The NFL and its fans had to love the kickoff to the 2009 season.
There were so many storylines for writers to grab hold of and run with, but two things became clear after the game: Ben Roethlisberger is a big-game quarterback of the nth degree and the Titans D-line won't miss a beat without Albert Haynesworth.
It was basic, hard-nosed football at its best.
Despite this warm, fuzzy feeling of victory, the Steeler Nation does have some cause for concern. So here it is, the good and the bad in week one for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. Big Ben Does it Again: Roethlisberger recorded his 20th fourth quarter or overtime comeback by going 5-for-7 for 60 yards down the stretch.
He was cool and poised in the pocket and when he had to run for his life, he usually found an open man. For the game, Big Ben was 33-for-43 for 363 yards and a touchdown.
2. The Receivers: The trio of Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Mike Wallace, who has apparently wrested the No. 3 receiver role from Limas Sweed, combined for 20 receptions for 257 yards and a score.
Yes, Hines made a crucial fumble inside the five, but all-in-all, the receivers are clearly the bright spot of the offense. Throw in TE Heath Miller, and Roethlisberger has a ton of weapons in his pass receiving arsenal.
3. Special Teams: One of the things Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wanted to see a marked improvement in from a year ago was special teams. If last night is any indication of what will happen the whole season, he got his wish.
Punter Daniel Sepulveda averaged 42.7 yards on seven punts that routinely put Tennessee in terrible field position. The Titans' average start was their own 15.
On the other end of the spectrum, Stefan Logan gave the Steelers great field position for most of the game. The former CFL star averaged 29.0 yards on kickoff returns and 11.0 yards on punt returns.
In addition, James Farrior came up with a huge block of a Rob Bironas field goal attempt in the second quarter. It was an A-plus night for the special teams unit.
4. The Steelers Defense: This franchise was built on the backs of great defenses and the 2009 addition will be tough to score on once again.
Titans' backs LenDale White and Chris Johnson were limited to 85 yards on the ground, and while QB Kerry Collins did have some success with the Pittsburgh secondary, Tennessee could muster only 10 points.
1. The Steelers Offensive Line: Here we go again. Last season the line gave up too many sacks, was terrible in short yardage, and couldn't run-block if their life depended on it.
After week one, nothing has changed in 2009.
Big Ben was planted to the ground four times, the short yardage situations were a disaster, and the Steelers ground attack was anemic. One bright spot: Roethlisberger was sacked only once in the second half.
Still, this unit must improve if Pittsburgh wants a return trip to the Super Bowl. Throwing 43 times and rushing 23 is not a well-balanced effort.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians completely abandoned the run game in the second half, and that's not good. Eventually a lack of balance comes back to bite you hard.
2. The Running Backs: While the offensive line deserves a share of the blame, so do the running backs.
Willie Parker was anything but fast. He hit the few holes that were open like he had all night to run. You don't have all night in this league. You have micro-seconds.
Ditto for Rashard Mendenhall. This was a chance for him to shine, and he dropped the ball. He ran with little effort or intensity last night.
The duo combined for 25 yards on 17 carries. Arians was so unhappy he stuck with Mewelde Moore the entire fourth quarter. Moore made the most of his playing time with four receptions for 28 yards.
The total stats for all the backs: 23 carries for 36 yards. Ouch.
3. Troy Polamalu Injured: Polamalu is the best free safety in the game and was proving that last night until disaster struck.
After being caught in an awkward position, Polamalu suffered a sprained MCL that will keep him out for 3-6 weeks or even longer, depending on the severity of the injury.
The team put on a good front, but there is definite concern he could be gone for a much longer period of time.
The secondary struggled when he left, especially CB William Gay on the outside trying to defend WR Justin Gage.
This unit needs to re-group and cut down on the mental errors. Make no mistake, losing Polamalu hurts, but Tyrone Carter is an experienced vet, and the Pittsburgh secondary should play well in his absence.
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