Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Super Bowl week:
a. In honor of you, Paul Zimmerman, I timed the National Anthem by Jennifer Hudson. A wonderful rendition, by the way, in two minutes and five melodious seconds. A tad long for your tastes, Z. I could feel your disdain over the time of it from all the way up in New Jersey.
b. Many, many more Cardinals fans on the streets around Raymond James Stadium, and milling around the party inside, than I'd imagined. I'd say it was 65-35 Pittsburgh outside.
c. Game time: 75-25 Steelers was the feel from the crowd.
d. I was not with Mike Holmgren in the Pirate Ship last night during the game, but I bet as a few close calls went Pittsburgh's way, he said something to the effect of, "I've seen this movie before.''
e. Tampa did a very nice job. Not nearly the late-week traffic mess I recall from eight years ago, though the traffic here, as I wrote the other day, is out of control.
f. Just finishing up the column this morning at 6:30 in the lobby of the Renaissance when Jerome Bettis walked in. He'd been with his Steelers boys all night. Nothing crazy. "Just happy,'' he said. "Sooooo happy.''
g. Couldn't be happier for Dick LeBeau, one of the most decent men I've covered.
h. The Jets, as I said Sunday on NBC, are going to give Brett Favre lots of time to breathe. As in months. Favre and GM Mike Tannenbaum talked the other day for the first time since Dec. 29, and Tannenbaum said he was in no rush for Favre to make a decision on his future.
i. Doesn't matter. I don't believe Favre will play again.
2. I think it's the best Super Bowl ever.
3. I think it's no wonder the Steelers were so worried about Arizona safety Adrian Wilson all week. They put a scout team safety in a special number 24 jersey -- a blue jersey -- and played this number 24 in six different spots one day in practice. Wilson has had some good days and bad days this year, but he was terrific Sunday.
4. I think the comparison is slightly faulty, because he isn't exactly a balletic football player, but Santonio Holmes is to the 2008 Steelers what Lynn Swann was to the seventies Steelers.
5. I think the Cardinals had better pay Karlos Dansby. If they don't, someone in free agency will make him an $8-million-a-year player.
6. I think, in the interest of full disclosure, here's how I voted in Saturday's Hall of Fame balloting. The two Seniors candidates, Bob Hayes and Claude Humphrey, get yea or nay votes. I voted yes on Humphrey, no on Hayes. (Shows my influence. Hayes got the requisite 80 percent for entry, Humphrey did not.) The 15 modern-era candidates get whittled to 10 first, then to five, and then we vote yes or no on the remaining five. My final 10 were Cris Carter, Richard Dent, Russ Grimm, Randall McDaniel, Shannon Sharpe, Bruce Smith, Paul Tagliabue, Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson, Rod Woodson. (I eliminated Dermontti Dawson, Cortez Kennedy, Bob Kuechenberg, John Randle, Andre Reed.) My final five were Carter, Smith, Sharpe, Wilson and Woodson. Then I voted yes on all five finalists: McDaniel, Smith, Thomas, Wilson, Woodson. I like the five-man modern class. Though I didn't vote for Hayes, I understand his appeal and am happy for his family and for everyone who supported him; there were certainly a lot of passionate people for him. My opposition centered around the fact I never had it proven to me that he was a singular player in NFL history. Homer Jones has long since been forgotten, but compare his first five significant years to Hayes' first five significant ones (1965-69) and tell me how Hayes is a much better player.
7. I think this is what I liked about the game:
a. Very gutsy challenge by Ken Whisenhunt, and it saved the Cardinals four points early.
b. Excellent call by Terry McAulay in upholding the Arizona challenge. Not only was Roethlisberger a half-yard short of the goal line when his knee hit the ground, but Big Ben was being illegally carried into the end zone by center Justin Hartwig.
c. It took five minutes (5:15, exactly) to show that Ben Roethlisberger was not going to be a nervous Nelly in this game. Nine plays, 71 yards, two great throws by a cool Big Ben.
d. Very nice block, Darnell Stapleton, on the Garry Russell touchdown burst early in the second quarter. Union (N.J.) High and Rutgers got proud on that play, Darnell.
e. Ben Patrick's touchdown catch is precisely the kind of catch the Steelers were worried about Larry Fitzgerald catching -- a high ball Fitz would have to leap for. And Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote played it well, getting his hand on the ball trying to block it. But Patrick made a terrific play to come down with it.
f. Good luck in Kansas City, Todd Haley, if you're interviewed. You've got a lot going for you, and your players respect you quite a bit.
8. I think this is what I didn't like about the game:
a. Ken Whisenhunt deferring to start the game? Didn't like it at all. Not at all. The Cards won the toss and could have jumped ahead with their powerful offense -- let's face it, the Arizona passing game has been the hottest single facet of any team this postseason -- but deferred. I found it odd. And when the Steelers drove 71 yards to score on the first series ... very, very suspect call.
b. How can a Cardinal (it was hard to tell whom) throw a haymaker on the first play of the second quarter and not only not get thrown out but not get penalized? That's a punch the umpire, Roy Ellison, absolutely cannot miss.
c. Here's a quibble with the NFL's media policy after the game, and I know it'll fall on deaf ears. But Mike Tomlin should be able to have some time with his team after the game. "Everyone keeps asking me how I'm enjoying the moment,'' he said around 11:35 p.m., over an hour after the game ended. "How would I know? I just keep having to talk to the media.'' The league has to allow a coach and his team to have 10 minutes alone after the game. It's only fair.
d. Arizona has to figure out how to run the ball. No one runs against the Steelers, and the Cards ran better in the postseason than the regular-season, obviously, but that has to be an offseason priority.
9. I think it looks like there's a 40-60 percent chance the league's going to do something about overtime. "What we've seen in our statistics is that historically about 30 percent of the games in overtime are decided with a team who wins the coin flip scoring on the first possession,'' Roger Goodell said Friday. "That number has risen to about 47 percent, and I think that's significant, and I think it's something our committee needs to look at. [Don't know where that stat comes from. Seems high to me. I thought it was 39 percent in the last five years.] When you couple that with the fact that our field-goal kickers are much more accurate than they have been in the past, that is a danger. We have talked about different concepts, and the committee will discuss this. And I've had some discussions with some of the committee members individually. Should we move the kickoff so that the ball, theoretically at least, would be, the drive would start further back? If they drive down and they kick a long field goal, they deserve to win.''
No, no, no. Change no rules but one: Give the team that loses the coin flip at least one possession, then it goes to sudden death.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Great job, Bruce. I was lucky enough to be on the field, and though hearing was not very good down there, the energy translated. Bruce plays like Ray Lewis patrols.
b. Coffeenerdness: Perhaps my movements are no mystery to the football public. There were two comments to me from a swarm of Steelers fans as I left Pittsburgh's practice Thursday. One: "Peter, who do you like Sunday?'' Two: "You going to Starbucks when you leave here?''
c. Finally saw Burn After Reading. I'll give it a C-plus. A little weird, frankly.
d. Hard to believe the season's over. Isn't it? Won't we all go through withdrawal over the next few days?