The unofficial count of Super Bowl rings accounted for lining up on the sidelines before the game with the Browns was 56. The Steelers alumni were on hand for the start of the game. Jerome Bettis stood by, along with Jon Kolb, Ray Pinney, Ron Johnson, Andy Russell, Frank Lewis and others. Lotta guys, loads of rings, except for me. I felt like hiding. But I didn't, and here's what I saw:
* Shaun Rogers is big. Rogers is also fast for a guy 350lbs. On the first Steelers snap from scrimmage, Rogers played off Justin Hartwig's single block and dropped Rashard Mendenhall for a short gain. Rogers played a "zero" technique where he is straight dead on the center and moved parallel to the center's first step. What the Browns are trying to minimize is Rogers taking up two linemen, and having him bust loose on just one and be as disruptive as G-20 protestors in a bad mood. What amazed me was that Rogers did this so easily, one massive arm on Justin, the other whacking Mendenhall. I hoped Justin was ready, because he was in for a two-chinstrap game.
* Three plays into the game Steelers rookie guard Ramon Foster found himself in the lineup when Big Juicy (Chris Kemoeatu) tweaked one of his hefty hoofers. Afterward, in the happy atmosphere of the locker room, I asked Ramon how fast his heart rate had accelerated. He said something along the lines of it being fast, but it got faster when he saw the size of Rogers. It was the look on his face that got me when he said it. It reminded me of Jack Black's face when he saw King Kong for the first time.
* In the second quarter, Hines Ward hooked up on a 52-yard touchdown strike that had Santonio Holmes almost going bust on the play because he wasn't supposed to be there. ‘Tone was to clear the zone for Hines but was late getting there and pulled off in time to allow the ageless wonder do what he does best: find the end zone.
* Watching Santonio on a bubble screen, I was surprised with his blocking ability. Holmes stalked, locked up, and drove on his man, which netted a good gain in the "Run game alternative," per Coach Mike-speak. Later on, Santonio turned a 15-yard comeback route into a 41-yard gain. This young man has mega-watt wide receiver instincts when he gets the "Green Grass and High Tides" view on the field. The man was born to run, and I'm not even trying to make a joke here folks.
* Troy Polamalu took the field in warmups wearing the knee brace. Then he cast the dad-gum thing as I suspected he might. I wore a knee brace years ago when they weren't using NASA space-like material to make them. I wore it for one or two games, and hated it. It cut down on my cat-like stealth and quickness. Seriously, even with the new space age stuff, for a guy like Troy, operating in the wide open spaces, a knee brace really limits you. It also makes one leg tire much quicker than the other and then you end up hobbling around like Chester in the old TV western "Gunsmoke."
* Travis Kirschke got the nod in place of a not only a wounded, but a sick Aaron Smith. Talk about having it rain on you! Travis played well. I mean, he really did an excellent imitation of a run stuffer. On one play, he looked so much like Smith that I had to check his number (90) just to make sure what I was seeing.
* The five turnovers in a row during the third quarter got to the point of being ludicrous. I began to wonder if the idiot fan that James Harrison spiked into the turf in Cleveland years ago might show up somewhere. Watching the disbelief on the defensive side of the bench as they repeatedly turned to go back on the field without hardly a moment for Gatorade was amusing, and only because this was Cleveland, and yes you always had the deep rooted feeling that the Browns would blow themselves up before they'd win on that day.