Steelers beat Titans 19-11; expect another defensive classic in Tampa

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The Steelers defense demonstrated why they are the best in the NFL as they took the vaunted Tennessee Titans apart. They will have to continue at this level as they face the surprising 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week.

The defense was as outstanding as the offense was poor. The Titans, along with the Baltimore Ravens, probably had the top defensive units in the NFL coming into the season but the Steelers have clearly established themselves as the best in the business, with a healthy Troy Palomalu and Aaron Smith.

SteelersTitans
DOMINATING PERFORMANCE—Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) stops Tennessee Titans tight end Bo Scaife (80) in the fourth quarter, Sept. 19, in Nashville, Tenn. Steeler linebacker James Harrison (92) looks on.

Even without All Pro Casey Hampton, the defense never rested in the 90-plus temperatures as they forced seven turnovers and held the Titans to just 3 points, until the final drive of the game when they allowed the Titans to score during the final seconds and add a 2-point conversion.

The offense was terrible as Dennis Dixon went 4 for 6 for 18 yards in the first half before leaving with an injury. Charlie Batch didn’t do any better as he was 4 for 11 for 25 yards.

Charlie Batch is the last man standing, the lone healthy quarterback the Steelers have as they prepare for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dennis Dixon, who started the first two games, sustained a cartilage tear in his left knee against the Titans and could be sidelined for at least the next couple of weeks, according to NFL sources. The Steelers have yet to give an official statement on the condition of Dixon. Byron Leftwich returned to the team Monday after they released him for one game. Leftwich will test his injured knee to if he can return to play. If neither can play, the Steelers may try to sign a quarterback to back up Batch.

“Regardless of our demise being reported, we expect to win,” Tomlin said. “We’re pleased that we’re 2-0, but we’re not astounded by it. We’re capable and we’re a little bit annoyed, to be quite honest, at the pre-reporting of our death.”

The key to the game was an 89- yard reverse handoff from Me­welde Moore to rookie Antonio Brown on the opening kickoff for a touchdown. That was the only excitement on offense.

The Steelers stopped Chris Johnson in his tracks. His 12 game, 100-yard streak ended along with his pursuit of Barry Sanders’ 14 straight 100-yard games. The ground game on both sides was ineffective. Rashard Mendenhall had just 69 yards on 23 carries.

Vince Young was 7 of 10 for 66 yards and was pulled after two interceptions and a fumble. Kerry Collins who wasn’t any better. His stats looked more impressive, 17 of 25 for 149 yards, because he was playing against a prevent defense during the last seconds of the game.

“Every quarterback is going to look confused against [defensive coordinator] Dick LeBeau’s defense,” Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said after the game.

Aaron Smith was a big factor for the defense as usual.

“He’s amazing,” James Harrison said. “They have to account for him and it takes two guys to do it. That’s 700 pounds of force coming down on him and they still can’t block him. He gives us linebackers freedom to run around and make plays.”

Harrison was a monster again with 11 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. The linebackers as a group—Harrison, Woodley, Timmons and James Farrior—combined for 34 tackles, 3 sacks, an interception, 3 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

“I feel like we’re not getting the respect that we deserve,” Harrison said. “But I understand respect is something that’s not just given, it has to be earned. I like to think we earned a little today.”

One indicator of how awesome the Steelers defense is is the 41 points the Atlanta Falcons put up against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday. This is the same offense that couldn’t score a touchdown against the Steelers.

Unless there is a total letdown by the defense, the Steelers should come out of the Bucs game 3-0.

Josh Freeman threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns as the surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Carolina Panthers 20-7 for their first 2-0 start in five years. As they did during the Tony Dungy era, they did it mostly on defense.

Looking at the offensive numbers the Bucs don’t look very impressive but their defense is dominating teams and their offense is doing just enough to win.

The difference is that the Bucs defense is not in the same class as the Titans or the Steelers and if Dixon is healthy look for a more creative offense this week.

One indicator of how awesome the Steelers defense is is the 41 points the Atlanta Falcons put up against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday. This is the same offense that couldn’t score a touchdown against the Steelers. Unless there is a total letdown by the defense, the Steelers should come out of the Bucs game 3-0.

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