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Steelers vs. Titans Preview

October 07, 2011 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

The Steelers will try to get back on track this Sunday when they face the visiting Tennessee Titans.

Everyone knows that the 2-2 Steelers have struggled in several areas so far this season.  And unfortunately, the Titans present challenges in exactly those areas.  In fact, they’re just what the doctor didn’t order for the Steelers.

The Steelers’ run defense has been poor at best.  They’ve let average runners like the Colts’ Joseph Addai run right through them.  And they’ve made good runners like Baltimore’s Ray Rice and Houston’s Arian Foster look like marathon runners.  So I’m afraid to even imagine what’s going to happen when Tennessee’s speedy running back Chris Johnson tries to find chinks in the Steelers’ armor.

The Steelers’ already weak run defense will even be more depleted this weekend.  Starting defensive end Aaron Smith is likely to miss Sunday’s game.  Casey Hampton didn’t practice on Thursday, but no announcement has been made on whether he’ll play.  My guess is that he will, but if he’s not 100%, it will definitely affect the team’s ability to stop the run.

On the positive side, Brett Keisel will likely start on Sunday.  He’s missed the team’s last 2 games with an injury.

But the running defense hasn’t been the only problem for the Steelers.  They also haven’t been able to run the ball on offense.  Tennessee probably isn’t a good candidate for helping them solve that problem.  The Titans’ defense is ranked #8 in the NFL against the run.  They’re only allowing 87.8 rushing yards per game.  The Baltimore Ravens are the only opponent that the Steelers have faced this season that allows fewer rushing yards than the Titans.

To further compound the problems in the running game, starting running back Rashard Mendenhall will probably miss the game due to a hamstring injury.  So a weak rushing attack may get even weaker.

Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall

Of course, some fans believe that taking Mendenhall out of the lineup will actually be an improvement.  Mendenhall hasn’t played particularly well this season, and is only averaging 3.0 yards per carry.

In contrast, backups Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore have seemed to have more success than Mendenhall when they’ve been given the opportunity to run the ball.  Isaac Redman is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and has provided a spark whenever he’s entered the game.  Mewelde Moore is averaging an even more robust 7.2 yards per carry.

But it probably won’t matter who runs the ball if the Steelers’ offensive line doesn’t play better.  The offensive line has suffered from injuries and poor play all season.  The Steelers signed Max Starks earlier in the week, and it looks like he’ll get the start on Sunday, despite having less than a full week of practice.  It probably says a lot about the Steelers’ O-line when a guy off the streets steps right into the starting lineup.

To make matters even worse, left guard Chris Kemoeatu is out with an injury and won’t play on Sunday.  And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been practicing wearing a boot all week.  Big Ben injured his foot in the last game, and the injury will likely decrease his mobility.

I hate to sound like a pessimist, but the Tennessee Titans sound like a bad match-up for the injury riddled Steelers.  But injuries are a part of the game, and the Steelers are just going to have to play through them.  Backup players are going to have to step up and show us why they’re on the roster.

As head coach Mike Tomlin is fond of saying, “The standard doesn’t change.”

On second thought, though the Titans will be a tough opponent, maybe they ARE just what the doctor ordered.

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Steelers “D” stops Titans

September 20, 2010 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

According to most of the TV sports announcers, the Steelers had no chance of beating the Tennessee Titans.  “Chris Johnson is too fast”.  “The Titans are too tough”.  “The Steelers never win in Tennessee”.  “The Steelers can’t win without Ben Roethlisberger”.  Blah, blah, blah.

Fortunately, the Steelers didn’t listen to the sports announcers.  Rather than laying down and submitting to the “unbeatable Titans”, the Steelers decided to punch them in the face instead.

If you only looked at the statistics from the game, you might think that the Steelers actually lost this game.  After all, the Titans held the Steelers to only 127 net yards of offense.  No, I didn’t say 127 rushing yards.  I said 127 net yards of TOTAL OFFENSE.

The Steelers ended up with only 21 net passing yards, and 106 net yards rushing.  Starting quarterback Dennis Dixon ended the game with a passer rating of only 70.1, and replacement Charlie Batch finished with an even more dismal 52.5 passer rating.

But despite the woeful offensive statistics, the Steelers actually kicked the Titans’ @#$.  Seriously.

The Steelers defense held the Titans’ star running back Chris Johnson to just 34 rushing yards.  Prior to facing the Steelers, Johnson had run for over 100 yards in 12 consecutive games.  But the Steelers weren’t having any of that.

Not only did the Steelers stop Chris Johnson, but they also slammed Titans quarterback Vince Young.  Both literally and figuratively.

The Steelers caused 7 Titans turnovers, including a diving interception by Bryant McFadden, an interception by Troy Polamalu in the endzone, and two forced fumbles by James Harrison.

The Titans were visibly frustrated.  But the frustration became evident when Titans coach Jeff Fisher pulled Vince Young out of the game and replaced him with Kerry Collins.

Troy Polamalu was obviously anxious to welcome Collins into the game, because he did this:

That had to be one of the most outstanding plays that I’ve seen.  No other player would even attempt that play except Troy Polamalu.

The Steelers did suffer a few more injuries in the game.  Dennis Dixon left the game at the beginning of the second quarter and was replaced by Charlie Batch.  Dixon had a knee injury, but no announcement has been made about how serious the injury is.

Chris Hoke was also shaken up during the game, but it didn’t look serious.  And quite a few players suffered from dehydration, battling the Tennessee heat.  Temperatures during the game were in the 90′s, and the heat index was over 100 degrees.  To make matters worse, the Titans forced the Steelers to wear their black home jerseys to make the heat even more unbearable.

Despite heat, injuries, and a poor offensive showing, the Steelers still leave Nashville with a 2-0 record.  And with the Cincinnati Bengals’ win over the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers stand alone atop the AFC North.

They face Tampa Bay next week, and a 3-0 record is very possible.  If the defense continues to play the way they’ve been playing, a win over Baltimore in week 4 may even be a distinct possibility.

Not a bad start for a team that nobody thought had a chance of winning without Ben Roethlisberger.


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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans preview

September 17, 2010 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Tennessee as underdogs this weekend.  Hardly anyone believes the Steelers have a chance of beating the Tennessee Titans.  Particularly not without franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

To make matters even worse, history is not on the Steelers’ side.  They are 0-3 in the last 3 road games against the Titans.  Moreover, they are 1-6 all-time against the Titans in Nashville.  Suffice it to say that LP Field is a tough place for the Steelers to play.

Fortunately, I’ve never been one to follow the crowd.  I feel confident that the Steelers are going to beat the Titans.  Moreover, they’re going to do it in the Titans home stadium.

In order to beat the Titans, the Steelers are going to have to do a few important things:

  1. Stop Chris Johnson - Not many NFL teams have been able to figure out how to do this.  That’s why Johnson was able to rush for over 2,000 yards last year.  However, the Steelers are one of the few teams that have been able to contain Johnson.  In his only two games against the Steelers, Johnson was held to 69 yards (2008) and 57 yards (2009).  The Steelers are built to stop the run.  So this should be a great battle of strength against strength.
  2. Force Vince Young to try to win the game with his arm - I know that Vince Young turned around the Titans last year after they got off to an 0-6 start under quarterback Kerry Collins.  However, I’m still not sold on Vince Young.  He seems to find a way to win, but he wins ugly.  He is not a classic drop-back passer who is going to beat you with his arm.  Instead, he beats teams with his legs, and by handing the ball to Chris Johnson.  So the Steelers need to apply pressure to Young, and force him to throw the ball.
  3. Dennis Dixon must complete passes - Just like the Steelers are going to try to force Vince Young to beat them with his arm, the Titans are going to do the exact same thing to Dennis Dixon.  They’ve watched film of last week’s game.  They’ve seen Dixon throwing the ball at his receivers’ feet.  So they will likely stack the line to stop the run, and force Dixon to throw the ball.  When they do, Dixon has got to complete passes.  If he can’t make Tennessee respect his arm, it’s going to be a long day for the Steelers.

I watched Dennis Dixon throughout training camp, and I know he is capable of completing passes.  He’s just got to be confident in his own abilities and unleash the ball.

Last week, I could see that he was thinking too much.  He was too concerned with delivering the ball on the numbers.  It looked like he was throwing darts rather than passing a football.  That’s not how I’ve seen him throw it in the past.  Hopefully he will be more comfortable this week, and he’ll deliver the ball the way he is capable of delivering it.

If Dixon passes the ball successfully, the Steelers will win this game.  I’m going to give the young man a vote of confidence and predict that he will do just that.  I anticipate a low-scoring defensive struggle that ends with a Steelers win.  Final score:  Steelers 17, Titans 13.

Injury report

One concern going into the Titans game is injuries.  The Steelers will be without starters at a few key positions.

Casey Hampton - One concern going into the Titans game is injuries.  Casey Hampton is a key component to stopping the run, and he will not be playing due to a hamstring pull.  Fortunately, the Steelers lose very little when backup Chris Hoke replaces Hampton.

Max Starks - The Steelers starting left tackle injured his ankle last week.  In his place, the Steelers will be starting Jonathan Scott.  This will be Scott’s first start for the Steelers, so everyone will be watching to see what he’s capable of.  Expect the Titans to send a lot of pressure from Scott’s side of the line.

Bryant McFadden - McFadden missed practice Thursday due to a groin injury.  Friday’s practice will probably determine if McFadden can go this weekend.  If not, William Gay may get the start.  This would not be good new for the Steelers.   If there is one thing that can make Vince Young look like Peyton Manning, it’s William Gay.  Yikes!


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Steelers vs. Titans haiku contest

September 15, 2009 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

After each game of the 2008 season, Steelers Today ran a haiku contest.  The idea was to see who could best capture the events of the game in the form of a haiku.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with haiku, it is a form of Japanese poetry. A proper haiku is a 3 line poem with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, and 5 syllables in the third line. Remember, that’s “syllables”, not “words”.

I hadn’t planned to bring back the weekly haiku contests this season.  The reason is that one of our readers named Patrick absolutely owned the competition.  He won every single week except for one.  And the only reason that he didn’t win that week was because I awarded a victory to someone else in order to keep Patrick from getting a clean sweep for the season.

Despite my desire to keep my readers from being bludgeoned by Patrick this season, the haiku black belt has other ideas.  Patrick has thrown down the gauntlet by submitting 4 very good haiku entries, and challenging anyone to do better.  Here are Patrick’s entries.

Haiku #1
Defense ruled the day
But when they need a clutch drive
Nobody beats Ben.

Haiku #2
Santonio Holmes
Exactly matching his stats
From the Super Bowl.

Haiku #3
Ward’s shocking fumble
Brought back the Bettis miscue
Both games victories.

Haiku #4
Run game down, Troy out
Who will come to the rescue?
Ben Roethlisberger.

Wow, that’s some mighty fine haiku.  All 4 are world class efforts.  But since I’m the judge, I think that #4 is the strongest of his 4 entries, so that is the one to beat.  (For the record, I love the reference to the Bettis fumble in #3.  Good work, Patrick).

Can anyone defeat this haiku samurai?  Give it a shot.  Capture the Steelers’ win against the Titans in a haiku and knock Patrick off of his throne.

The winner will be announced later in the week. Good luck.

Other Steelers news:

The Steelers announced today that tight end Dezmond Sherrod has been cut from the Steelers’ practice squad and replaced by tight end Kevin Brock.  Brock is  6’5″, 255 lbs.  He was originally signed by the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent out of  Rutgers.  The Panthers released Brock in August, and he was signed by the New York Jets.  However, the Jets released Brock as they attempted reduce their roster to 53 players.


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Steelers beat Titans in NFL opener

September 11, 2009 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

It wasn’t pretty to watch, but a win is a win.  After looking completely impotent in their running game last night, the Steelers managed to pull out a win as they defeated the Tennessee Titans 13-10 in their season opener.

There was plenty of hype heading into the game as the reigning Super Bowl champs took on the team that had the best record in the AFC last year.  As if that weren’t enough, the Titans had beaten the Steelers last year in a head-to-head match-up.  To add insult to injury, several Titans players desecrated a Terrible Towel following their win, making many Steelers fans view this game as a chance for revenge.

But when the whistle blew and the game began, all thoughts of last year went out the window, and both teams knew that they needed to focus on the present.

For fan however, there were many aspects of the game that reminded us of last year.  Firstly, the offensive line looked eerily similar to last year (and that’s not a good thing).  They seemed to let the Titans’ defense hit Ben Roethlisberger at will.

Roethlisberger ended the game having been sacked only 4 times, but anyone who watched the game knows that he was pressured far more than that.  He seemed to be running for his life most of the game.

Where are you O-line?

Where are you O-line?

To be fair, the offensive line seemed to improve as the game went on.  In the second half of the game there seemed to be several occasions when Ben seemed to have all of the time that he could possibly ask for.  But overall, I don’t think there are many fans who will be happy if the offensive line looks like that for the rest of the season.

Another aspect of the game that seemed like deja vu was the Steelers’ running game (or lack thereof).  The running backs struggled to gain even the tiniest amounts of yardage on the ground.  Willie Parker gained a total of 19 yards on 13 carries for whopping 1.5 yards per carry.  Rashard Mendenhall didn’t do any better, also averaging 1.5 yards per carry.  Finally, the Steelers benched Parker and went to Mewelde Moore who went on to average 1.6 yards per carry.

Another 1.5 yard carry.

Another 1.5 yard carry.

Did the Steelers have anyone who could average more than 2 yards per carry?  Oh yeah, Big Ben averaged 3 yards per rushing attempt.  Not quite the place that I was hoping to find effective running, but I guess we’ll have to take what we can get.

The Steelers finished the game with a total of 36 yards rushing.  That’s right, 36 yards.  Those sound like the type of rushing numbers that the Steelers defense is supposed to hold their opponents to.  But it’s definitely not the type of output that we want to see from our running backs on a regular basis.

Fortunately, there were other aspects of the game that also reminded us of last year’s Steelers.  The defense was stingy as usual.  They held Titans running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White under 100 yards for the game.  In fact, “Smash & Dash” had to settle for a combined 85 yards on the ground.

Ben Roethlisberger also looked like the Big Ben of 2008.  He led the team to another one of those last cardiac inducing wins that we got so used to seeing last year.  Big Ben almost delivered a last second win in the 4th quarter, but Hines Ward fumbled the ball on the Titans 4 yard line.  So the Steelers had to settle for delivering a nail-biter win in overtime as Jeff Reed booted a game winning field goal.

Reed kicks a game winner.

Reed kicks a game winner.

Just like he did in 2008, Roethlisberger often looked most effective when the Steelers went to their no-huddle offense.  Is it just me, or does anyone else notice that the offense is most effective when they go to the no-huddle and remove Bruce Arians’ from the equation?

Roethlisberger ended the game with one of the best statistical performances of his career.  He completed 33 of 43 pass attempts for a total of 363 yards.

Despite the win, Steelers fans couldn’t be completely happy following the game.  We learned in the post-game press conference that Steelers safety Troy Polamalu had suffered an MCL strain, and will miss 3-6 weeks nursing the injury.  That definitely added a sour note to an otherwise joyful occasion.

Polamalu jerseybuy now button

It wasn’t a pretty game to watch, but a win is a win.  The Steelers are now 1-0, and have the best record in the NFL (I like the sound of that).

By beating a quality team like the Titans, the Steelers announced to the rest of the NFL that they are again going to be a team to be reckoned with.  More importantly, they took their first step up the stairway to seven.


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