Titans' wide receiver Washington relishes win over Steelers
Nate Washington and Jerome Bettis hugged and shared a brief, warm reunion outside the Tennessee Titans locker room at Heinz Field on Sunday.
Bettis, the Steelers' former star running back, was in his final season in 2005 when he took Washington under his wing after the young receiver joined the team as an undrafted free agent. The two have remained close.
In his ninth season, Washington joined the Titans four years later. He is among the team's elder statesmen. But he enjoyed the 16-9 win over the Steelers as much as any of his younger teammates, if not more. It's always fun to beat your old team, especially in the town where you once played.
“I have a whole lot of people I know in the city and on the team,” Washington said, meaning the Steelers. “Those guys pride themselves on wearing that jersey. For us to come in and have a good win is definitely big.”
Washington caught some key passes from quarterback Jake Locker. But most of the afternoon belonged to the Titans' defense, which abused a Steelers' offense that appears to have some significant issues.
Three seconds into the game, the Titans had an issue of their own when Darius Reynaud caused a safety on the opening kick-off. Thanks in big part to Isaac Redman's fumble into the end zone on the Steelers' ensuing possession, Tennessee righted itself.
“After that we played liked we hoped we would,” said Titans coach Mike Munchak, whose job might be on the line after last season's 6-10 record. “We were physical on defense, we got after the quarterback. This is a tough, tough place to win a football game, especially in the opener.”
The Titans gained only 295 yards, but held the Steelers to 195. They outgained the Steelers on the ground, 112-32, had five sacks, forced two turnovers and controlled the time of possession by eight minutes.
“That's the big thing, the offense keeping the ball, and we did our job with the three and outs,” Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said.
The Steelers had three straight three-play drives to start the second half and four out of five overall before finally scoring a touchdown with 1:23 and no timeouts remaining.
“You stop the run you can make them one-dimensional,” said linebacker Zach Brown, who not only helped in that regard, but added two sacks.
“We got after (Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger), Brown said. “We knew we had to contain Ben because he makes plays with his legs. ... You stop the other team, something's going to happen eventually.”
Casey, who also had two sacks, attributed the pressure on Roethlisberger to “ everyone doing their job, everyone being in the right place.”
It likely helped that the Steelers' line is a bit shaky these days. With three new starters, the Titans' line fared better, even though center Rob Turner observed “it always wasn't always pretty.” But the Titans notably had two time-consuming, smash-mouth drives, one resulting in the game's only touchdown and the other in a fourth-quarter field goal.
“We knew it would be a fist fight going in,” said Turner, who seemed delighted by his role in winning it.
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.