Diner Morning News: Opening Night Review - by Mike Lombardi

Michael LombardiContributor ISeptember 11, 2009

National Football Post

QUOTE: “America is not like a blanket—one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt—many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread.” — Henry M. Jackson

Please take a moment today to remember the victims of 9/11. As Bruce Springsteen eloquently wrote, we shall always be reminded by the “Empty Sky.”

Despite having an up-and-down game, Ben Roethlisberger delivered when it mattered.

What a start to the NFL season Thursday night in Pittsburgh. The crowd was electric, the setting was Super Bowl-like, and the game, in spite of not being a thing of artistic beauty, was still very entertaining. It was a physical confrontation that resulted in a few players having to leave with injuries. There will be many players today getting treated for bumps and bruises, and each team should be thankful for the extra days before their next game. Have you ever seen a quarterback like Big Ben Roethlisberger look so bad in one long stretch and then come back to make key throws, key plays, and win the game for his team?

Both teams are very talented. Both play physical football, and both can make their offensive opponents become one-dimensional. They could play 10 times and each might win five. And who would have thought that Titans kicker Robbie Bironas would miss two kicks in one game? He has missed two field goals in a single game only one other time in his career (this is his fifth season). The other time was in a loss to the Ravens in 2006 when he was also 1 of 3.


Some game observations...

If you have Willie Parker in a fantasy league, you might want to reconsider. As I’m sure Joe “The Tipper” Fortenbaugh has already told you, Parker is not the same back, and the Pittsburgh running game is going to struggle in the AFC North. The Steelers will not run the ball on Baltimore, or even Cincinnati. The only time their running game might come to life is against the Browns. And their schedule in coming weeks is not favorable to a bad running team. Three of the next five games are on the road. Usually, it’s hard for good running teams to run the ball on the road, so this will be a huge challenge for the Steelers.

Kerry Collins was able to make plays downfield against the Steelers on Thursday night.

I thought Titans quarterback Kerry Collins had his eye level down the field all game as he was poised and seemed confident with each throw. His play was excellent, and he even moved around the pocket more quickly than I’ve ever seen him. Losing weight has made him much more effective.

Tony Brown, the defensive tackle for the Titans, was sensational. He was unblockable for the Steelers line. He, along with Jason Jones, will create havoc all season. I think Brown might earn blue-chip status very soon.

When the Titans watch the tape of the game, besides the missed field goals, they’ll be very disappointed in their running backs’ pass protection. Chris Johnson had a poor game trying to locate the right guy to block.

These back protection problems were showing up all game (James Farrior’s sack was on Johnson, who lost him in protection) and they reared their ugly head on the drive that started at 2:57 in the fourth. Game tied, the Titans start their drive on their own 18-yard line. A first down completion results in a first down, then three straight incompletions, which were a result of the pressure coming from the inside that forced Collins to throw the ball away. I’m sure the Titans would like to start that drive over again.

Five of the Steelers’ 12 drives resulted in no first downs, and another five resulted in two or fewer first downs. But when the Steelers had to have it, they were able to mount a 12-play drive. Amazing how they can find ways to get a drive going.

Rashard Mendenhall has struggled in his adjustment to the pro game.

The Titans had only five penalties for the game, but three of them were for illegal formations—their tackles setting up too far in the backfield. Two of the three resulted in big plays being called back.

You have to wonder what will happen with Rashard Mendenhall, who hasn’t looked like a first-round running back. In fact, Mewelde Moore might be the best back for this offense right now.

Heath Miller has to be one of the best blockers in the NFL from the tight end position. He allows the Steelers to give help to their tackles and can protect on his own. He’s a very good player.

We have 13 more games this weekend—how good is that? I’ll be on Twitter all day Sunday with comments of the games I’m watching. I love NFL Ticket.

Have a great Friday, and join me for Sunday at the Post and a preview of the games.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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