A View From The Sideline

Craig Wolfley shares his insights and a few insider tidbits with us after working the sidelines Sunday for the Steelers Radio Network.

Aaah, Ford Field. Super Bowl 40 memories washed over me as I took my place on the sidelines. I have this picture in my mind of the Bus taking center stage during intros while Joey Porter held back the rest of the team, Clark Haggans giving me a high five moments before he took the field for his first Super Bowl snaps, being so close to the halftime show (the Rolling Stones) that I could see the marionette puppet strings holding up Keith Richards, and Aaron Smith's face as the clock expired and he knew he was a Super Bowl champion. I came back to reality slowly as I heard the roar of the crowd, and here's what I saw from groundhog level:

* This could have been Heinz Field. There was an enormous number of Steelers fans and they had their Terrible Towels a flyin'. Larry Foote walked out with his Lions teammates for the coin toss. The look on Larry's face as he came out to see Hines, Ben, Potsie, Keyaron Fox and Jeff Reed said a million things -- none of which said I wish I was a Lion.

* On Detroit's first play from scrimmage, James Harrison went to work as the reigning heavyweight Defensive Player of the Year. Rushing on the outside shoulder of Lions Offensive Tackle Jeff Backus, James threw his patented "No dip-just rip" uppercut technique and it was sack/fumble, business as usual. If you are a big hog playing against James and you can't bend at the knees, you're toast. Simple as that.

* Dick Lebeau decided to spread the Harrison punishment out to the other side of the line and lined James up over the right guard. James busted through Stephen Peterman and Lions right tackle Jon Jansen, and they both took a hand and held the Silverback. The flag was thrown, but picked it up later. Harrison is held more than a cute baby.

* In the first quarter Santonio got a now call from Ben, in which the ball is thrown immediately to Holmes and Santonio put a stiff-arm right into the mush of William James. When you see ‘Tone in street clothes, you don't realize how powerful he really is. Fourteen yards and a first down later, James had a pretty good idea.

* Trai Essex got gimped up on Rashard Mendenhall's 9-yard catch/run. The Big Legursky checked in and promptly threw a key block on Rashard's first big run. On a combo block Doug came off and mulched Larry Foote. Legursky has proved his worth throughout the pre-season and has manned up whenever called upon.

* In the second quarter it was a comedy of errors that had Big Ben get his foot nailed to the ground on a simple handoff to Rashard. Looking more like something from the 3 Stooges, center Justin Hartwig planted on Ben's foot who tried to shove it to Rashard who then had the ball bounce off his hip and into a cadre of Lions. Rashard went groundhog and somehow came up with the ball despite fighting 1-4 odds. That took me back to the old days when on a trap play I pulled and punched the ball out of Terry Bradshaw's hand. I didn't have much to say to Chuck Noll when I got to the sideline.

* I watched closely on the backside of a pass play, where the officials didn't get a gander at D'Andre Levy taking a cheap shot at Mendenhall. And I mean it was a butt-over-tea-kettle type shot. Keep your head on a swivel young man. Players are taking notice of your game.

* After seeing Willie Colon on the WWE, and taking in the face wash he gave to a Lions pass rusher, and a splat shot on DT Landon Cohen, I shall refer to him as "Ruthless" Willie Colon.

* Stefan Logan has a gear, and then a hyper gear. Watching Logan return that 47-yarder and outun a very fast Phillip Buchannon to the corner was worth the price of admission, and a double handful of Peanut M&M's.

* William James' pick six was a great defensive play. One of the few times that Ben has been off. Ben admitted later he floated the ball. But I sure liked the way he went right back at it with the no-huddle and scored. Ben is like a rock. When God handed out nerves of steel, He loaded Ben with it.

* Mike Wallace ran the longest come-back route in the history of the NFL. That ball hung up there and Mike sped under it and made up for the one he dropped. Funny thing happened after the 71-yarder Wallace dropped: Santonio went over to Mike and said "I guess you didn't want to be on Sportcenter tonight."

* Ryan Clark's hit on TE Brandon Pettigrew gave me a backache on the sidelines. Ryan hit him so hard I thought Pettigrew might be on the list for a new kidney. I certainly wouldn't want to go over the middle if I knew Clark was hunting me down. Ryan throws his body around so hard you wonder how he's able to function on Monday's.

* On the last play of the 3rd quarter, Daunte Culpepper dropped the ball while fading back to pass, spun around, picked it up, and then wildly heaved it to Clark. I saw better ball skills at halftime when the Pop Warner teams were out on the field.

* That last drive by the calmed-down Culpepper had the Lions in the right place at the right time. Three straight blitz calls by Dick LeBeau put the blitz back in Pittsburgh. It was so loud in Ford Field, the Lions' offensive linemen had problems hearing the count. Think about it: They were in their home stadium. I think frankly the Ford family should have lobbied Congress to extend the "Cash-for-clunkers" program to include their football fans.


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