Steelers-Titans Recap: Style Points Don’t Matter

That was awesome.

Yes, the Steelers were without Casey Hampton and Max Starks, and they lost Dennis Dixon and Trai Essex during the game, but it didn’t matter. Not even Charlie Batch’s fragile condition, or Flozell Adams’ predilection for silly pre-snap penalties could get in the way of a Steelers defense that went to town on Vince Young, Chris Johnson, and later Kerry Collins.

Maybe I’m too emotionally invested — and four beers deep (that’s wasted when you’re in your mid-30s) — but I feel comfortable saying that this was Pittsburgh’s most satisfying win since, what, the Pats beatdown during the 2008 regular season? Whatever, you don’t get points for feel-good wins, and to borrow a Tomlinism, you don’t get style points for winning. So now the Steelers are 2-0, they managed to get there after winning in Nashville where they were previously 1-8, and, oh yeah, they did it with their fourth-string quarterback. There’s plenty to worry about going forward, but for now, the Steelers are undefeated.

Other random stuff:

* Rashard Mendenhall ended the day with 23 rushes for 69 yards. That doesn’t even come close to telling the story. Three yards a carry, in general, is a bad day (alternatively, it’s 0.9 yards-per-carry better than 16 for 34). But with Breakable Charlie under center for most of the game (and only Antwaan Randle El behind him), the Steelers were in no position to call a bunch long-developing pass plays. They were running and everybody knew it. But that’s not the point. This is: despite facing eight-man fronts all day, Mendenhall gained tough yards, was mostly able to avoid negative plays, and most importantly: keep the clock moving.

* Even though the Steelers cut Byron Leftwich to make room for Steve McLendon, I was all set to accept the the fact that the team would re-sign him and promptly install him as the starter next week against the Bucs. And then Dixon got hurt, Chaz came in and played, well, like you expected him too. And now I can’t think of a good reason why Batch shouldn’t be on the field when they travel to Tampa Bay. He played well all day, avoided turnovers, and was unlucky twice (once to Mike Wallace in the middle of the field, and later to Wallace on the TD that came back after a holding penalty).

For as much as I supported Dixon the last couple months, he’s had trouble — whether it’s a mental thing or game-planned — matriculating the ball down the field. Yes, Batch didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard, either, but that had more to do with the run, run, run, punt/field goal strategy for most of the second half. These are things we will be talking about in the coming days.

* Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots worked the game for CBS, and, relatively speaking, did a fine job. That said, Harlan wasn’t afraid to point out on a few occasions that Pittsburgh’s offensive line was having trouble. Well, no shit. But here’s the thing: they were without Starks, and later Essex, and more than that, they were rotating Jonathan Scott, Flozell Adams and Tony Hills because of the 90-something-degree temperatures, not to mention that Doug Legursky played the fourth quarter with Essex on the bench.

Was it an ugly o-line performance? Hell yeah. But remember: style points don’t matter. And perhaps a better measuring stick: Batch took a couple sacks and didn’t end up on the turf in pieces.

* Something that concerns me for next week: the Steelers spent three hours kicking the crap out of the Titans in ridiculously hot conditions, and they ended up losing a couple players in the process. That’s to be expected. Fine. But who the hell thought it would be a good idea to send Pittsburgh to Tampa seven days after they had to play in Nashville? In September? More than being Big Ben-less, we may look back on these two weeks — and the players who subsequently lost the war of attrition — as the reason the team didn’t reach expectations. But like penalties that aren’t called, it is what it is. Suck it up and deal with it. Moving on…

* During the Steelers-Titans preview podcast, I was interested in watching two things: how Juan Timmons played against Chris Johnson, and what Daniel Sepulveda was able to do in terms of changing field position. Both guys came up huge. Timmons spent the afternoon knocking CJ silly, and just like last week, Sepulveda bailed out a one-dimensional Pittsburgh offense. Just a reminder: both guys were a part of Tomlin’s first draft, and both guys, when they were taken, weren’t particularly popular picks (although I was clearly on the ROBO-PUNTER bandwagon from the very beginning). Which, again, is why nobody solicits our advice on personnel decisions.

* A word about the Steelers defense: dominating. Another word: suffocating. The Titans scored a touchdown late, but I’m not even counting that as a legit score. Pittsburgh rushed four the entire drive and was more concerned with taking time off the clock. Mission accomplished. Coulda done without the no-hands approach on the ensuing onside kick, but you sorta knew things would end like that.

I’ll be honest: Johnson scared the shit out of me coming into this game, and I’m not going to say that I knew the defense would bottle him up, but about halfway into the third quarter it became apparent that Johnson was tired of getting hit. And “hit” undersells it. He was getting punished every time he touched the ball. Two weeks in, and this defense looks a lot better than the 2008 version. This is something I thought I’d never write.

A prayer seems appropriate: Dear Lord, please keep these guys healthy, because this unit is really, really special. Also: thank you for Troy Polamalu. Amen.

Enjoy the win, peeps. And remember to check back later tonight for a Steelers Lounge podcast recap.

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  • johngruden

    awesome early post after the game. thanks.

  • SteelerBill

    Bottom line, as you stated Ryan…that was a tremendous victory…..tremendous….I don’t care about style points because we know help on offense is on its way….

    That said TB does concern me….kind of a ‘trap’ game now if you will…

    • Asdf

      agreed

  • JJ Cooper

    I’ll talk more about this in the podcast I’m sure, but to win a game where at one point the Steelers had Jonathan Scott–Tony Hills–Maurkice Pouncey–Doug Legursky–Flozell Adams as your offensive line is amazing. To me that was as enjoyable a regular season win as I can remember, because a team this banged up shouldn’t be able to shut down the NFL’s best running back and beat a solid team on the road. Amazing.

    • Gretz

      Honestly, this was one of the most absurd football games I’ve ever watched. This thing had everything.

  • HoosierSteelers?

    JJ – can you post a link to where your podcast will be available?

    Thanks.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      HoosierSteelers?, The podcast will be up later tonight but you can subscribe via iTunes and RSS, too.

      • HoosierSteelers?

        Thanks, found it.

  • Cols714

    Awesome. What a great day of football. Steelers win, Browns and Ravens lose, NE loses. I really couldn’t of asked for much more.

    • Anonymous

      You could ask for Dallas to lose.

      • Me

        Well they lost too! Good weekend in football!

  • Anonymous

    I was at the game. It was not satisfying in person … well, anything to do with the offense wasn’t, anyway. It was HOTT. Two t’s because the heat, like both offenses, was brutal.

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    Ted’s got his postgame thoughts up here, and the podcast will be up in an hour or so.

  • drinkingclub

    I would have liked to see more from Mendenhall.

    Also, the only thing that might have made the defenses performance better could be if LenDale White still played for the Titans.

  • RoB D

    It’s exactly the type of game that the NFLN ignores..their talking points were all about Fisher pulling VY for Collins. Not a peep about how awesome the D was for the Steelers today (it was like 4 or 5 games worth of highlights in one 60 minute presentations..unreal). And they didn’t even show the wrestling throw of VY by 3 Steelers including Silverback or Troy’s leap over the O-line ( I still can’t believe he did that) or even 2 or 3 of Timmons incredible displays of instinct, speed and tackling.

    And I couldnt care less. We go 3-1 and get Ben back? Look the #*%#$@ out! This team showed me championship level will and effort today.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      Yep. I stayed up till 1:15 AM ET to hear that, too. That’s on me for being stupid enough to think it would be about something other than the compelling storyline, ‘OMG VY GOT PULLED!’

      • RoB D

        I know. It was entirely predictable but I was hoping against hope that a defensive display of that quality would at least be acknowledged.

        Silly me.

  • RoB D

    BTW, whoever compared this game with the legendary Oakland/Pittsburgh wars of the 70`s was right on the money (I am sure it was one of you guys at the Lounge). Those were incredible, injury filled, exhibitions of football mayhem. But playing in 90 to 100 degree heat added an extra layer of tension to this one.

    One team seemed to wilt. The other did not. Damn. I need mock heroic music inserted here with Facenda intoning away…