The offense put together its best game of the season, maybe its best game in two years, as the Steelers soundly defeated the Tennessee Titans 38-17. Now they face the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend.
The Steelers dominated from the very first drive to the finish. They marched down the field to make it 7-0 and increased that to 21-3 at halftime. But unlike the past, instead of faltering in the second half they actually played better.
|ALL SMILES—Hines Ward looks on with approval as the Steelers take care of business. (Courier Photo/ John Pablo Duran)
The defense came into the game with one main purpose, to shut down the run. Chris Johnson is one of the five best backs in the game, and the Steelers knew that if they shut him down they beat the Titans. Plus they looked old and slow against the run in the two losses, so they were determined to stop the run, even with their two best linemen, Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton, out. And they did just that as the young players stepped up big time. After a 21 yard opening run by Johnson, they held him to just 30 yards for the rest of the game, while keeping Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in check.
Ben Roethlisberger tied a team record with five touchdown passes—including two to Hines Ward —and the Steelers rolled past the Titans.
Other than a slight limp when he ran, Roethlisberger appeared to have no issues with his sprained left foot, also hitting Mike Wallace, Heath Miller and David Johnson for scores as the Steelers (3-2) ended Tennessee’s three-game winning streak.
The five touchdown passes tied a single-game team record Roethlisberger already shares with Mark Malone and Terry Bradshaw.
Tennessee’s Johnson ran for a score but finished with only 51 rushing yards on 14 carries as the Titans hot start came to a screeching halt against Pittsburgh’s rejuvenated defense.
Roethlisberger was 24 of 34 for 228 yards, with Wallace and Ward being his primary targets. Wallace had 6 catches for 62 yards and Ward had his best game with 7 catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Antonio Brown also was impressive returning kicks, putting the Steelers in good field position on just about every possession. He also had two catches for 23 yards.
The coaches and players had made it very clear that they would not be able to stop the run until they were able to establish the run. Well they established the run against one of the better run defenses in the league. The running game was the most impressive it has been all season, even with Rashard Mendenhall on the sidelines with an injury. Isaac Redman was extremely impressive as he pounded through the Titans lines for 49 yards on 15, carries and Jonathan Dwyer, who had not dressed the first four games, had 107 on just 11 carries coming off the bench backing up Redman. This was done with a makeshift offensive line because of all the injuries. Max Starks, who had been cut, was brought back to fill in, however, he didn’t just fill in, he started and ended up playing the entire game.
Coach Mike Tomlin voiced his views on the game after the game: “It was a good bounce-back week for us, coming off of a loss. It was an appropriate response. I thought we played together today. We played hard in all three phases. We made the necessary plays. We weren’t perfect by any stretch but under the circumstances, you have to like what you saw. From an injury standpoint, we had a number of in-game injuries, which were insignificant. I think the guys are going to be able to come back. I don’t think this will inhibit them from participating this week. That group is James Farrior with a shoulder injury, Heath Miller with a shoulder injury, Maurkice Pouncey with a right knee injury, he’s fine, Hines Ward has a chest injury, but he’s fine; and Isaac Redman had leg cramps. There was only one worth mentioning, and we will look at moving forward and that’s Marcus Gilbert. We will keep an eye on him and see where he is. Again, the guys played up to the standard. That’s what we expect. It’s a good win for us. Hopefully it will provide momentum for us as we move forward. It was a good football team we played today in the Tennessee Titans. It was good to come back and be victorious against a team such as that.”
The Jaguars have lost four in a row and eight of nine dating back to last season, putting Coach Jack Del Rio’s future further in doubt.
The win kept the Steelers in a tie for second in the AFC North with the Bengals at 3-2 behind the Baltimore Ravens 3-1 who along with the Cleveland Browns 1-4, had a bye week.