The Tennessee Titans Face The Pittsburgh Steelers
September 10, 2009
Mistakes Mount In OT Loss
By Chris Lambos
The Tennessee Titans helped kickoff the 2009 NFL season September 10 with a nationally televised matchup against the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
Of course I was in hopes of the Titans walking off the game field Thursday night sporting a 1-0 record – but would not have been shocked if they walked on the practice field Friday morning at 0-1. But all of us can agree that it hurts, even the least emotional fan, when your team is given multiple opportunities to win a game, and they fall short.
The Titans lost 13-10 in OT.
The 2009 season started the same way the 2008 season ended with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing a TD strike to last years Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes. But the first score of the 2009 season did not come until the 1:22 mark in the 2nd Qtr in a game that was predicted to be a defensive matchup
By looking at 1st Qtr. stats, I could not tell if there was a drop off in Steeler talent or an increase in Titan’s. talent. Tennessee had generated 93 yards of offense to just 1 yard for Pittsburgh. But multiple mistakes including kicking game breakdowns and multiple formation penalties cost the Titans points on the scoreboard and stalled offensive drives. Cortland Finnegan did not field a few punts that resulted in bad field position. OTDave Stewart was called twice for illegal formation (alignment). An important item to mention is that the Titans missed two FGs – one being a block.
Kerry Collins put up respectable numbers (22 of 35 for 244 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int.) in the contest as did the running game (25 rushes for 86 yards, 3.4 yards per carry avg.). He hit Gage in the final 48 seconds of the first half on a 14 yard pass. Though Gage was productive throughout the evening, he dropped a critical pass that should have added 6 more points on the score.
On the other side of the ball, the Steeler passing game was shut down for most of the first half and their running game averaged just 1.8 yards per carry. In the steeler’s 2nd possession of the game, Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger was sacked for a 19 yard loss. After that sack, I was thinking that it would be a long night for Terrible Towel owners.
But the Titans D just wore down as the night progressed. The absence of departed Albert Haynesworth was noticeable. Last year, the Titans could always take advantage of the double and triple teams on Haynesworth, leaving other down lineman to make plays (notice how quiet Kyle Vander Bosch was last night?). The multiple rotation on the defensive line was no replacement (at least not against Steelers). But give credit to the Steeler D for keeping the Titans O off the field in the 2nd half.
In the 2nd half, it was noticeable that the Titans could not pressure Roethlisberger. Big Ben had A LOT of time to throw – two instances I can remember where he had at least 8 seconds to find his targets. Not to be critical of Titan Defensive Coordinator Chuck Cecil, but we need to see more blitz packages utilized this season, if similar situations should arise.
Roethlisberger posted stats of 33 of 43 for 363 yards and a lone TD but tossing 2 interceptions. As mentioned, he found Santonio Holmes for a 34 yard TD with a little over a minute left in the first half – capping off a 5 play 79 yard drive. Holmes finished the evening with 9 catches for 131 yards. Veteran WR Hines Ward also crossed the century mark (103 yards) with 8 catches.
In Overtime, the Steelers won the toss and physically moved the Titans back 63 yards in 10 plays – enough for PK Jeff Reed to kick his game winning 33 yard field goal.
What did we learn from this game?
1) The Titans can play with anybody in the NFL
2) Albert Haynesworth will be missed this season
3) OT Dave Stewart is rusty
4) There is a very good chance we got a glimpse of the AFC Championship Game
5) Steeler DB Troy Polamalu gets better with age
6) The return game and kicking game needs extra work in practice next week
Play of the game: titan Safety Michael Griffin knocked the ball out of Hines Ward’s grip deep in Titan territory – forcing a turnover that denied the Steelers a chance to kick an easy game winning FG in regulation.