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Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger isn't taking struggling Titans 'D' lightly

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger takes off on a second-quarter run against the Eagles on Oct. 7, 2012, at Heinz Field.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Alan Robinson
Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, 11:04 p.m.

• Ben Roethlisberger always tells his offensive teammates he wants to put up at least 30 points. Against the Titans, that might be a modest goal. The first NFL team to allow 30 or more points in its first five games since 1954, Tennessee is allowing a league-high 36.2 points per game — not that Roethlisberger believes that is significant. “I don't care what your record is, who you're playing, or where you're playing, anybody can win, anybody can be good, and anybody can be bad,” Roethlisberger said. “We have to approach this on a short week like it's the best opponent, and we need to play our best no matter what.”

• The Titans (1-4) are struggling offensively yet are manufacturing long-distance plays, with Nate Washington (71 yards), Jared Cook (61 yards) and Craig Stevens (46) all making deep catches. “You've got to minimize big plays … we did that against the Eagles, they're a big play team, we've got pressure up front, sacks and turnovers,” safety Will Allen said. “Hopefully we can do the same thing.” The Eagles' longest play was a 24-yard Michael Vick completion to DeSean Jackson.

James Harrison was surprised after playing every defensive snap against the Eagles, especially given the plan was to rest his still-healing left knee periodically. But his teammates weren't. “We know what we're getting with James; it's just good to have him back out there,” nose tackle Casey Hampton said. Hampton likes how opposing offenses must devote extra preparation time for Harrison, saying, “If he's out there, you definitely have to pay more attention to him.”

• Some alterations by coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau contributed to Lawrence Timmons' big game Sunday against the Eagles. “We brought him (blitzed) a little more in this contest,” Tomlin said, “We're still in the growing stages of the season. We're still adding to our packages and our menu.” Timmons is expected to remain in his altered role at Tennessee, with Larry Foote dropping into coverage more.

Willie Colon is the NFL's most-penalized offensive lineman with eight infractions in four games, including two that were declined or nullified. Three offensive tackles have been flagged seven times: Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini of Seattle and Gabe Carimi of Chicago. Colon, who didn't play guard until this season, was called for holding four times Sunday. Two seasons ago, former Steelers left guard Chris Kemoeatu had 10 penalties called. Colon said his biggest problem is extending his hands while blocking. “If you're outside (the opposing player's) framework and if you're impeding their rushing, if (the officials) see it, they're going to call it, bottom line,” Colon said. “I got to be more technically sound and if they're targeting me, I've got to give them a reason not to target me.”

• Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel's head coach last season. But he didn't have much of a reaction to Cassel being booed by his own fans after getting hurt Sunday. The incident has created considerable debate about the conduct of sports fans. “I didn't hear about it. I'm in Pittsburgh,” Haley said. “I'm worried about the Steelers offense.”

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