In order to discipline Isaac Redman for his two first half fumbles, the Steelers came out in the second half with LaRod Stephens-Howling as the running back. On first down, he caught a pass out of the backfield and slipped for a four-yard gain. On second down, he wriggled his way for four yards to set up third and two, on which he dropped a pass that would have gone for a first down.
Credit William Gay where it is due. He was targeted five times and allowed one 10-yard completion on a second and 11 play. More importantly, he registered two pass defenses on which he had to come back upfield, and was able to pop the ball up in the air both times in order to give his teammates a chance to come down with the ball. Troy Polamalu nearly did on the first one. Both also happened to be on third down.
The Steelers’ next possession was three more exhibitions of the LASH show. First and second down were ineffective runs, and on third down, he allowed Zach Brown to sack Ben Roethlisberger.
I believe the second drive of the second half was the first time that Jason Worilds replaced LaMarr Woodley at left outside linebacker, allowing Worilds and Jarvis Jones to share the field.
Lawrence Timmons certainly did not have his best game. He is credited with one missed tackle, but he had other opportunities to make tackles that he missed by taking a poor angle. Then he was beaten down the seam by Delanie Walker for a 20+ yard completion.
The play immediately following that was vintage Polamalu, as he perfectly timed the snap and blitzed the A gap before the offensive linemen had a chance to come out of their sets to tackle Jake Locker. The play happened so quickly that Locker did not have time to hand the ball off. Thus, it counts as a run stop rather than a sack. The defense is going to need more plays like this out of him based on the first game of the season.
Steve McLendon held up well against the run, in my opinion. A lot of the success that the Titans had on the ground seemed to come in the nickel or with Al Woods in the game.
Jake Locker did not do much, but he did enough, and he did it when he had to, and that was all it took this game with the offense scrambling for answers and failing to adapt on the fly.
It was interesting to see Shamarko Thomas get time in on defense, but this was of course necessitated by the ankle injury suffered by Cortez Allen. In my final 53-man roster recap, I noted that I would not be surprised to see Thomas come in ahead of Curtis Brown as the fifth defensive back in the event of an injury. Personally, I am glad to see it. He was only in for 10 snaps, six of which were in coverage, but the one time he was targeted, he stopped the receiver after just four yards on third and long.
Only one more snap, unfortunately, remained in the holster for the LASH show, as the first play of the Steelers’ next offensive possession saw him leave the field after what was later confirmed to be a torn ACL. He could have been an integral part of this offense, but it still made no sense to feed him the ball or have him in pass protection on the first seven plays of the second half over a three-series span.
On second down, Emmanuel Sanders failed to hang on to a pass that would have gone for a first down, and a low snap on third down resulted in a rushed throw that was low and away for Jerricho Cotchery, Roethlisberger’s intended target.
Titans guards Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack continued to be the bane of Larry Foote’s existence in the second half, as they consistently forced him out of plays at the line, resulting in him having a high number of tackles of a chase-down variety.
To be fair, Locker had a chance to convert on third and 15 with Damian Williams in front of William Gay. However, the pass was not ideal, and it would have been a somewhat awkward catch.
Isaac Redman was re-installed into the game after LASH’s injury to start the fourth quarter. On his first carry since the fumble, he had a hole up the middle provided by Kelvin Beachum and David DeCastro on which he gained eight yards—or nearly his total for the day.
On Redman’s second carry since his fumble, he broke one tackle and dragged another defender two yards for a five-yard gain. He finished with nine total yards, so his 13 second half yards on two carries means that he had -4 yards on six first half carries. Perhaps the more promising flashes in the second half are partly why Tomlin said that he was still comfortable with Redman as the starter for next week.
Robert Golden had himself a nice day on special teams with two strong tackles on punt returns. Thomas and Brown also registered a tackle each, as did Chris Carter.
Jarvis Jones still appears a bit lost in his coverage responsibilities at times, yet at other times during the preseason he seemed a natural. Seems to me he just needs more repetitions at it.
Larry Foote really did not have a very good game at all overall, even when he did not have a guard in his face. He was slow to the edge on Chris Johnson’s longest run of the day, an 11-yarder on which LaMarr Woodley was double teamed, leaving Foote with edge responsibility.
The pass interference penalty on Ryan Clark appeared to be an awfully soft call to me based on the available replays. Tomlin and Keith Butler were visibly outraged from the sidelines. It also turned what would have been a second and 10 from the 42 into a first and 10 from the 18.
Markus Wheaton must have been having flashbacks of his first preseason game on that first kick return. He hesitated before finally bringing it out of the end zone and ran horizontal before being tackled on just the seven-yard line.
Emmanuel Sanders had another opportunity at a deep ball down the field, but could not bring it in despite it bouncing off his chest. It would have been a very good catch, but if he wants to get paid after this season, he is going to have to catch a couple of those.
Roethlisberger got plastered pretty good on the throw as Beachum was beaten of the snap and DeCastro was slow to pick up the defender. On the next play, a simple stunt got the better of Mike Adams and Ramon Foster on the left side, and Jurrell Casey was able to squeeze in between the two and get in for the sack. Foster was worried about picking up the stunting defensive end coming inside and Adams was in an outward stance and unable to get around in time.
On the ensuing punt, Shamarko Thomas was handled well by the Titans’ jammers, and Jones and Kion Wilson were beaten by the returner, which spoiled the unit’s lane discipline and created an avenue that allowed the returner to get all the way down to the 17.
The defense did its part to stop them and hold them to a field goal, but the Titans were really just running out the clock at this point up 13-2 with four minutes to go.
Wheaton’s second return was good for about 25 yards, but Felix Jones is still listed as the primary kick returner on the depth chart.
It was nice of the offense to finally start clicking again on the game’s last meaningful possession, but, again, the Titans were just winding down the game.
No matter what Tomlin thinks, it is not a prudent strategy to use your last timeout with two seconds left before the two-minute warning. Contrary to what he claimed, it does not buy you an extra play. It buys you two seconds. The ensuing play was an incomplete pass to Cotchery at the two-yard line.
I also fail to see the logic in throwing three passes shy of the end zone past the two-minute warning with no timeouts left. At least the fourth-down play was designed well and finally resulted in offensive points.
Shaun Suisham deserves credit for a well-placed onside kick, and Chris Carter deserves admonishment for short-arming what had a good chance to be a successful play had he just gone up in the air not just with his body, but also his, you know, hands and arms.