The Steelers (safety Troy Polamalu pictured) continued to show that they are not a one-man gang as they outworked the Titans in a 19-11 win to stay unbeaten
When the NFL announced that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was going to suspended for the first 4 games of the 2010 season, there were a ton of people that immediately predicted demise for the league’s cornerstone franchise. Well everyone that hit the panic button, you better re-think your thoughts on the Steelers. With Big Ben only 2 games away, the Steelers have re-emerged as the surprise leader of the AFC North at a perfect 2-0, after a solid thumping of the Tennessee Titans 19-11.
Despite losing backup starter QB Dennis Dixon (left knee injury) in the second quarter, the Steelers stayed the course and played tough blue collar football all-day (ran the ball and played tough D). Right from the start, the Steelers established themselves against the Titans. Rookie receiver Antonio Brown scored on an 89-yard kickoff return to open the game, and that play proved to be a catalyst as the Steelers forced seven turnovers (3 INTs and 4 fumble recoveries) on their way to victory.
The seven turnovers were the most allowed by the Titans since 2000 and the Steelers also added four sacks as quarterback Vince Young (7-for-10 for 66 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs and a one fumble lost) was under duress during his time on the field. After a strong Week 1, V.Y was befuddled and never got in rhythm before Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said he had seen enough and sent in veteran Kerry Collins after Young had his 3rd turnover.
The Steelers defense – ranked in the Top 5 against the run every year since 2004 –also shutdown Tennessee running back Chris Johnson. Pittsburgh stopped CJ2K’s 100-yard rushing streak at 12 games and the 2009 NFL’s rushing champ finished with just 16 carries for 34 yards — longest carry of the day was 11 yards. It was the third time the Steelers have held Johnson to less than 100 yards. In CJ’s defense, he did have an electrifying 75-yard + touchdown run called back on a weak holding penalty.
For most of the game the Steelers were content to protect backup quarterback Charlie Batch – expect the team to bring back QB Byron Leftwich who was cut earlier — by running last week’s hero RB Rashard Mendenhall (69 yards on 23 carries) and letting the Titans turn the ball over. The player of the game for the Steelers had to be former Defensive MVP LB James Harrison, who had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered one too. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of the win, “You come into a hostile environment versus good people it’s going to require a lot. We were far from perfect today but the guys really hung together and gave an outstanding effort”.
The charismatic head coach added, “We made enough plays in enough areas to get out of there. I like what the team is doing in terms of working together, fighting the adversity and uplifting each other.” Tennessee did try to make it interesting at the end of the game by scoring a late touchdown — 58 seconds left in game – and a two-point conversion plus recovering an onside kick. But in the end, the Steelers stayed tough and finished the job.
Next up the Big Ben-less Steelers are the surprisingly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) in a game where someone’s “0” has got to go. Other 2-0 teams after two weeks of play are the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, and Miami Dolphins.