Due to my not being able to control my excitement over the new NFL season, and since I'll be glued to my seat for the whole game, I thought I'd run a diary of the experience. And we're just about ready for kickoff!
8:25 Al Michaels' hair looks especially wispy tonite. And sprayed on. I can barely see him thanks to the glare radiating off of Collinsworth's smile. BOOM!
8:38 Boy, Harry Connick, Jr. has really lost a step or three. I could've cracked my knuckles with more harmony than he just sang our National Anthem with. Who booked this act? Was the other guy from Wham! not available?
8:39 Andrea Kramer asks Mike Tomlin about the pitfalls of defending a championship. Tomlin thinks she was asking him what he was doing later. Hilarity ensues. Not really.
8:40 Cut to a shot of former Steelers WR Nate Washington riding the exercise bike on the sideline. Working hard to earn that fat new contract Tennessee gave him based on nothing but potential, I see.
8:41 And we're under way! Nice return by Pittsburgh to start.
8:43 Quick third down, beautiful pump fake by Ben—looks like he either underthrew Mike Wallace or overthrew Hines Ward. Either way, punt.
8:43 Booming first punt of the season, downed at the two-yard line.
8:45 Almost a safety! Yikes, Tennessee better try something different than running up the gut tonight.
8:47 Third down play, quick outlet pass to Chris Johnson and Polamalu just made a play on him he'd only make in Madden. Bad blood between these two dating back to last season. Three-yard loss and a punt.
8:51 The Pitt O-line is in alot of trouble this year. No holes for Fast Willie Parker and teams will be burying Ben all season at this rate. Might have to rename Roethlisberger "Dig Ben".
8:55 First down reverse field run by Johnson and a flag for an out of bounds hit on Polamalu picks up 32 yards for the Titans.
8:56 Bo Scaife wide open for 20 yards over the middle. Didn't expect the tight ends to be so involved right from the start.
8:58 Third and seven; Polamalu makes a perfect play towards the sideline to break up a pass on a seemingly wide open Scaife. He's easily the best safety in the league.
8:59 Bironas misses the FG attempt from 32 yards out. Not what Tennessee needs on this night. Should be a low-scoring game with can't miss "gimme" FGs.
9:01 Mendenhall just totally felt Ben up. It's not "sexy time," Rashard. Botched hand-off, no gain.
9:01 Another third down, another sack. An all-out blitz nails Ben before the play could even develop. Punt. Could be a running theme this year for Pittsburgh.
9:02 Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney immediately hits the waiver wire and signs recent Bengals waiver Gus "American Idol" Parrish to help his struggling O-line. The team loves his resemblance to Randy Jackson, feels he'll fit right in with head coach Omar Epps.
9:07 Sitting here praying that Greg Olsen has a monster season in Chicago to make passing on Scaife in two fantasy drafts worth it. Another nice catch and pickup. Just great.
9:08 I agree with ESPN fantasy whiz Matthew Berry—LenDale White will always be "Fat" LenDale White to me.
9:09 Al Michaels notes that if "LenDale White lost 40 lbs by getting off tequila, then I'm getting on tequila so I can then get off of it." Al, hitting the tequila before the NFL season is not a good idea, just ask Shawne Merriman. Sometimes the jokes write themselves...
9:10 Umm, did I say Polamalu is the best safety in the league? Good, because I meant it. Ridiculous one-handed interception, leaping and reaching behind him for the pick to stop a good-looking Tennessee drive. Wow.
9:12 And no sooner than I finish typing that sentence does Ben toss a duck out to the Tennessee D. Titans ball. Big crowd letdown there. Loss of Pittsburgh momentum.
9:19 Pittsburgh's blitz packages are starting to show up now. These three consecutive plays—tackle for loss on Johnson, incomplete pass from Collins with a man in his face at the snap, and finally a sack.
9:23 Now praying that Greg Olsen has a monster season to validate passing up Heath Miller in two fantasy drafts also. Every completed pass has seemingly been to a TE. That might be an official stat. Not sure.
9:25 An FWP sighting! Breaks through the line...oh wait, that must've been because of a holding. Yes it was. Bring it back, guys.
9:26 Loving Collinsworth in the booth. They should use this footage in next year's Madden. Hypercritical is always more entertaining than the standard announce booth fare.
9:28 Big throw and catch for Pittsburgh under heavy pressure. Anxiously awaiting our first "San Antonio Holmes" reference of the season.
9:30 I don't think any other NFL player has had as many concurrently cool commercials as Adrian Peterson has these days. Nike Pro Combat. Don't even know what that is, but I'd buy it.
9:33 OK, we get it. LenDale White stomped on the Terrible Towel last year. It's a towel. I step on towels all the time when I'm cleaning. If you can wave it in people's face when your team wins, you have to deal with people blowing their noses in it when they beat you. Man up, Pittsburgh.
9:36 Polamalu flagged for pass interference. If that's pass interference, let's just tape flags to everyone's hips now. Offsetting penalties, repeat down. Are the refs still warming up for the season?
9:39 Troy is racking up penalties now, Collins is beating the pressure. Looks like Pittsburgh will force Collins to beat them with his arm all night. Stacking the line against the run.
9:40 Jeff Fisher is such an underrated coach. He's truly elite. That guy knows how to build and maintain a winning team. His players would take a bullet for him. Except for Vince Young, who shouldn't be around firearms at all. Ever.
9:42 Blocked FG! Bironas is living his nightmare. When Pittsburgh wins, this will be why.
9:44 Al reminds us all that there have still been no points scored in 2009. I'm betting some points are going to be scored in 2009. You heard it here first, people.
9:46 Aaron Eckhart's career has been up and down—Thank You for Smoking followed by No Reservations, eventually leading to The Dark Knight and now Love Happens. Aaron needs to slow down and start really reading those scripts. Commercial highlights Jen Aniston, though, so not all bad.
9:49 Hines Ward with the biggest reception of the game so far with Pittsburgh driving in the two-minute offense. Ward is just a warrior. He's more skilled than he gets credited for being.
9:51 TOUCHDOWN! Perfect pump fake and deep pass to San Antonio for the score. Michaels points out that Holmes has bookended 2008 and 2009 with TD catches to end last season and start this one. The game might end this way. No really.
9:52 Polamalu going to the dressing room for a head start on therapy. Return is questionable.
9:54 Tennessee in one-minute drill mode. Collins loads up, pumps and underthrows a now wide open Kenny Britt who turns the catch into a 57-yard reception.
9:55 TOUCHDOWN! Wow, open throw to Justin Gage for the score in the front corner of the end zone. This Pittsburgh defense is lost for a handful of plays without Polamalu on the field. Steelers fans, be afraid.
9:57 It's amazing how long Ben holds onto the ball. The O-line is porous, but they don't have a prayer against any rush if they have to hold it off for over six seconds. Another sack.
10:01 Well-run drive by Pittsburgh, heads-up play by Ward and Mewelde Moore, both making yardage and stepping out of bounds to preserve one second on the clock for a FG attempt. But a penalty wipes the play out. Time for a kneel-down or an end zone heave. Wasted opportunity.
10:02 It's a heave! And an INT! And a return by the speedy Cortland Finnegan. And he's still going...and he cuts back and is still going...now he has a wall of blockers! He's still going, avoids another tackle...he might break this! Oh he's driven to the sideline and tackled at the 20. Wow. Can't believe the last two minutes of this half.
Halftime. I'll be back for the second half, folks. Need a frosty beverage.
10:20 And we return from halftime with the announcement that Polamalu is done for the game. Al lets us know it's because Troy "has a knee". Hey, I have one too!
10:24 We're middling along to start the half. Collins drops back, hits Scaife again on a short pass, but this time he's leg tackled and seems to be in serious pain. Oh, he dropped the ball! That's a fumble ladies and gentlemen, and Pittsburgh recovers. My sanity is safe now that the fantasy era of Bo Scaife might have come to an early end.
10:27 I think we have a pulse on FWP. Third and short. Run up the middle with Parker was a worse idea than dating Kim Kardashian. Stopped for a loss. Punt.
10:29 Finnegan muffs the fair catch at the Pittsburgh 10-yd line. Barely recovers. Tennessee takes over.
10:31 The wife is home. Brief pause to show some affection.
10:38 Punt by Tennessee and a solid start to a drive by Pittsburgh. Short connections over the middle. Nothing open deep and outside. BTW—what is that tarp taped along the sideline? It looks slick and not secured. It screams "torn ACL" to me. Weird.
10:46 It's astonishing how wide open the middle of the field is without Polamalu on the field for Pittsburgh. They're making Tennessee's TEs look like Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
10:48 This Levi's jeans commercial made my head hurt. Nonsensical. Nothing to do with jeans. As long as it's not a Wrangler commercial.
10:51 Pittsburgh hasn't abandoned the run game yet. Not sure why not. At some point you have to adjust and decide that FWP isn't an effective inside runner and try to get him bounced to the outside, where his speed makes a difference. Bad game plan.
10:55 There's a Vince Young sighting! Did you know he beat out Patrick Ramsey for the backup QB spot? We're all proud of Vince.
10:57 I must say, Kerry Collins looks more than solid. I think he's a victim of not having playmakers at the receiver positions. The guy has a cannon but nobody that can get free deep consistently. Elite defenses will always be able to shut this offense down. Doesn't bode well for the playoffs again.
10:59 Bironas is back and hungry for blood. From 47 yards out...it's good! Titans lead 10-7.
11:01 Snoop Dogg is in the hizzzzzouse! Was unaware that he was a long time Steelers fan. Could've swore he was down with Raider nation...maybe I'm just connecting his West Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiide connections with his sports team preferences.
11:05 Heath Miller with another catch. That gives him 1,000 yds on the night. Did I mention that I passed him by in fantasy drafts?
11:08 Ben is on the run again. O-line is exhausted. Kearse just came unabated to the QB and buried Ben. The entire season just flashed before Steelers fans eyes. Wow. I've said that alot tonight. At this rate of being driven into the ground, he's really earning that new "Dig Ben" nickname.
11:13 Has a team ever been drawn offside by an obvious fourth down lineup and snap count? That's what I thought. FG coming up.
11:16 Tie game, 10 all. Three minutes left in the game.
11:18 Just for Men commercial featuring Emmitt Smith going grey. His "beard is weird" apparently. It ended with him groping a cheerleader. He'll be hearing from the commissioner tomorrow.
11:21 Collins completion, letting time run down to two-minute warning. Smart, solid, safe football. Safe football loses more games than it wins, coincidentally.
11:23 Two wasted opportunities, two thrown away balls. Couldn't pick up a first down. Punting back to Pittsburgh at the two-minute warning. You just knew Pittsburgh would be in this spot.
11:25 Shanked Tennessee kick, short field, Steelers takes over at their 44-yard line. Chances that Pittsburgh loses this game in regulation—one percent. It's amazing how some teams always put themselves in this position. Excuse me as I grumble bitterly and stare down at my Jets jersey.
11:31 Hines Ward has never been so open in his career. Huge gain to end the game...wait, WHAT? FUMBLE?! Titans recover at the five-yard line! What a lapse in judgment by Ward. He needed only to fall on the ground to run the clock out and try the game-winning FG. This is why I love the NFL. Anything can happen as long as there's one second left on the clock and somebody isn't thinking clearly.
11:33 Steelers trying to force a turnover or the Titans to have to punt before regulation ends. Won't work. The clock isn't their friend.
AND THE RUNNING DIARY IS GOING INTO OVERTIME! NFL KICKOFF! WOOOO!
11:39 And we're underway again, Pittsburgh wins the coin flip. A relieved Hines Ward looks...well...relieved.
11:41 Ward on the first-down catch. Absolutely ready to redeem himself.
11:42 Heath Miller with his 50th catch of the night. Nice gain of about seven.
11:45 San Antonio for the first down, and Pittsburgh is officially driving for the win now.
11:46 Ben drops back, lots of pressure...avoids a sure sack and throws while falling down, right through everybody's hands. You have to throw the ball away there. I don't care how tough you are. He had a receiver but he also had three Titans in the area. Could've been game over the other way.
11:47 Ben has time now, looks all over, launches the ball down the middle of the field for rookie Mike Wallace (no 60 Minutes jokes here. I don't think 60 Minutes jokes exist anymore. Not my demographic. I'll leave that to Peter King.) down to the 10! Okay, let's try this again...chances Pittsburgh loses this game in OT? .00000000000000001 percent.
11:48 Reed lines up for the 33-yd FG attempt for the win, aaaaannnnnd...it's right down the middle! Steelers Win!
11:51 Andrea Kramer wears alot of makeup. Thank goodness for HD or I wouldn't have known that. Hines Ward still looks like he wants to cry over his fumble. "Dig Ben" towing the politically correct company line of having to prove themselves as a team and win another title, not defend the old one. Blah blah blah...this reminds me of why athletes like Terrell Owens and Ochocinco are newsworthy—because everyone else is just so vanilla and boring. Ugh.
11:55 I hope you enjoyed following the game along with me tonight. Very exciting season awaiting us, and this was a great way to kick it off!