By Teresa Varley
There were fireworks to start the game and it ended with a bang, with the Steelers winning 13-10 in overtime on a 33-yard Jeff Reed field goal.
Ben Roethlisberger brought the Steelers back from a fourth-quarter 10-7 deficit and Reed scoring the tying and winning points. Roethlisberger finished the game with 33 completions for 363 yards and one touchdown. Santonio Holmes had nine receptions for 131 yards, scoring the only touchdown on a 34-yard grab. The Steelers had a rarity with two 100-yard receivers as Hines Ward had nine receptions for 103 yards.
The Steelers ground game had it's struggles, with Willie Parker finishing with just 19 yards on 13 carries, Rashard Mendenhall four carries for six yards and Mewelde Moore five carries for eight yards.
"Coming into this game we talked about things we needed to do to be successful," said coach Mike Tomlin. "We talked about big men and blades of grass – winning the trench warfare. We didn't do that. I thought we had to take care of the football and win the turnover battle because Kerry Collins is great at taking care of the football. We didn't do that. We talked about out-hitting them. Chances are the more violent team usually wins. The jury is out on that.
"The last thing we talked about was not riding the emotional roller coaster and being prepared to play 60-plus minutes of football. We did that. We did a great job of it. They stayed focused for the next opportunity to make a play for us. In the end, we were successful. We were not a perfect team by any stretch, but it was good to maybe learn some lessons with a 'W.' We were fortunate to get it because that is a good football team and we respect the heck out of those guys. Hopefully we will learn some lessons so the road will be a little less bumpy next time. Such is life in the NFL. We will take the victory. I liked the way the guys stayed together."
Rookie Stefan Logan got the Steelers off to an electrifying start with a 39-yard kickoff return to the 42-yard line. But that is about all the Steelers would get on the opening drive. Roethlisberger hit Ward for a five-yard gain, but Parker was knocked for a three-yard loss by Stephen Tulloch. On third down Roethlisberger went deep to rookie Mike Wallace, but came up short.
The Titans were buried deep in their own territory after Dan Sepulveda hit a 54-yard punt, downed by Keenan Lewis at the two-yard line. Chris Johnson was stopped by Brett Keisel and James Farrior for no gain, and on third-and-six he was hit by Troy Polamalu for a two-yard loss, forcing a punt.
Logan gave the Steelers decent field position with an 11-yard return to the Titans 43-yard line. Roethlisberger got a rhythm going with a three-yard completion to Wallace, followed by a 10-yard pass to Holmes and nine-yard toss to Heath Miller to the 22-yard line. On third down Roethlisberger avoided the initial pressure and scrambled, but couldn't get away and was sacked for a 19-yard loss, taking them out of field goal range and forcing another punt.
Johnson got things going for the Titans, breaking free around right end for a 32-yard gain, before being it by Polamalu, who was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for hitting him out of bounds. Kerry Collins connected with Bo Scaife for 20 yards to the Steelers 22-yard line. That would be it for the Titans on the drive, as the defense stopped them again. Rob Bironas attempted a 37-yard field goal, which went wide right.
Mendenhall had no where to go on his first carry, getting stopped after just a one-yard gain. Mendenhall added a two-yard carry, but Roethlisberger was sacked for a nine-yard loss on the next play.
Collins moved the Titans with completions to Scaife for 10 and nine yards, and Justin Gage for eight yards. On second-and-five from the Steelers 44-yard line, Collins went deep for Kenny Britt, but Polamalu came up with an acrobatic interception at the five-yard line, returning it 16 yards to the 21-yard line.
They weren't able to capitalize on the defensive gem though, as three plays later Roethlisberger was intercepted by Vincent Fuller at the Steelers 44-yard line.
After another defensive stop, highlighted by Farrior sacking Collins for a 10-yard loss, it was back to work for the offense. Miller came up big with two receptions, and Holmes added a nine-yard grab. Two holding calls put the Steelers in a hole, but on second-and-16 Holmes pulled in an 18-yard reception in traffic. But the drive stalled after that, bringing on Sepulveda for the fourth punt of the game.
The Titans were able to drive deep into Steelers territory, but the defense continued to shine for the black and gold. On second-and-five Casey Hampton stuffed Johnson for a one-yard loss. On third down William Gay broke up Collins pass attempt to Gage in the end zone. Bironas had the chance to give the Titans the lead, but the defense would have no parts of it as Aaron Smith blocked the 31-yard attempt.
With just 2:14 to go in the half, the Steelers went to the hurry-up offense and made it count. Roethlisberger found Holmes for a 12-yard gain, and hit Ward on the run for 29 yards to the Titans 34-yard line. It was right back to Holmes, who was wide open for a 34-yard touchdown, giving the Steelers a 7-0 lead.
It was a lead that wouldn't last long, though. Collins hit Britt for 57 yards to the Steelers 14-yard line, and then found Gage in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown, tying the game just 34 seconds later at 7-7.
Logan set the Steelers up with a 19-yard kickoff return to the Titans 30-yard line and Roethlisberger went to work. Miller grabbed a five-yard reception, and came back with a 14-yard catch. Ward made a 12-yard reception and was able to get out of bounds to stop the clock. With just 16 seconds on the clock Roethlisberger was sacked for an eight-yard loss back to midfield. An illegal formation call on the Steelers pushed the Steelers back even further, giving them a third-and-23 with just one second on the clock. Roethlisberger went deep, throwing a jump ball into the end zone that was intercepted by Cortland Finnegan at the goal line and returned 80 yards before he was finally brought down by Max Starks and Miller to end the half.
The second half started with a flurry for the Titans, with Johnson picking up seven yards, followed by a 17-yard carry. LenDale White added a five-yard gain and Collins hit Gage for eight yards. The defense came though again, though, when James Harrison knocked the ball away from Scaife and Keyaron Fox, starting for Lawrence Timmons, came up with the recovery.
The Steelers weren't able to capitalize on the recovery, giving the ball back to the Titans after a quick three-and-out. The defense smothered the Titans, with Johnson able to gain only one yard on this first carry and no gain on the next. On third-and-nine LaMarr Woodley shut Johnson down, knocking him for a two-yard loss.
After a scoreless third quarter the Titans broke the tie when Bironas' third field goal attempt, a 46-yarder, went through the uprights to give the Titans a 10-7 lead with 10:54 to play.
Roethlisberger took on the challenge of being down at home and went to work, completing passes to Wallace, Parker and Miller to move to the Titans 46-yard line. Holmes pulled in a 10-yard reception and Mewelde Moore went off right guard for four yards. On second-and-six, Roethlisberger was leveled by Jevon Kearse for a six-yard loss. He got right back at it, finding Holmes for a 15-yard gain. Moore was stopped on third down, but Reed tied the game at 10-10 with a 32-yard field goal.
The defense stopped the Titans once again and it was up to Roethlisberger and the offense to get the job done, starting at their own 42-yard line with just 1:57 to play. Holmes pulled in a 12-yard reception and Ward added three yards. Moore picked up nine yards on a reception over the middle for a first down. The Steelers looked primed to take the lead, but after a 30-yard reception, Michael Griffin stripped the ball from Ward and Tulloch recovered at the four-yard line with 51 seconds remaining in the game.
The Titans settled for sending the game into overtime, protecting the ball and running out the clock.
Notes: Polamalu suffered a left knee injury in the first half and did not return…A crowd of 65,110 was on hand at Heinz Field, the largest regular season attendance in Steelers history, the third highest attendance overall in Steelers history.