Steelers-Titans have opening day history

1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8 at Heinz Field
Series Record: Steelers lead, 44-31 (Home: 26-11; Road: 18-20)

Including games when the franchise currently known as the Tennessee Titans used to stomp around the NFL as the Houston Oilers, there have been five previous opening day meetings involving the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL franchise owned by Bud Adams.

The Steelers actually played their inaugural regular season game in Three Rivers Stadium against the Oilers. It was 1970, the NFL and the AFL had merged, and the Steelers had been assigned to the AFC Central Division along with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns, and the Houston Oilers.

Pittsburgh actually would finish the season ahead of Houston in the 1970 division standings, but on Sept. 20 it was clear which was the better team. The Oilers took a quick 14-0 lead on two touchdown passes from Charlie Johnson to wide receiver Jerry LeVias, and the Steelers offense was unable to answer with any points of its own until garbage time.

The next time these teams met to open a regular season, the Steelers had just completed one in which they won their fourth Lombardi Trophy, and the last two of those had come after eliminating the Oilers in AFC Championship games.

In 1980, the Steelers defeated the Oilers, 31-17, in a game that can be called the last hurrah of the four-time champions. Larry Anderson returned the opening kickoff 63 yards to jump-start the Steelers to a 17-0 lead after the first quarter, but going into the fourth the Oilers had forged a 17-17 tie.

Terry Bradshaw took over in the fourth quarter by completing four passes for 72 yards and then capping the 80-yard drive himself with a sneak for the touchdown, and then John Stallworth went high in the air between two Oilers defenders to complete a 50-yard touchdown that clinched the outcome.

By the time the Steelers traveled to the Astrodome to open the 1992 season against the Oilers, the power had shifted in the AFC Central Division. The Steelers hadn't won a division title since 1984, and the defending champion Oilers were coming off an 11-5 season in 1991.

This was Bill Cowher's debut as the Steelers' coach, and it's generally remembered for his decision to fake a punt in the first quarter after the Oilers had taken a 14-0 lead, but every bit as significant was how the revamped defense showed it could combat the run-and-shoot. The Steelers intercepted Warren Moon five times over the course of a game in which the Oilers offense rolled up 434 total yards but was shut out in the second half.

The other two times these franchises met on opening day came in 2005 and in 2009, and by then the Oilers had moved to Nashville and become the Titans.

Those games are remembered for the performances turned in by Willie Parker in 2005 when he rushed for 161 yards in a decisive Steelers win, and by Ben Roethlisberger when he passed for 363 yards in 2009 when the Steelers came off their victory in Super Bowl XLIII with a 13-10 victory over the Titans in overtime.

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