Defense dominant in win over Titans


The Steelers went into Tennessee with the talk being about stopping Titans running back Chris Johnson. Not only did they stop him, but he never got going as the defense dominated in a 19-11 win.

Johnson was looking for his 13 straight 100-yard game, but managed a mere 34 yards on 16 carries thanks to a swarming defense that was working on all cylinders.

The Titans had a last minute run at trying to tie the game, but the defense that forced seven turnovers wouldn't allow it as time ran out on Tennessee.

"It was a big win for us," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "You come into a hostile environment versus good people it's going to require a lot. We were far from perfect today but the guys really hung together and gave an outstanding effort.

"We made enough plays in enough areas to get out of there. I like what the team is doing in terms of working together, fighting the adversity and uplifting each other. We still have some improving to do. We are still beating ourselves a little bit. It's good to learn those lessons and work to improve when you are 2-0, which is what we are."

The offense never really got going in the game. Dennis Dixon completed just four of six passes for 18 yards before leaving the game early in the second quarter with a knee injury. Charlie Batch, the only quarterback left on the roster after the team waived Byron Leftwich on Saturday to add depth on the defensive line, completed five of 11 passes for 25 yards.

The lack of offensive production is something that concerned Tomlin.

"It does, but we won, so it was enough," said Tomlin.

The Steelers started off with a bang on the opening kickoff. Mewelde Moore fielded it at the three-yard line and went eight yards, then on the reverse handed it off to rookie Antonio Brown, who sped down the sidelines 89 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead before there was a chance to blink.

Strong special teams play continued on the ensuing kickoff when Marc Mariani fumbled and Keyaron Fox came out of the pile with the football.

Things got feisty on the next play. Dixon threw incomplete to Ward, and the two teams got into a skirmish, with Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown and guard Chris Kemoeatu both drawing personal foul penalties.

The tide then turned in the Titans favor. Dixon was sacked for a nine-yard loss by Will Witherspoon, fumbled and recovered by Titans defensive end David Ball and returned to the Steelers 37-yard line.

Tennessee drove down to the three-yard line, but a determined defense would not let them in the end zone and they had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Rob Bironas.

The Steelers weren't able to generate anything on offense on their next drive, going three-and-out and giving a dangerous Titans offense the ball back.

The Titans started with good field position once again, this time courtesy of a 38-yard punt return by Mariani to the Steelers 40-yard line. Vince Young completed a 13-yard pass to Ahmard Hall and Chris Johnson added an eight-yard carry. Lawrence Timmons came up big when he stuffed Johnson for just a one-yard gain, but on third-and-one Johnson was able to move the chains with a two-yard carry. Young was looking to put the Titans in the lead, but his pass attempt to Nate Washington was picked off by Troy Polamalu in the end zone.

Things started to click for the Steelers on offense with Rashard Mendenhall rattling off a 10-yard run and following it up with a 20-yard scamper. Isaac Redman battled to turn what could have been a loss into a three-yard reception and Mike Wallace added a 10-yard catch. On third-and-two Dixon let his feet do the work, breaking off the left side for a 21-yard gain to the 21-yard line. Dixon wasn't able to get the exchange from center Maurkice Pouncey on the next play, fumbling, but an alert Mike Wallace came up with the recovery. On third down Dixon took it on a designed carry, but came up short of the first down. Jeff Reed extended the Steelers lead to 10-3 with a 36-yard field goal.

Strong defensive play continued on the next series as the Steelers forced the Titans to go three-and-out.

Batch came in at quarterback on the next drive as Dixon was tended to by trainers on the sideline. Batch wasn't able to get the snap cleanly on the first play, but Moore quickly covered the ball. Batch's short pass to Antwaan Randle El went for no gain and on third-and-13 Batch wasn't able to hook up with Heath Miller, forcing the punt.

Johnson pulled in a 17-yard reception and added a four-yard carry to get the Titans going, but it wouldn't be for long. The defense continued their dominant play with LaMarr Woodley intercepting Young and bringing another Titans drive to a halt.

Batch hit Ward for nine yards to start the next drive and Mendenhall got the first down with a two-yard gain. But that would be about it and they were forced to punt.

It looked like Johnson's big-play ability would turn the tide for the Titans when he took off running for an 85-yard touchdown. A holding call, though, negated the play and the defense would come up with another stop.

The Titans defense stopped the Steelers on their next drive, but it wouldn't take long to put the ball back in Batch's hands. Timmons forced a Johnson fumble and James Harrison came up with the recovery, giving the offense the ball at the Titans 23-yard line.

Batch went to Wallace in the corner of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown, but a holding call negated the score and Reed hit his second field goal of the day to send the Steelers into the half up 13-3.

The defensive battle continued in the third quarter, with the biggest play coming when Harrison sacked Young, forcing a fumble that Steve McLendon recovered at the Titans 35-yard line.

Mendenhall took it off left tackle for seven yards and added a two-yard carry. On third-and-one Redman went up the middle for six yards to move the chains. A personal foul call on Cortland Finnegan gave the Steelers a first down at the 12-yard line, followed by an encroachment call moving it to the seven. Mendenhall got knocked for consecutive losses before catching a short three-yard pass. Reed was called upon for his third field goal of the day for a 16-3 lead.

Kerry Collins was brought in at quarterback in the fourth quarter for an ineffective Young, but didn't fare well on his first series as Bryant McFadden intercepted him at the Steelers 46-yard line.

Later in the fourth quarter Woodley sacked Young, forcing another fumble that was recovered by Chris Hoke at the 15-yard line. While they weren't able to put the ball in the end zone, Reed extended the lead to 19-3, perfect on the day.

The Titans added a late touchdown when Washington pulled in a two-yard score with 58 seconds to play. The Titans added a two-point conversion to pull within 19-11.

The Titans were able to recover their onside kick, giving them a shot at typing the game. But it was too little, too late and the Steelers held on for the win.

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