View Full Version : No Tennessee waltz

09-10-2009, 01:31 AM
No Tennessee waltz
Steelers understand how tough Titans can be, but savor the challenge in opener tonight
Thursday, September 10, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers' defense dominated the NFL last season, when they were No. 1 across the board in nearly all categories that count. They smothered offenses, sacked quarterbacks, forced turnovers and stuffed ground games.

Except that Dec. 21 in Nashville, Tenn., they did none of that. That day the Steelers' defense had the look of their Terrible Towel, stomped all over by the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans scored more points against the Steelers than any team last season, and, while one touchdown came when Ben Roethlisberger threw a pick-six to safety Michael Griffin, their defensive performance in that 31-14 loss did not make their highlight film.

"Yeah, they whupped us," acknowledged linebacker James Farrior, a co-captain of that defense.

"It was pretty rough for us. They had a good day that day and made a lot of big plays. I think that was one of the things that ended up getting us in the end. We don't give up too many big plays, and they got enough to beat us."

The Steelers did not give up a boatload of yards, they just came in big chunks. Kerry Collins threw for 216 yards, but among those was a 34-yard touchdown pass to Justin Gage. The Titans ran 31 times for 117 yards, but 21 of those came on a Chris Johnson touchdown run. Towel-stomper LenDale White added a 1-yard touchdown run.

Collins was sacked once by the second-most prolific sack defense in the NFL, and that was the only big play by the Steelers' defense, which produced no turnovers.

"They made some plays, we made some mistakes, they capitalized, and that's what you expect when you play a good team," defensive end Aaron Smith said.

So, should they expect anything different tonight?

Tennessee has the same dynamics going on offense it had when it rolled over the Steelers that day with Johnson and White, Collins and Gage and an outstanding offensive line, the same five who stoned that defense last season.

"I think it'll be the best offensive line we'll play all year," nose tackle Chris Hoke said. "Their offensive line is one of the best in the NFL. They do a great job of combo blocking on the run.

"They came down and started running the football. That's something that doesn't usually happen to us, so we have to stop that."

One advantage tonight, of course, is the change in venue. The crowd noise at Heinz Field should affect Collins more than it does Roethlisberger, who threw a second interception to Griffin and was sacked five times by the Titans.

That game also represented the last loss for the Steelers. Remember the Titans?

"We remember, everybody remembers that butt-whuppin' we took," Farrior said. "We take pride in our defense and we're prepared not to let that happen again."
Holmes: Don't forget me

Santonio Holmes says he and the team are grateful to have such a dynamic returnman as Stefan Logan, but ...

"I don't think nobody said I was not going to be returning punts this year," Holmes said. "So, that's not out of the picture."

While it has been noted that the Steelers had neither a punt nor kickoff return for a touchdown last season, they did have a very big one in the playoffs. Holmes returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown to tie San Diego, 7-7, and stave off the shock of the Chargers' quick-strike, 7-0 lead.

Holmes believes he could return punts under certain circumstances this season.

"That's a part of my game, that's the part that gets me excited going out every Sunday and playing the game," Holmes said. "I feel like I have more control with the ball in my hands as a punt-returner than I do just out there trying to catch passes and blocking for everybody else."
Missed opportunity

Only safety Troy Polamalu could think of what it would be like for an opponent, such as the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship at Heinz Field in January, to beat the Steelers.

In the latest version of its America's Game series, the NFL Network debuted the one-hour version of the Steelers' 2008 highlights film produced by NFL Films last night. As usual, it is a well-done, slick, dramatic film that will be shown at various times on the NFL Network. (The Network will hold a Steelers America's Game Marathon from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, showing all six of their Super Bowl victories, so set your DVRs.)

Polamalu, Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger comment on the season throughout the film. Here is what Polamalu said as he recounted Baltimore's drive that could have won the AFC title game, but, instead, ended when Polamalu returned an interception for a touchdown:

"What makes teams great, what makes games great?" Polamalu wonders.

"It's these opportunities that seldomly come -- in the huge stage of the AFC championship game, and they have a rookie quarterback and they have a rookie coach on the sideline, and you're thinking, 'What a great time for them to come back and kick a field goal and beat their rivals that they've just lost [to] twice.'

"All these things are running through your head. That would be a great story for them.

"But it didn't happen that way."

For more on the Steelers, read the new blog, Ed Bouchette On the Steelers at post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.
First published on September 10, 2009 at 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09253/99 ... z0Qg9KG3Rq (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09253/996950-66.stm#ixzz0Qg9KG3Rq)