Pittsburgh Steelers Versus Tennessee Titans – Second Half Recap

By Matthew Marczi

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping for a better, and less unusual second half as they receive the kickoff to open the third quarter. The Steelers scored their only points in the first half on the opening kickoff with a bizarre safety and trail 7-2, with the Tennessee Titans punching it into the end zone with 44 seconds remaining in the half.

LaRod Stephens-Howling took the kickoff deep in the end zone for a touchback. Ben Roethlisberger took the field—sans Maurkice Pouncey—looking to redeem himself after an interception on a throw that should never have been attempted.

After Isaac Redman’s early fumbles and general ineffectiveness, Stephens-Howling was the back on the first series. On third and two, the pass went incomplete to the back after he dropped what should have been a first down.

Curtis Brown was down the field on the punt to force a fair catch after a 41-yard punt. On defense, Cortez Allen tested his injured ankle and left the field. William Gay replaced him in the base defense, and interestingly safety Shamarko Thomas was playing the nickel. That is a lot of confidence in the rookie.

The Titans were quickly put into a third and long situation, and the pass fell incomplete. A 49-yard punt had to be fair caught, however, and a penalty on Thomas put the Steelers in poor field position. A three and out was cemented by the Titans’ fourth sack of the game after Stephens-Howling was beaten in pass protection.

LaMarr Woodley was subbed with Jason Worilds on the next drive, with Jarvis Jones at right outside linebacker. On first down, a deep pass from Jake Locker fell incomplete. A couple of nice cuts by Chris Johnon picked up eight yards, but a holding call on receiver Kenny Britt nullified the gain to set up second and 19. Johnson gained four yards on the play, leading to third and 15. Delanie Walker secured the pass down the field, fumbled, and then recovered the fumble.

Troy Polamalu sacked Locker right off the snap on the ensuing play. On third and 13, Ike Taylor was beaten for the first down to breach the red zone again. Ryan Clark was injured, forcing Robert Golden into the game. Thomas stopped a third down pass to force a field goal try, which was good to extend the Titans’ lead to 10-2.

Stephens-Howling took a pass for seven yards on first down and then collapsed as he tried to limp off the field. For the time being, Felix Jones replaced him in the lineup. Emmanuel Sanders was unable to control a second down pass that would have converted a first down. On third down, a low snap led to a rushed pass, which was low and away for Jerricho Cotchery.

On second down, Steve McLendon eventually forced Locker to vacate the pocket and scrambled for a short gain to make third down manageable. The third down blitz could not get home and Locker was able to find an open receiver for the conversion. Jackie Battle was able to abuse the Steelers’ defense for some tough yards to cross midfield by the conclusion of the third quarter.

McLendon and Ziggy Hood were able to pressure Locker on first down. Battle was called for a false start on second down. The second down pass was off the mark for an incompletion, and on third down, the receiver had a chance to make an awkward catch, but was unable to do so.

Isaac Redman was finally placed back into the game, and carried for seven yards on his first of the half. Roethlisberger found Sanders with some room to run on second down as the Steelers went no huddle. On the next play, Roethlisberger went deep for Cotchery, but it was too deep. On second down, Redman picked up some extra yards for five. The third down pass for Antonio Brown was broken up by Jason McCourty to force the punt.

After the punt, Chris Johnson was bottled up for a short loss on first down. Gay was beaten on second down just shy of the first down to set up third and one. On third and short, the Titans front opened up just enough room to convert an easy first. Locker was drilled on the next play, but still hit his target for the first down. That target, Nate Washington, stayed down on all fours before eventually jogging off the field.

Ryan Clark stayed down again after coming off for a play in the first half. On the next play, a missed tackle resulted in a first down in Steelers territory. Ryan Clark came back in, and was flagged for pass interference after being targeted down the field. Kion Wilson came into the game, replacing Larry Foote, who left the game with a biceps injury. An unnecessary roughness penalty pushed the Titans back to the 35.

On third and 24, the Titans got down to the 24-yard line to make the field goal attempt somewhat easier. The field goal was good, extending the Titans’ lead to 13-2, making it a tw-possession game with just over six minutes remaining.

Markus Wheaton was back to return the ensuing kickoff, and he brought it out…to just the seven-yard line. Felix Jones was the back for the drive. Sanders gained about seven yards on a first-down screen. Sanders was targeted deep on the next play, but could not bring it in, and Roethlisberger took a big hit on the play. Sack number five came on third down to set up fourth and 12, and the Steelers elected to punt, which was returned to the 17. Another field goal put the Steelers down a full two touchdowns with less than four minutes remaining.

Wheaton returned the next kickoff out to the 25-yard line. Antonio Brown caught a pass 22 yards down the field to start it off, and the Titans were flagged for a facemask, bringing the Steelers past midfield. Cotchery converted another first down, and Roethlisberger surpassed 30,000 yards on the completion. Sanders was the next to convert, as the Steelers breached the red zone. A short pass to Sanders kept the clock running without much to show for the play, however. On second down, Roethlisberger found Redman for the first down.

The next pass was broken up as the two-minute warning hit, leaving the Steelers with no timeouts, meaning they would have to recover an onside kick after scoring a touchdown in order to have a chance at tying the game. Redman’s target was broken up by the defense, but he likely would not have scored on the play.

On third and goal, Redman caught the pass, but was dropped for a loss. The fourth down pass was caught by Jerricho Cotchery—at last—for the Steelers’ first offensive points of the season with 1:23 left to play. Shaun Suisham’s extra point made it a 7-point game.

The Steelers were forced to attempt to secure an onside kick with no timeouts remaining.  The ball popped high into the air, giving the Steelers a chance at it. Chris Carter seemed to have the best chance, but the Titans got to it first. A few kneeldowns put an end to the proceedings with the score of 16-9, giving Ben Roethlisberger his first loss in a home opener in his career. With the rest of the AFC North losing, however, it could have been worse.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Jonas

    Hmm.. as horrible as it was, I have to watch it again tomorrow as I have to know what the f*** got wrong today!

  • Dan

    Didn’t see anything today to suggest we’re anything better than an 8-8 team. If somebody said we’re a 6-10 team I wouldn’t argue against it. I guess only bright spot is the Defense seemed fine. Except for the safety gift and the mop up TD, our offense was shut out.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    Somebody, please, tell me something positive about that offensive display today.

  • Michael Kunovich

    Since 2010 2 firsts and 2 second round draft picks on Offensive Lines. Do we blame Colbert for bad draft choices or Tomlin for not coaching them up!!!

  • Mkeller

    If they win 6 games I’ll be shocked. They played like this with Ben. Wait until he goes out and you’re watching Gradkowski. My guess is Ben will not survive next week. Going against a good team coming of a tough road loss for their home opener. Not good. If that horrible Oline was overwhelmed by what they saw today then god help Ben for what’s coming next week.

  • Mkeller

    Antonio Brown is a good #2 WR?

  • Gene Parmesan

    The Defense was good, but just like last year, no turnovers and no pressure on the QB. I think we only had 1 sack

  • JohnnyV1

    The offensive line w/ the new zone blocking scheme has not played well. Not sure if it’s the new scheme, coaching, or players. And this was before Pouncey’s injury.

  • Mkeller

    I would also like to know how much influence the head coach has on draft day. Colbert has been far less effective especially in the 1st RD since Tomlinson came on board. Mendenhall, Hood, Heyward. 3 misses in 6 yrs.

  • Mkeller

    They’re on the field too much. They were gassed.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Cotchery actually made a few really good plays and both Brown and Sanders were adequate

  • Gene Parmesan

    its the first game of the year, they’re pro athletes. Is it too much to ask for them to not get gassed out after three quarters?

  • Dan

    After careful thought, I can not. Unless you set the bar really really low in your definition of “positive”.
    We were able to move the ball against a prevent defense when the game was still conceivably in reach.

  • Mkeller

    It’s the players don’t kid yourself. This is basically the same garbage as last year.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I don’t know what happened today, but that was a pathetic excuse for a showing. Now that is not to say they cannot recover (see blowout loss to Balt. a couple of years ago), but that Pouncey injury REALLY hurts. The Foote injury I have less concern about. The Allen injury REALLY worries me, cause Gay cannot be a starter the rest of the year, he will get torched.

    The offense looked great until the Redman fumble. They were using misdirection and handoffs to the WRs to keep the D guessing. The fumble happened, the injury happened and it looked like Haley and Ben didn’t know what to do with the playbook. I will say that Tenn’s CBs were much more physical than ours were with the receivers IMO. I also don’t understand why Paulson wasn’t ANY part of the gameplan. With Heath out, he is your best receiving TE. One of 2 things happened and without a DVR I cannot look back, but he either can’t get open, or they forgot about him once Pouncey got hurt.

  • Mkeller

    Defenses wear down when they’re on the field all day. They did a great job holding Tennessee to 16. The defense had nothing to do with what happened today. You can’t go into the 4th qtr without a second half 1st down and not expect the defense to give up a few yds.

  • Mkeller

    Don’t think teams are shaking in their shoes over that group.

  • Dan

    After 7 years as a head coach, why is Tomlin still below average at game administration? E.g. in the 3rd qtr a 25 yard catch by Walker on 3rd down (the one where he fumbled and recovered) he clearly did not “complete the catch” by NFL rules. There was plenty of time challenge, but Tomlin did not and we left our D on the field for many more plays and gave up a FG. Also, we used a time out at 2:02??? Holy mackeral that was stupid!! We used a timeout to save 2 seconds!!! A couple plays later we lost about 20 seconds after Redman caught the ball in bounds because we didn’t have that timeout. Without the onside recovery it didn’t matter, but at least give us a chance coach!! After all these years you’d think somebody in the front office would send Tomlin to training for these simple things. There are plenty of other coaches who are equally bad at challenge/clock managment, but I’m not sure there are any worse.

  • Dan

    Our last 6-10 season earned us the Roethlisberger draft pick. Let’s see what this year brings.

  • Mkeller

    There is always hope but this team in a home opener with a supposed chip on their shoulder after a horrible preseason and 8-8 regular season? I don’t know how all that inspiration landed on such a flat effort. They were simply over matched by a pretty average team. And that Baltimore game was on the road in a home opener against a team looking for revenge. The exact opposite of today.

  • sean mcmartin

    Ben is going to be pressured every play. Every Defensive coordinator is going to be Blitzing this O-line and winning the battle. Tomlin cannot sugarcoat this one.
    Hopefully they are looking at available talent as I type.

  • sean mcmartin

    Jarvis Jones layed a lick on the RB that was great news..heard the pads pop.

  • Gene Parmesan

    As I said, the defense was good, but for whatever reason, they failed to make “splash plays.”

  • sean mcmartin

    But Cowher used to motivate lesser players to go play all out.

  • JohnnyV1

    Yeah, I don’t. It wasn’t this bad last year. Only player that was different was Max Starks. And I don’t think it’s the same as last year at all, this is a zone blocking scheme, which generally uses lighter, quicker lineman.
    Subject: Re: New comment posted on Pittsburgh Steelers Versus Tennessee Titans – Second Half Recap

  • steeltown

    That had to be the worst Steelers game in the Ben Roethlisberger era

  • sean mcmartin

    Flat effort is spot on. ben looks relaxed, not fired up.
    probably due to the fact he is thinking survival mode.
    can’t say I’d blame him. I would play hot potato with the football and option every play into shotgun formation shotgun.

  • Mkeller

    I think he was just discouraged. Kind of one of those “here we go again” moments.

  • cencalsteeler

    Sean, a lot of your comments hold truth. I don’t necessarily think this is a talent issue as much as it is a “swagger” issue. I witnessed several Titan players getting up off the ground and just pushing our players back to the ground. Our players just let it happen without standing their ground. I’m not sure how many sacks, qb hurries, and loss for yards we had, but that is nothing more than being manhandled. It’s not a talent issue. It’s either them not being coached the proper techniques, or they are just being pushed around. I am a Tomlin supporter, I actually think he is great coach. But, he is missing teaching his players to play with authority. That is a difference between his coaching style and Bill’s. Bill taught nastiness, and Tomlin has not. Troy, Ward, Harrison, etc. had the fear factor. This young crew is lacking this teaching. I was a big proponent of Tomlin having full contact drills during the offseason due to the fact that would change the teams demeanor. Unfortunately, it never developed.

  • sean mcmartin

    Watching the Niners packers game and they are playing like the Steelers used too. Coincidence that They both have good O-lines.

  • Mkeller

    Cowher had some damn good Olines. They have overvalued their talent. They had to, they had no choice but to as they had no money to change it.

  • sean mcmartin

    Yes this is my argument for benching Tomlin. This defense needs the Harrison LB mentality to bring the edge they lack. Timmons is a beast but not much Swagger..
    Seems like we are in for more than one rough season.
    Feel bad for Ben, Knowing your going to be hit and chased every time you snap the ball. and it’s only week one..

  • sean mcmartin

    And can’t remember when a Steeler defense let the other team push them around after plays and not fight back.
    disgusted fan here and I’ve been watching STEELERS football for 34 years now,,

  • Marcus

    I thought that whole offensive game plan went out the window for some reason. Where were all the dink and dunk passes? Ben was sacked 5 x’s! He holds the ball to long, and offensive line is once again below average! You can’t just keep running if you average 1 yd per carry. Haley has to use the short pass to set up the run. They are not good enough to line up and just run down your throat (like the titans did to us on there TD drive).

  • Marcus

    *their* td drive

  • Dan

    I think the defense performed reasonably well given the circumstances (must be hard to keep spirit up when the offense is so completely useless), but I did notice a few times when they were pushed around a bit. They did seem to lack that nasty factor.
    This may seem a weird thing to say, but I’d be happy to read tomorrow that some fistfights broke out in the locker room after the game.

  • charles

    By last years 29th ranked defense. Haley has to get this offense better fast.

  • charles

    Sanders dropped Bens first pass and another one later.

  • charles

    Tennesee maybe better than we are giving them credit for. Munchak had both sides of the line of scrimmage playing hard. Their 12th man beat our 12th man: Tomlin. The Steelers seemed very flat and that is on Mr Tomlin.
    Haley has got to put a better product on the field. Give Sanders to the Patriots please. Put Moye on the field.

  • sean mcmartin

    I guess as fans we have to realize the Cap is the culprit and some injuries and bad talent evaluation on the O-line have become what they fielded today.
    But I do not understand the lack of nastiness in the Steelers Players, The terrible clock management,
    I’m still in shock from the game. I thought they only needed re-tooling..I was wrong, They need rebuilding.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Forgot about that 1st pass.