, it meant that you could run harder, longer, and stronger because you weren't melting down like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Land of Oz. Watching from those brisk sidelines, here's what I saw:
* Shazzam! Bruce Arians kick-started this game with passes to Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, and Mike Wallace, rat-a-tat-tat, on the first drive and got all of them involved and active right away. While talking to Santonio after the game, he told me the receivers love that because it motivates them and heightens their intensity.
* Again the mastery of Big Ben was apparent when on the first play Chargers safety Clinton Hart came within a whisker of knocking that ball away from him while rolling out. The man is becoming Ninja-like. No one can sneak up on him.
* The first series culminated in a cement head's dream. Take an offensive lineman such as the big Legursky,, line him up as a fullback on a goal-line play, and let'r rip. Touchdown, with a nice lead hit by the Bronco, who hog-danced in the end zone like the little kid at a dance recital who's decided that free-styling was preferred over line dancing with his classmates.
* I know I can't get all jacked up and start screaming Super Bowl over one game. Admittedly, the San Diegans aren't too fond of stopping the run. In the second series the Steelers ran their Pike play with Big Juicy leading the way. The man-on-man blocking scheme ate the Chargers' front seven's lunch. Rashard Mendenhall picked up a huge chunk of greenery as it became apparent that the San Diego linebackers weren't kamikaze downhill attackers as much as the Tennessee and Chicago linebackers. I guess ending up as a hood ornament on Kemoeatu's grill will slow you down.
* Another bit of wisdom from Santonio: When a wide out blocks in the box on a run play, and Big Juicy is pulling and leading, ‘Tone says to get in and get out. "Juicy doesn't care who he stomps."
The only confusion I saw in the first half as far as a pick-up problem was a fire-x that had Stephen Cooper at the line of scrimmage and Kevin Burnett crossing behind him over the right guard. Trai Essex punched off Cooper and picked up Burnett. That meant Justin Hartwig had to slide over and picked up Cooper, and Kemoeatu took the nose tackle. Somehow, Ben dodged Cooper and got rid of the ball, or completed it (somehow I got some mustard on my notes, not sure which happened), either way a nice job of not taking a sack.
* On a LaDainian Tomlinson run off the left side, Ryan Clark blitzed and LT made him whiff. The play went nowhere. Clark made the fundamental error of dropping his head right before impact. The scary part of that is how prevalent that still is. Bull your necks men! Head up, eyes wide open. Taking one in the mush hurts, but a neck stinger or worse awaits those who drop their heads.
* I'll say this about Ryan Clark: He's one of my favorite guys out there, a real tough hombre. Clark took a knee to the back sometime in the first half, came out to play with an ice pack on his back in the second half, and played great. Clark throws his body around without regard for his own health, or anyone else for that matter.
* Mendenhall was in the zone. I got a chance to watch from the end zone, and on a front side stretch play, Rashard cut as he took the handoff. The protocol for handoffs is proper track, secure the handoff, and then cut. Rashard combined all three at times. Yet from the end zone, you could see what he saw. Rashard had his night-vision goggles on, because he was reading and screaming through holes. And he played lights out. Which, by the way, is what San Diego linebacker Burnett saw (lights out) after Mendenhall dosed him up with a little de-celeration trauma on a blitz. Grogg-i-fied him he did. Burnett staggered to his feet like Rocky Balboa after getting knocked down by Apollo Creed for the 27th time. Running the ball, picking up blitzes, Rashard did it all. I guess Coach Mike knew exactly what to do to get Rashard's attention. A two-by-four across the head in the form of a seat on the four-by-eight bench.
* Ike Taylor's play, mano-y-mano, on Vincent Jackson in front of the Steelers' bench in the fourth quarter was all Pro Bowl. Taylor's play thus far has been outstanding. Always pulling the toughest assignments and winning a high percentage of those battles, Taylor's a long way from the day Bill Cowher gave him the Rashard treatment on the bench.
* I liked the three-man games I saw the Steelers running. When you use three-man twists, generally you eat up four offensive linemen. That means its Marcus McNeill versus James Harrison on a two-way go in this instance. No help. Marcus won this one, but James closed the show. The Rivers sack/fumble at the end of the game came in true Silverback fashion, raw overpowering strength and speed, and a crunching finish. Rivers might want to take up a little Ninja training himself.