Steelers turn in rare defensive effort

The Steelers turned in a defensive performance that was rare even for Pittsburgh standards in a 19-11 win at Tennessee. Dale Lolley has some thoughts on the matter.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Over the years, we've been treated to a lot of very good defensive efforts by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

None may match the one put in by the Steelers in their 19-11 victory over the Tennessee Titans Sunday at LP Field.

A lot of the previous top defensive efforts were made against sub-par teams or ones who were starting rookie quarterbacks.

But Sunday, the Steelers not only forced Vince Young out of the game, they totally shut down a player who is arguably the best running back in the NFL, Chris Johnson.

By the time the third quarter was over, Johnson, who had rushed for more than 100 yards in 12 consecutive games, looked like he didn't care if he ever carried the football again.

"I felt like Chris may have felt like he had enough somewhere around the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter," said Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who had 11 bone-crunching tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

The idea was to keep hitting the 190-pound speedster in an attempt to slow him down.

The Steelers didn't just do that. They forced Johnson to quit. He finished the game with 34 yards on 16 carries.

"We just constantly hit him," said linebacker LaMarr Woodley. "You get hit so many times, you think twice about fighting for extra yardage.

"We wanted to keep forcing him inside and constantly make a collision with the running back. Collisions are big because when you hit a guy like that, it slows him down."

Lawrence Timmons was again a big part of that as he had been in Week 1 in helping to shut down Atlanta's Michael Turner.

Timmons had 15 tackles and was all over Johnson on every play of the game, beating him up.

* The Steelers were rotating offensive linemen in this game like a hockey team. The only lineman who didn't come off the field was rookie center Maurkice Pouncey.

"I'm the youngest guy out there," said Pouncey. "I'd better be able to play the whole game."

I started keeping track of all of the different offensive lineman combinations out there, but gave up after a while.

Funny thing is, quarterback Charlie Batch said after the game that he didn't realize what was happening until the start of the fourth quarter when he looked around the huddle.

* That was a gutsy call by the coaching staff to open the game with a reverse on the kickoff. And it turned out to be a big seven points.

The Steelers had some other tricks up their sleeve that they didn't use.

We likely won't see them next week against Tampa Bay. But in Week 4 against Baltimore, you can bet that no gimmicks will be left in the bag.

* Mike Tomlin said he doesn't know who will start at quarterback next week in Tampa Bay. But the bet here is that it will be Byron Leftwich.

Through three quarters, the Titans had as many turnovers (5) as they did first downs. Ouch.

Mike Tomlin got that look in his eye after the game when asked if he was surprised that the Steelers were 2-0.

Tomlin was defiant in his answer saying that he expected it and that the team didn't appreciate being written off for dead without Ben Roethlisberger.

*Can this defense continue to play at this level? I don't know, but I do know that it will be awfully difficult for the Steelers to do so and stay healthy.

These guys are throwing their bodies around with reckless abandon.

Then again, this is the same defense - with one exception - that did this for a season two years ago, leading the league in nearly every statistic.

The only new face is Timmons, who is a huge upgrade from Larry Foote, who capably held down one of those inside linebacker jobs in 2008.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter)

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