Monday, September 13, 2010

Steelers Over Falcons, a Week 1 Thriller

More than I love sports, I love the intersection of sports and real life. I love it even more than I love cooking, even more than I love cupcakes from Vanilla Pastry, which are dead serious deliciousness and the best in the city.

UConn Fan, while evidencing obviously good taste in desserts when she showed up with the aforementioned Vanilla goodies in hand, is also a doctor and was on call over the weekend, which is to say, smack dab through the Steelers game. She had already fielded two calls.

Now, I have no idea what kind of condition would cause you to page your family doc during a Steelers game, short having a rocket launcher explode in your face, being mauled by a bear, or temporarily paralyzing oneself in pain while attempting the moves from the Lady Gaga "Telephone" video, but I find it hard to believe that those were the cause of any of the the pages that came through to UConn Fan. But you never know. Stillers fans are a diverse bunch.

After the overtime coin flip, just as Sam Baker was flagged for an obvious, desperate hold on James Harrison, she got another page which she was in the middle of returning just before David Johnson and Heath Miller laid out crushing pancake blocks opening the way for Rashard Mendenhall's 50 yard dash to the endzone.

And as Mendenhall ripped behind Miller and Johnson, ripped past any would be tacklers, maintained his balance and cruised into the endzone, she calmly maintained her doctor mien, as the rest of us celebrated silently - high-fiving, fist pumping and I myself even did part of the Gaga "Telephone" dance, albeit badly and awkwardly, but without injury. The pain of holding in a barbaric yawp? Why, it was almost enough to make me call my primary care physician.

On with the game balls, the on-field variety:

Lawrence Timmons looked like he is all that the Steelers drafted him to be and more. He was everywhere at once.

Head & Shoulders may have insured Troy Polamalu's hair, but Dick LeBeau should insure the rest of him. His value to the Steelers defense is incalculable and I don't think it can be overstated. Even now, Matt Ryan is in Atlanta, having coffee, going over the gameplan for this week, but in the back of his mind, he's still thinking, "Where the hell did that guy come from?! How can he do that? I can't do that? Can you do that? Who is that guy?"

Dennis Dixon looked tight and nervous and I hope that he's worked out the jitters, because I think he has the ability to play better than what we saw on Sunday. As Crash Davis once eloquently said, "Don't think Meat, just throw." Or run, as the case may be.

Big ups to Dan Sepulveda, for launching a 54 yard punt near the end of the 4th quarter that set up Polamalu's pick which should have ended the game. But still, props to the punter.

The D Line, linebackers and B-Mac did a great job in stuffing Michael Turner all day long. There weren't many holes for him to hit and when there was one, McFadden closed it quickly. 42 yards on 19 attempts? That's a great day for the Steelers defense.

And a huge delicious cupcake to David Johnson for pancaking two Atlanta defenders on Mendenhall's game winning dash. If he keeps doing that, the coaches may use him more than Matt Spaeth.

The bad news is that both Big Snack and Max Starks went down with injuries. The Starks injury is much more troubling for a few reasons. He plays a position where there is negligible depth. Coach Tomlin reported in his presser yesterday that it seems to be a low ankle sprain, rather than the dread high ankle variety, but ankle injuries can really derail an entire season. I realize that it's not as though the left tackle is expected to spring down the field with regularity, but it is a position that requires a lot of lateral movement and pop. Anybody who has sprained an ankle knows that it's the lateral movement that kills you. Get well soon Max. Whoever is under center needs you.