Steelers top Titans in overtime

Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 10:51pm

PITTSBURGH — The Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers kicked off the 2009 season Thursday night and it turned into a heavyweight fight.

But after the Steelers finally won the fray 13-10 in overtime, it was the Titans who were picking themselves up off the canvas, wondering exactly what had hit them.

“A loss like that, you can’t really hang your head. It was pretty much like one of those old school boxing fights that used to go 15 rounds,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “That’s the kind of game it was tonight. Two defenses showed up. The offenses made plays here and there when they needed to, and we just didn’t give our offense a chance to get back on the field. It was a 15-round old school Muhammad Ali-[Joe] Frazier fight that went the distance.”

The Steelers won the decision, thanks to Jeff Reed’s 33-yard field goal at the 10:28 mark, leaving the Titans to ponder a loss they say never should have been.

Special teams miscues hurt the Titans in the first half with a missed 37-yard field goal by Rob Bironas followed by a 31-yard attempt that Pittsburgh’s Aaron Smith blocked.

Also, in the first half, quarterback Kerry Collins was intercepted by Troy Polamalu on a deep throw for Kenny Britt.

Defensively, despite being solid against the run (36 yards on 23 carries), the Titans surrendered 363 yards passing to Ben Roethlisberger, and were not able to give the offense a chance with the football in the overtime.

“Unfortunately those types of things are difficult, because we really didn’t lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight. We lost to the Tennessee Titans. We beat ourselves,” said receiver Nate Washington, who left the Steelers for Tennessee this past off-season. “We had a lot of missed opportunities out there that we could have taken advantage of and we didn’t. Those types of things cannot be missed, especially when you play the Super Bowl champions in their hometown.”

Running back Chris Johnson, who managed 57 yards on 15 carries including a 32-yarder, said the Titans simply didn’t help themselves on offense when they had the chance. The drive charts bore that out, as Tennessee had drives of 55, 35, 45, 38 and 24 yards that all ended with no points. That included two missed kicks, an interception, a Bo Scaife fumble and a punt.

Perhaps there was a bit of irony in that the final score Thursday night was the same one – 13-10 – that they lost at home to the Baltimore Ravens in last year’s playoffs. And it was similar in that the Titans squandered their opportunities to put the game away.

“We shouldn’t have even been in that situation anyway, in overtime, hoping to get the ball, hoping for our defense to get us a stop,” Johnson said. “We just didn’t take advantage at the end of our drives. When we get chances, we have to take advantage of that. We’ve got to score, and we won’t be in that situation.”

Even the opportunity to reach overtime nearly didn’t come, as the Titans staggered in the final minute of regulation, after a 28-yard punt by Craig Hentrich set the Steelers up in business at their own 42. Roethlisberger then marched Pittsburgh into field goal range and hit Hines Ward with a pass over the middle for a 30-yard gain – except that a hustling Michael Griffin knocked the ball free, and Stephen Tulloch recovered it to keep the Titans tied at 10-10 with 51 seconds left, and eventually force the overtime.

“If he scores a touchdown, it’s six points. If I make a tackle, they may kick a field goal to go up three. They may try to burn all our timeouts and kick it at the end. It was try to make a play, because if we make the play, we’ve still got an opportunity,” Griffin explained. “And we did have another opportunity.”

In the first half, the game was scoreless until the 1:22 mark when Roethlisberger, using the two-minute drill, took the Steelers 79 yards in just five plays to go up 7-0 with a 34-yard TD toss to Santonio Holmes. Holmes sprinted down the right seam and found himself open in the end zone between Griffin and Chris Hope to give Pittsburgh the lead.

On the ensuing series, the Titans took advantage of All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu being lost with a sprained MCL, by exploiting the left side of the Steelers defense.

First, Collins found a wide-open Kenny Britt for a 57-yard gain that took the ball to the Steelers 14. Then, with a Steelers defender in his face, Collins hit Justin Gage in the corner of the end zone for the tying touchdown with 48 seconds to play in the half.

The second half proved to be no less a struggle for the teams to score points, as after a scoreless third quarter, the Titans took their first lead of the night when Bironas connected on a 45-yard attempt at the 11:03 mark of the fourth quarter.

However, the Steelers pulled even on Reed’s 32-yarder with 2:57 to play. The Titans made sure the drive, which reached the 9-yard line, would not go any further when Mewelde Moore was stopped twice for one yard on second-and-2, and for no gain by William Hayes on third-and-1, forcing the field goal attempt.

In the overtime, Roethlisberger was superb, carving up the Titans in a no-huddle offense, needing 10 plays to go 63 yards to get Reed in range for the game-winner. The Steelers quarterback completed 6 of 8 on the decisive drive for 60 yards, including a 22-yard completion to Mike Wallace that set Reed’s winning kick up at the 15-yard line.

“A lot of their plays were broken plays, all night. They gained the majority of their yardage on broken plays. That’s what Ben Roethlisberger is good at doing,” Bulluck said. “It’s definitely frustrating, because as a defense we got them off the field pretty much all night, and when it counts, we obviously didn’t give our offense a chance to win it in overtime.”

There was culpability for the offense and special teams as well.

“It was a shame we let that one get away, but if you’re on the road against a good football team, and you make the mistakes we made tonight, you’re going to lose more ballgames than you win,” said Collins, who finished 22 of 35 for 244 yards. “It’s disappointing. There’s no question we were in a position to win that game.”
 

11 Comments on this post:

By: TITAN1 on 9/11/09 at 8:28

Great game to kick off the NFL season. We came up a little short, but we proved we are contenders. Six point underdogs in a hostile territory against the reigning champs. Looking forward to a lot of wins and contending for the Super Bowl.

By: frank brown on 9/11/09 at 8:28

Well, TITAN 1, I guess you are just glad to have something to do. Never mind the fact that this team has only won one big game in the 60 year franchise. (Music City Miracle) and played in only one Super Bowl....

I do agree that having the Titans in town is better than being in a bowling league for the winter.

By: TITAN1 on 9/11/09 at 8:30

Frank, your wife called and said you are behind on your knitting.

By: cmarcus45 on 9/11/09 at 8:35

I agree with Titan1. I think he was talking about looking forward to the wins and contending for a SB berth this year, Frank. In addition to being on the road in an impossible environment against last year's #1 defense, it was Chuck Cecil's first regular season game as defensive coordinator. So, all in all, I think the Titans did well. I do wonder, though, where Sen'Derrick Marks is -- I don't recall seeing him all night, even when the D-line was getting tired.

By: jps13pat on 9/11/09 at 9:49

Everything I've heard about Sen'Derrick Marks leads me to believe that he's a bust. He's way down the Titans depth chart and probably only made the team because he's a rookie and we want to give him a chance.

This game scared me more than anything. We were justified in being nervous about our punt returner, which is a huge deal. We lost a ton of field position last night on punts, and besides, I would rather Cortland be getting his reps at CB in practice than having to worry about catching punts.

But more frightening to me was the fact that we could not get to the quarterback. Roethlisberger could have ordered a pizza, had it delivered, and eaten it by the time our rush got to him. Our front 4 have got to do better, but Chuck Cecil has to know to start blitzing if that happens too. Anybody who says that we'll be fine without Albert and Schwartz were proven wrong last night, because if either one of them is there we win that game.

By: jps13pat on 9/11/09 at 9:54

Everything I've heard about Sen'Derrick Marks leads me to believe that he's a bust. He's way down the Titans depth chart and probably only made the team because he's a rookie and we want to give him a chance.

This game scared me more than anything. We were justified in being nervous about our punt returner, which is a huge deal. We lost a ton of field position last night on punts, and besides, I would rather Cortland be getting his reps at CB in practice than having to worry about catching punts.

But more frightening to me was the fact that we could not get to the quarterback. Roethlisberger could have ordered a pizza, had it delivered, and eaten it by the time our rush got to him. Our front 4 have got to do better, but Chuck Cecil has to know to start blitzing if that happens too. Anybody who says that we'll be fine without Albert and Schwartz were proven wrong last night, because if either one of them is there we win that game.

By: cmarcus45 on 9/11/09 at 9:54

I hope we pick up Wade to return kickoffs and punts (again) until Mouton gets healthy since Minnesota cut Wade yesterday. He led the Vikings in receptions last year and apparently did not have any offseason issues, so I'm led to believe he still has something to contribute (perhaps not as much as Percy Harvin, who replaced him on the Vikings depth chart).

By: gdiafante on 9/11/09 at 1:57

God that game sucked last night. If those are two of the best teams in the league it's going to be a VERY mediocre year.

By: Chief on 9/11/09 at 3:21

I agree, let's pick up Wade. He can return punts and also be in the WR rotation. I think he is much better than our 4th and 5th receivers (Hawkins and Edison). We could probably slip Edison through to the Practice Squad. Meeks was one of our inactives and so was Dave Ball. We have 10 DLs and should use 8 active. Does not necessarity mean he is a bust. After all, Dave Ball had several productive games for us last year. Although we lost, I thought we played tough in a hosite environment. If we get our STs straightened out, we should be in the mix for the
SB.
Chief

By: tytanz27 on 9/12/09 at 7:51

This is the 2nd big game in a row where Rob Bironas has choked off field goals. I'm starting to doubt his intestinal fortitude. Where was KVB.?Did he play? On the 1st miss a member of the steelers taunted bironas and nobody came to his aid. Maybe the team is losing faith in him,also. The only thing good to come out of this game was the debut of Kenny Britt. He looks like the real deal. Which is good after a couple of misses in the draft at that position. I was really hoping to see Jared Cook. But, I think he is the real deal as well. Bye,bye Bo Scaife, We need to come out on fire against the Texans. I'm talkin an old fashioned wood shed beat down to erase the taste of this one.

By: jps13pat on 9/12/09 at 7:56

Bye bye Bo Scaife? Scaife is the best receiver we've got on the roster right now. I think Jared Cook is going to be a baller too, but it never hurts to have two playmakers at that position. Two TE's with big bodies and WR speed is matchup heaven for the Titans.

While I wasn't super impressed with Wade when he was here, I do think he's better than Hawkins, and we desperately need the help in the punt return department.