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A Weak Start to A Strong Season

by Joshua M. Patton

Author's note: This should have been posted on Tuesday. Readers, I owe yinz a beer.

Pittsburgh looked good on Thursday night. There was an incredible concert, beautiful shots of the city on national television, and the season and home opener at Heinz field. There was a fireworks display capping off the national anthem. It couldn’t have been better, until we took the field.

Yes, we won the game. Yes, the “yinzers” in my favorite bar exclaimed at the end of regulation, “I KNEW THEY WERE GONNA DO ‘ISS! I gotta work in the mornin’. ‘Nother Ahrn City, please….” The Titans and the Steelers proved to be very evenly matched, but as is typical when the Steelers struggle, the Titans seemed to merely capitalize on windows of opportunity left open by the Steelers. Again, with the victory in overtime, all complaints about their performance are merely academic and as Steelermix.com’s own Ken Torgent put it, and I’m paraphrasing, Ben is as good as he needs to be when the team needs it.

The first half of the game was all about defense. The Steelers defense was effective in stopping all but the last of the Titan’s drives, including an amazing blocked field goal by Aaron Smith. However, it was Troy Polamalu who was involved in more plays in the first half than he was not. A penalty that stemmed from his aggressive style of play was the only reason that the Titans even made it far enough to attempt a field goal. Yet, Polamalu left the field with what is being reported as a torn MCL, but he will not require surgery. His presence was immediately missed when the Titans were able to take the ball right down the field to tie the game.

The offensive performance of the Steelers was lackluster at best. The offensive line, as is typical since the loss of Alan Faneca, left much to be desired. Ben made some deft and expert moves behind the line of scrimmage and avoided the rush as much as he could. Ben held on to the ball far too long at times, but towards the end of the game even this improved with a few key throw-aways at the end of the game. The most obvious omission was the lack of any sort of effective running game. Willie Parker should have played more during the preseason. Always a slow starter, it could be a few more weeks before he is adequately “warmed up,” if it is even going to happen at all. Mendenhall gave a lackluster performance as well; I imagined Issac Redman at home during the game and staring at the phone ever since.

As the season begins, hope still runs high throughout the city that the black and gold will dominate this NFL season and the potential for that still remains. The Titans are no easy opponent and, as a fan, I am glad that it was as close as it was for the Steelers. It will allow for the veteran players and coaching staff to make the necessary adjustments early. They will be forced to defend without Troy for about six weeks; the offensive line and the running game need attention; and Ben seems to grow more confident in his role each game. As my friend with the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates logos all tattooed on his forearm said, “We never really start winning until we’re losing anyway.” True indeed.

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