By Christopher DiMarino
Steelers Versus Titans Recap:
It’s been a whole week now but the feeling hasn’t quite left yet. The best way to describe the feelings I experienced after Rob Bironas kicked thru the 40 yard field goal that spelt game over was frustration mixed with doubt. Frustration due to the apparent decline in team ability and the futility associated with losses to teams who were struggling. Doubt that it was just a mistake and they’ll be the same old Steelers next week. It is clear to me now that the issues with the Steelers are pronounced and are no longer hidden behind the shell of a perennial playoff team.
The offense joined the defense in the week 6 misery which was a new trend. Overall, the team didn’t display the preparation or heart to succeed. Even the special teams caused friction as a blocked punt lead to an easy Titans touchdown. The defense caused concern because of their poor play so far this season, however, they employed an effective bend don’t break strategy that saw them only allow one touchdown off a drive of more than 1 yard. The special teams created touchdown and 4 field goals proved to be enough to outscore the Steelers offense.
The Steelers offense was able to move the ball, but the inability to run the ball and run the score up to a safe enough level bit them once again. The running game was ravaged by injuries as Rashard Mendenhall, then Isaac Redman left the game after accumulating 20 yards on 11 carries. Passing was the strength of this team once again, and Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 350 yards. The problem was that outside of a deep ball early to Mike Wallace, the passing game did not find the endzone. Turnovers weren’t much of a factor as each starting quarterback exchanged an interception. The Titans had a great day on offense. The struggling running game had success and veteran Matt Hasselbeck stayed toe for toe with Roethlisberger. Chris Johnson ran for 91 yards on 19 carries which is almost 4.8 ypc compared to his season average which was 2.9 ypc.
So to rehash the expectations, the Steelers were expected to score a lot against the Titans defense which allowed the most points in the league. They were also expected to continue Johnson’s woes in the run game and limit Hasselbeck who had been suspect at best. The Titans were expected to put up a fight against the run, but their defense as a whole had been atrocious this season. The reality was that the Titans defense was able to completely shut down the Steelers running game, and limit their touchdown celebrations. The story of the day might have been the Titans offense, which was able to put up 26 points against a wishy washy, but still effective Steelers defense. The biggest surprise to me was how Tennessee was able to display the time of possession, field position and close game skills that the Steelers are known for. The Titans matched the Steelers in most facets, and flat out exceeded them in other to beat them at their own game.
What We Learned: Pittsburgh Steelers
- The running game was the goat again this week, but with injuries it can be hard to point fingers. We’ll have to watch how the injuries progress over the week, but the Steelers running game again is a big area of concern.
- The Steelers need points to go along with the yards they accumulate. Not only was this Titans defense bad at stopping scoring plays, but the Steelers put up the yards that should have easily lead to 30+ points.
- Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace swapped places from a week ago as Brown struggled while Wallace made his impact on just one play. As talented as the top 2 receivers on the Steelers are, they appear too easy to scheme against, as teams who have tried to shut them down have succeeded.
- Redman showed some great moves after the catch on his way to exceeding 100 yards receiving. As easy as it seems to blame the offense line and play calls for their failure to run the ball, Redman has shown ability with some space and Todd Haley will need to work harder to get this running game going.
- Shaun Suisham was the victim of a poor decision by Mike Tomlin. I stressed in my prediction that Suisham’s confidence is the key to his successes. While he nailed a 52, and a 54 is only 2 yards more, there was too much at stake by attempting the field goal. He ran the risk of crushing his kicker’s confidence and giving the Titans a small field to turn around and win the game. The second concern came true, let’s just hope the first doesn’t.
- Will Allen should be the starter with Troy Polamalu out. Ryan Mundy has done nothing to earn the position and more than enough to lose it. Since special teams are a factor, I would even consider using Robert Golden more to help out.
What We Learned: Around the League
- Atlanta might not blow out teams like previous powerhouses have, but they have the tools to win any game. A strong defense and confident kicker helped Atlanta remain undefeated even thru 3 interception tosses by Matt Ryan. Denarius Moore is getting to be great.
- Injuries galore made this Ravens Cowboys game interesting, and it went down to the wire. Dez Bryant was unreal but couldn’t haul in a 2 point conversion. Flacco did just enough to win this game and Ray Rice ran for some hard yards. Dallas ran all over the Ravens.
- Cleveland got a big win over Cincinnati. Andy Dalton had 4 turnovers on the day which marred a great game. Brandon Weeden was efficient and had all day to pass. The Browns are now using Hardesty to give Richardson that 1-2 punch. AJ Green is unstoppable at times.
- Miami won a nail biter against the Amendola-less Rams. Brandon Gibson stepped up and had a good day including one of the best catches I’ve ever seen. Tannehill is really getting in a groove as he made this strong Rams secondary pay with efficient passes.
- The Jets utterly destroyed the Colts. They ran the ball extremely well and Sanchez had a quick and easy day as the defense forced 3 turnovers out of Andrew Luck.
- Mike Vick continues to turn the ball over and the Eagles let the Lions come back late and take the win. Calvin Johnson had a big day and Stafford was able to put up yards. Jeremy Maclin had a huge week while the story was how the Lions bottled up LeSean McCoy.
- The Chiefs didn’t put up much of a fight. Backup Brady Quinn threw 2 picks and the Chiefs running game was held to under 100 yards. The Bucs on the other hand did whatever they wanted on offense and Josh Freeman had a great day throwing the ball.
- Even though Fitzpatrick had a tough day passing, the Bills ran the ball effectively against the Cardinals. Kolb got injured once again and Skelton (though he lead them into OT) had a rough game including the game losing interception in OT. Fitzgerald had a big game and loves Skelton.
- Russell Wilson had the breakout game everyone’s been waiting for as the Seahawks rallied late to beat the Pats. For how great a game Brady had passing the ball, his 2 interceptions and the lack of a run game sunk them.
- The Giants pulled out the win in blowout fashion. When the 49ers can’t run the ball and need to score points, Alex Smith makes mistakes. The Giants ran the ball (of all things) and Eli had an easy day. The Giants defense was the story in this one and had multiple takeaways.
- A game that looked like a blowout got exciting quick as the Redskins held on to beat the Vikings. RG3 made the day on the ground including a 76 yard TD run late in the game to seal it up. Ponder went out of his conservative element and was good on the day minus his 3 turnovers.
- For being at home, Houston did not look like Houston as the Packers destroyed the Texans in all phases. Rodgers threw for 6 TDs and had time in the pocket while the Texans couldn’t run the ball or give Matt Schaub any time. Jordy Nelson had 3 TDs and James Jones hauled in 2.
- Peyton Manning has lead Denver to a couple outrageous finishes. Denver is now a team that you can’t count out of any game and Rivers wasn’t up to the task late. Rivers had 6 turnovers while Gates and Decker chipped in solid games.