“Regardless of our demise being reported, we expect to win…. We’re a little bit annoyed to be quite honest about our premature reporting of our death.” – Mike Tomlin
Raise your hands, raise them high where everyone can see them. How many people penciled in a big “L” for today when the schedule was released?
How many people thought, with a 1-8 record in Nashville, and without Roethlisberger, that the Steelers didn’t stand a chance?
Come on, raise those hands, I know I’ve raised mine.
They’d never admit it, but there are probably several people in the Steelers organization who also wrote this one off as an “L,” although there’s no way to be certain.
One thing, however, is certain,
- Mike Tomlin wasn’t one of them.
Play of the Game
The Steelers set the tone early and decisively by calling a reverse on the opening kick off which rookie Antonio Brown took 83 yards for the game’s only touchdown.
Those seven points proved to be vital down the stretch but, beyond the points, the message implicit was equally important, “We are not conceding this game.”
Once the special teams established the tone, the defense simply dominated.
The Spirit of Shayne Edge Lives On
The Steelers and the Titans used to be Division rivals dating back to the Titan’s days as the Houston Oilers in the old AFC Central.
The animosity between the two teams heated up a notch when the Oilers moved to Tennessee. How do we know?
In their first game after the move to the Volunteer State had been announced, Shayne Edge, the Steelers backup punter, got ejected from the game for fighting – you know things are bitter when your punter gets tossed from the game for mixing it up.
Today’s game lacked nothing for intensity, with the sideline scuffles and hard hits. It was everything a game with the Titans should be.
Defense Delivers, Defense Dominates
“So sometimes when people write that we’re not going to be very good or maybe they’ll go 2-2 or 1-3 when Ben out, that’s a lot of the stuff that pisses us off.” – Chris Hoke
Everyone knew that the Steelers would need to lean on their defense and lean on them hard. What no one could be quite sure about, was whether the unit would deliver.
Today we have that answer, and as a result the Roethlisbergerless Steelers are 2-0.
Any adjective attached to Chris Johnson’s name will fail to do him justice. Not only did he run for 2000 plus yards in his sophomore season, he entered today’s game with a 5.3 yards-per-carry average.
Emmit Smith’s was lower at a comparable point in his career, and Johnson’s average even best’s Barry Sanders’ by a hair. The Bus? Not even close.
When you face a player of Johnson’s caliber the old ESPN NFL PrimeTime adage is, “You can’t hope to stop him, you can only hope to contain him.”
- Don’t tell that to Dick LeBeau’s defense, who stopped Johnson cold.
And they did it missing their starting nose tackle and while rotating in Nick Eason, Ziggy Hood, and Steve McClendon.
The Steel Curtain, 2010 edition played a flawless game, led by Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Troy Polamalu. This group of players were relentless. Relentless in containing Johnson, relentless in pounding receivers, relentless in tormenting Titans quarterbacks Vince Neil and Kerry Collins.
The scoreboard might show 11 points, but in truth, the Steelers defense pitched a near shutout.
Given that it came so early in the season, against a team of undefined quality, it may never get recognized as such, but this may have very well been one of the finest defensive performances in franchise history.
Offense, Half Full or Half Empty?
“Man, I don’t know who we had in there for a spell there.” – Mike Tomlin on the injuries to the offensive line.
When your defense causes 7 turnovers, you have the right to expect your team to score 30 or more points. Instead, the Steelers offense put up 12, all off of Jeff Reed’s foot.
The numbers behind those points look even more grim, as the Steelers:
- Went 2-15 on third downs (that’s 13%),
- Gave up 4 sacks,
- averaged a collective 2.65 yards a carry when you take out Dennis Dixon’s 21 yards scramble
Steelers Nation should not ignore the warning signs implicit in these stats, but nor should they be taken with undue alarm.
Mendenhall ground out 23 carries and earned a respectable 3.0 yard average against a very tough front seven that knew the Steelers were going to run the ball.
Charlie Batch might have only gone 5 for 11, but he has seen little time with the first unit, and was playing, at times, with 3rd and 4th string tackles Tony Hills and Jonathan Scott. And while their play left a lot to be desired, Tony Hills has made tremendous strides, and could have done worse in his first real NFL action.
Above all, the offense avoided any costly mistakes.
The offense is going to need to do more in the future, but against the Titans it was enough to carry the day.
It is good to be 2-0.