Mike Tomlin says Steelers shouldn't have been doubted
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The win may have qualified as the most improbable of Mike Tomlin's tenure given a multitude of circumstances.
Not that the fourth-year coach wanted to hear that after the Steelers beat up the error-prone Titans, 19-11, Sunday at LP Field.
Tomlin turned out to be just as edgy as a defense that forced seven turnovers and generated more heat than the oppressively hot day itself.
"We're a little bit annoyed (about) the premature reporting of our death," Tomlin said after the Steelers dominated the Titans for roughly 58 minutes and then survived a late charge by the home team. "We're pleased that we're 2-0, but we're not astounded by it. We expect to win."
The Steelers have won their first two games largely because of a group that has looked like the defense of old -- or at least of 2008 -- and not an old defense.
With Tomlin all but needing duct tape yesterday to keep a battered offense together the Steelers relied on special teams, which produced all of their points, and especially the defense.
The seven turnovers the Titans committed were the most by a Steelers opponent since the Ravens gave the ball away seven times in November of 1997. Just as impressive if not significant: The Steelers yielded just 34 yards on 16 carries by Johnson, who had rushed for over 100 yards in 12 consecutive games prior to yesterday.
The Steelers used a sort of buddy system in containing Johnson -- as in take a buddy with you when trying to bring down the back who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season.
"One on one, he's going to win most of those battles," Tomlin said. "We had to come off blocks. We had to run to the ball."
Johnson broke loose one time, but a holding penalty on center Eugene Amato nullified what would have been an 85-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
"You know if the holding penalty is not called, they probably don't take (Johnson) out of the game," coach Jeff Fisher said after the Titans lost to the Steelers in Tennessee for just the second time in 10 games. "We figured we had to just keeping handing it to him, knowing some of it would be ugly. But if we kept getting the opportunities, we'd have a chance to break one."
The play that epitomized the kind of day it was for Johnson and the Titans came early in the fourth quarter.
Johnson tried to cut back during a run, and James Harrison slammed into the All-Pro, limiting him to a one-yard gain.
"Nine times out of 10, the more physical team is going to win," Harrison said after making 11 tackles, recording a pair of sacks as well as two forced fumbles and recovering a fumble. "I felt like we out-physicaled them."
The Steelers allowed 238 yards of total offense, but 112 of them came on the Titans' final two drives.
That is when Kerry Collins, who replaced starting quarterback Vince Young, threw a touchdown pass and a scare into the Steelers.
Shortly after the Steelers survived the last-gasp rally -- they had to make a final stand after the Titans recovered an on-sides kick -- Tomlin said that he was "annoyed." That came as news to some players inside the visiting locker room but not others.
"They think we can't win without Ben (Roethlisberger)," inside linebacker James Farrior said of the quarterback who has served half of his four-game suspension. "That just gives us a little more motivation.
"Mike Tomlin's been (ticked) off the last couple of weeks. He's taking it out on us, and we've been taking it out on other teams."
Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans 9/1 9⁄10
The Steelers defeat the Titans, 19-11, Sunday September 19, 2010 at LP Field in Nashville.
Around the Steelers
• Cramp issues and injuries forced the Steelers to play all nine of the offensive linemen that they dressed in their 19-11 win against the Tennessee Titans. 'Shoot, it was musical chairs,' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of all of the shuffling that took place along the offensive line. 'Man, I don't know who we had in there for a spell.' Starting right guard Trai Essex missed some time after hurting his ankle. Starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu had to sit out a series because of cramps. The Steelers also rotated their tackles as starting right tackle Flozell Adams had to battle through dehydration.
• In other injury news, James Farrior left the game after the inside linebacker said he got his 'bell rung,' but he later returned. Nose tackle Chris Hoke had to battle through a stinger.
• Hoke started in place of Casey Hampton (hamstring), and Jonathan Scott started at left tackle Max Starks (ankle). Hampton and Starks likely will return Sunday when the Steelers play at Tampa Bay. Also out yesterday because of injuries were outside linebacker Jason Worilds (shoulder) and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (quadriceps). Joining those four on the inactives list were guard Ramon Foster, outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, running back Jonathan Dwyer and cornerback Crezdon Butler.
• It didn't take long for tempers to flare between the former AFC Central rivals. On the Steelers' first play from scrimmage, Titans defensive end Jason Babin picked up the ball after an incomplete pass from Dennis Dixon. Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward jumped on Babin's back, touching off a skirmish that resulted in off-setting personal foul calls. 'When you have a rivalry of old and two physical teams, things like that are going to happen,' Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said.