Another huge win today by a score of 19-11. This game was not even close to being as competitive as the score would indicate, but more on that later. I had been hoping that the Steelers would manage to go 2-2 during Ben Roethlisberger's suspension but they have blown me away with how they have stepped it up in the face of adversity during the first two weeks of this season.
Let's get ready for today's Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee game with a couple of pieces of random trivia. Pittsburgh has a record of 13-3 in September since 1970 against the Titans (including the old Houston Oilers). The Steelers are also 8-4 in September under coach Mike Tomlin. Past performance is no guarantee of future gains, but today it was.
Tennessee was coming off of a 38-13 home victory over the hapless Oakland Raiders that didn't tell us a whole lot about what they are going to be able to do today against the Steelers. In that game, Chris Johnson ran for 142 yards to stretch his streak to 12 straight games with 100 yards or more. Stopping that streak was the key to the Steelers walking out of Tennessee with a win.
A couple of side notes. During the FOX pre-game show, Michael Strahan picked the Steelers as his lock of the week - I really hate when that happens. I thought it was interesting that when the Titans took Kerry Collins out of cryogenic freeze, he got a good round of cheers replacing Vince Young at the beginning of the 4th quarter. Three plays later he throws an interception to Bryant McFadden. Next two series were intentional grounding and then fumble - so much for that.
Without any further delay, here is what I saw today.
The Steelers tried to get the running game going this week, but not being able to complete a pass for more than five yards made it tough going. I know that Rashard Mendenhall had 120 yards last week against the Falcons, but let's keep in mind that 45 or so of those yards came on one run to win the game in overtime. Chris Kemoeatu, who is a frequent target of mine, did look particularly good run blocking.
Dennis Dixon went out of the game about five minutes into the second quarter. I think that Charlie Batch showed us that Mike Tomlin made the right decision in going with Dixon during Ben Roethlisberger's absence. At least Dixon is a threat to make some gains on the ground. Batch threw many, and I mean many, bad balls. Too much air under them, too low, plain off target, he covered all of the bases.
While Dixon was carted into the locker room with an apparent leg injury, he returned before halftime and was walking around on the sideline. It will be interesting to hear this week whether Tomlin decided to go with Batch the rest of the way as a strategy, or there was more wrong with Dixon than it appeared.
The few plays that he was in the game, Issac Redman played with a ton of effort, breaking tackles for extra yards. A great example of this was a clutch run on 3rd and 1 with 2:45 left in the third quarter because there was nowhere to go. I'll sound like a broken record from last week, but he needs more touches. I will never figure out why Mewelde Moore is getting any carries.
We have a crisis situation on pass protection. Jonathan Scott got whipped on the third play from scrimmage causing Dennis Dixon to get stripped and let to a Tennessee score. He also got away with a couple of plays that easily could have been called for holding. Kemoeatu was having to help him on what should be one-on-one situations. Scott is not ready. I would have argued that Tony Hills should be filling in for Max Starks, except when Hills came in to spell Flozell Adams he got whipped repeatedly.
We have to stop jumping offsides. At least three times the Steelers took themselves out of third and short with a penalty.
I am going to start this with one word - INCREDIBLE. The takeaways that were largely absent last week returned in force. I stopped counting the Tennessee turnovers at six.
Once again the Steelers were strong against the run, totally shutting Chris Johnson down which is no easy task for any NFL defense. Johnson had a long day because not only was he unable to get it going, but he was getting hit ofter and hard by the Steelers front seven. By the second half the Titans offensive linemen were just standing around staring at each other after each play.
How about James Harrison, Brett Keisel, and Aaron Smith picking up Vince Young, turning him upside down, and ala WWE slamming him on his head? No penalty - awesome. By the way, Harrison was everywhere today.
While the overall run defense was great, the absence of Casey Hampton was felt. Chris Hoke was getting blown out at the point of attack all game.
Sudden change is so critical and the Steelers defense had plenty of chances to answer the bell. Answer they did. Right after the early fumble by Dennis Dixon the Steelers were able to hold the TItans to a field goal once they reached the red zone. The defense did everything possible in the first half to keep the Titans out of the endzone including picking off Vince Young on a pass after the long punt return.
I wanted to write that the special teams were great today. Kickoff return by Antonio Brown on the opening play of the game that was set up with a reverse from Mewelde Moore was great to see.
Alas it was not to be. On the very next play we were back to the old Steeler special teams that we know and loath. Big Tennessee kick-off return nixed when the caused a fumble at mid-field. First punt of the game Dan Sepulvida had to make a touchdown saving tackle.
The complete heart attack moment was after the obligatory prevent defense touchdown given to the Titans by the Steelers, special teams almost managed to lose the game. They got caught sleeping and the Titans changed formation from an onside kick to the left to one to the middle. This is HORRIFIC coaching and execution. You learn about this one in pee wee football. I would write more about it, but I'm speechless.
Clearly, last week's good coverage against Atlanta was a fluke and we can look forward to another year of Steeler follies in the kicking game.
The Steelers played with great intensity of both sides of the ball. First play of the game Hines Ward tears off the helmet of Cortland Finnegan while beating on the entire Tennessee defense. Late in the game, Finnegan gets his hat ripped off again, this time by Mike Wallace.
Mike Tomlin coached a very good game. I think he is doing a great job of getting his team prepared and making in game decisions. It was a safe game plan, but with the Steelers defense playing at such a high level it works. As I said it will be interesting to hear more on staying with Charlie Batch for the remainder of the game when it appeared that Dennis Dixon could go. With all of the off-season distractions, should the Steelers make the playoffs this year Mike Tomlin is going to have to get some serious consideration for NFL Coach of the Year.
The special teams for yet another year are a total joke. Is it too early in the year to fire another special teams coach?
On a final note I think the biggest concern, and it is a very big one, is that a pedestrian offensive line got banged up pretty good this week and that could present some problems over the next few weeks.
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