View From The Sideline

Sideline reporter Craig Wolfley, of the Steelers Radio Network, tells you what he saw on the sideline Monday night in Denver.

As Thunder, the mascot for the Denver Broncos, trotted down Invesco Field during warm-ups for what seemed like the 100th time, I marveled at the number of big shooters surrounding the Monday Night Football telecast. Watching all the hullaballoo at groundhog level caused me to ratchet up the tension level just another notch, although a carefree conversation with former antagonist Matt Millen was fun. Glad to see the former Raider back in the game. The skydivers were spectacular. The game, from a Steelers perspective, was equally spectacular, and here's what I saw:

* The first sign that all was well came on the opening kickoff. Jeff Reed booted, and Carey Davis and Andre Frazier, neither available for the last two "To The House" returns against the Steelers, ran downfield and did their jobs. Frazier is a guy who has to stay healthy. He moves downfield collecting data as if he's The Terminator. And just like the Arnold Schwarzenegger character, Frazier makes things go ka-boom when he's around. All I needed was some popcorn.

* In the second quarter Kyle Orton was at McDonald's having it "his way." Short passes, zipped in accurately, nice and tight, were a problem for the Steelers. The Turk up in the booth preached patience for the Steelers, that they must remain disciplined in their techniques before making explosive tackles, and to keep whacking the receivers, rushing Orton, and to not get frustrated by the short completions. He said that after awhile, with all the underneath routes that the Broncos were running, someone would jump a route and get an interception. Boy, was he right.

* That scenario unfolded when Orton threw to Knowshon Moreno on a circle route out of the backfield. Dick LeBeau called for a zone blitz that had Chris Hoke, all 300 pounds of him, dropping off the line and settling into the short middle zone. Moreno came across and Hokie jammed him. Ty Carter, watching Orton's eyes all the way, jumped on it as he saw Moreno getting whacked and picked it off for a touchdown and a good start for the Steelers. That play by Ty was just a veteran player using his eyeballs and gut instinct.

* Bad mojo awaited the Steelers and Chris Kemoeatu in the third quarter. The Broncos' Kenny Peterson got the edge on Big Juicy on a pass rush and sacked/stripped Big Ben. Chris has problems at times with his footwork. When a rusher throws an uppercut and gets the edge, and you don't check his hip with a hand punch to the rusher's hip, and step-slide with your lead foot so that you get your hip in front of the other guy's hip, you're dead in the water. That's pretty much what happened and Robert Ayers picked up the fumble for a touchdown.

* Bad plays will happen. And if you hope to have a career longer than one year, it's all about how you respond. As I stood on the sideline a few yards from Chris, I saw how upset he was at getting beat. Been there, done that. I felt for the guy because it's a horrible feeling knowing you were the cause. Then along came 7, right into Juicy's face, and he slapped him upside the head. I imagine Ben was working the farmer's theory that before you plow the field you get the mule's attention by whacking him upside the head with a two by four. Ben then had an animated conversation with Juicy, grill-to-grill, and punctuated it with "What are you going to do?" As in, how are you going to respond? Four plays later Hines Ward caught a touchdown pass from Ben. And Juicy? He was grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat after stomping and goring some Broncos.

* I like the way 7 stepped to the forefront and showed leadership skills while re-focusing a guy they badly needed to re-focus. For Chris, it's another lesson learned. Not just in sharpening technique, but in learning to re-focus, getting mentally strong, and coming back and getting it done when it would've been easier to pack it in.

* The game wouldn't have been complete without another amazing play from Silverback. With just under a minute left, Orton completed a pass over the middle to Correll Buckhalter. James Harrison hit Buckhalter so hard he performed a magnificent "Triple Lindy," if you're a Rodney Dangerfield fan. If you're not, call it a one-and-a-half side somersault. Buckhalter had to be helped off the field, and was probably reading close captioned sentences in his head for a while.

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