It was hard not to get images of the 2006 loss against Denver when Hines fumbled inside the five, but by then it was clear that the Steelers had figured out how to move the ball against the Titans defense. Yes, they were fortunate to have gotten first possession in OT, but once they did you knew they could press the ball down the Titans throat just like at the end of regulation.
Bruce Arians caught on, almost too late, that the hurry-up offense was the only thing working on the Titans. On the drive where they tied the game, didn't you feel the air getting sucked out of the offense when Arians decided to take a timeout in the red zone when he could have kept his foot to the pedal? The Steelers did what the Titans did to good effect in last year's game and occasionally tonight - forced them to rush three or four defenders and carve up the secondary.
The run blocking was horrendous all over. And potential big plays were nixed by missed open field blocks. A first quarter drive, which Roethlisberger admittedly pushed out of field goal territory with a 19-yard sack, could have been much easier had Trai Essex made a textbook block to spring Heath Miller.
The big fallout is losing Troy Polamalu for what at the moment is being reported as an MCL strain, putting him out for 3-6 weeks. Given the monster first half the guy had - witness the leaping one-handed pick that rivaled even the diving INT in the snow he had against the Chargers last year - it's disconcerting to miss as much the guy for as much as a month and a half. Looking at the schedule though, only the Chargers look to be a huge threat in that period.
That said, this team can't afford to turn fully into the 2002 Steelers, where they're throwing 40 to 50 times every week. I don't think most teams could have the overpowering run D that the Titans had tonight, but the Steelers have a few on their schedule who could be, namely the Vikings and two games against the Ratbirds.
People will make a lot of the fact that Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall were ditched late in the game for Mewelde Moore (which worked), but not much was made of the fact that Mike Wallace was in on few more plays than Limas Sweed, who had exactly no catches nor even any throws in his direction. For a guy who excelled in getting open, if not actually hauling in the ball last year, this is not a positive development.
Finally, can I get a huge fuck you to NBC for a lack of a LenDale White reaction shot at the end of the game? You spend how much time playing up the towel-stomping angle and don't follow up with that dicksmack? The Titans for the most part were classless once again. LenDale jumped around after marginal gains. On their one TD, Justin Gage taunted someone in the crowd with the ball.
Sending this team home losers was a delight.