I just finished up going through the game again and below are more observations from the Steelers 38-17 win over the Tennessee Titans this afternoon.
I understand the reason why Mike Tomlin put the defense out on the field to start the game but I do not agree with it. I get the message he is sending, but really would rather the offense take the ball instead. Just saying.
The defense got off to a rough start on the very first play by the Titans as Chris Hoke was cut block and Chris Johnson went off left tackle for 21 yards. It was 1 of only 3 explosive plays allowed on the day however and Johnson rushed for just 30 more yards on 13 more carries the rest of the game. Also on that drive Ryan Clark was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a false start play. How about some louder whistles? Props to Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu for some great defensive plays to hold the Titans to a field goal.
As I said in the podcast and pregame keys to the game article, the Steelers needed to run Isaac Redman early and utilize the short quick passes. They did both and it worked great. The stats for Redman are deceiving as he finished with just a 3.3 average but they were hard earned runs and brought play action into play. Bruce Arians called a superb game and it took a lot of pressure off of the offensive line.
Speaking of the offensive line, major hat tip to Max Starks. Starks started at left tackle after not playing a down since last November and looked great. The Steelers gave him some help early and he and left guard Doug Legursky worked well together. Not to be forgotten are Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert and Jonathan Scott. They all benefited from the quick passes and Foster only gave up the 1 sack on the day. There was some sporadic pressure allowed, but not near as much as we have seen through the first 4 games.
Legursky had a great trap pull to free Jonathan Dwyer for his big run. Not to be lost on the play were the blocks by Heath Miller and David Johnson. That play came on a 1st and from the Steelers own 10 yard-line.
There was never a better time and situation to call that fake punt and it was executed perfectly by Daniel Sepulveda and Ryan Mundy. The Steelers scored two plays later.
The roll out by Ben Roethlisberger on the touchdown to Johnson was a thing of beauty. I could not believe how many fans were upset that he rolled out.
I like the aggressiveness by Stevenson Sylvester on special teams but my only hope is that it does not lead to penalties in key moments like that of Keyaron Fox last year.
Props to Dick LeBeau for breaking out the DIME today. Larry Foote came off and Mundy was the 6th defensive back. You will see more of this over the next few weeks to neutralize the good tight ends. The Titans only completed 4 of 10 attempts to their tight ends on the day. To be fair there was a blown coverage in the second half that was missed for an easy touchdown.
Well hello LaMarr Woodley. He really came to play today and was relying on his speed. He tallied 1.5 sacks and intercepted the tipped ball by Brett Keisel. Speaking of Keisel, what a great return game. He is great at getting in passing lanes and getting those long arms up. Another great thing about the return of Keisel is that Ziggy Hood flips back over to his best side. Pressure is key in the Steelers 3-4 and Hoke, Hood, Keisel all provided it today.
Lawrence Timmons was relatively quiet against left tackle Michael Roos. He did however help against the run. He did chip in a QB hit, a thrown for loss and a defensed pass. Those are mighty big shoes to fill.
James Farrior had a very nice game overall. The illegal contact penalty could have cost 7, but the defense covered for him. He benefited from the good play up front and did not have to fight off too many blocks.
The Roethlisberger interception was a head scratcher for sure. Spike the ball and take the 3 there.
Polamalu being Polamalu. All over the field today.
Keenan Lewis had a good game going but got caught looking into the backfield on the late touchdown. To the credit of Matt Hasselbeck, he did a great job looking right and freezing Mundy.
The tackling was much better this week.
Antonio Brown is getting respect and the Titans did their best to punt away from him. He still ripped off two good kick-off returns.
Special teams still has faults as this week a punt was blocked and almost cost another 7 points if not for a penalty on the return. Al Everest has to get this figured out.
Cameron Heyward is growing up quick, but he celebrated too early on his first sack and should have been on the ground fighting for that fumble.
Chris Carter saw some snaps this week and has a lot to learn still.
Dwyer also contributed on kick coverage this week and could have sworn there was a Bryant McFadden sighting as well.
I like Arians going for the dagger late to Mike Wallace.
If you think Hines Ward is done, you are wrong. Nice leap over the defender on the touchdown.
Steelers were 4 for 5 in the redzone.
What is up with the offensive line injuries. Pouncey left a while with a knee injury and Gilbert re-injured his shoulder. The bye week seems a long way away.
Add your own observations below.