Taking what the Steelers gave us

From the notebook of a sportswriter who knows why Tennessee Titans Coach Jeff Fisher has Steelers Coach Bill Cowher's number: <ul> <li>Fisher takes advantage of the Steelers' philosophy of taking what the other team gives you. On big downs, the Steelers end up throwing to Chris Doering and hoping Chad Scott can break up a deep ball in single coverage.</li> </ul>

  • After stuffing the awful Titans running game for two plays and watching them throw deep for a score over Scott, nose tackle Casey Hampton stomped off the field wondering why in the world there wasn't a safety playing over the top. At least that's what I projected him to be wondering because Hampton could've stopped that awful Tennessee running game by himself. He didn't need the help of an eighth man in the box.

  • While we're there, let's just get this note on Titans center Justin Hartwig out of the way. Not only did Hampton move him wherever he wanted, Hartwig was whistled for two holding penalties and was actually called for offensive pass interference. Not a good day for Hartwig, other than what was on the scoreboard, of course.

  •  The problem with replacing Scott with Deshea Townsend is that Scott would still be needed as the third cornerback and he's not mentally tough enough to deal with a demotion. The Wolverine of X-Men cartoon fame, of which the childish Scott follows resolutely, would have a problem with such an unceremonious dumping, therefore, so would Scott.

  • Not a good day for the totals players. We don't usually care about someone's gambling problems, but down on the sideline in the final two minutes I couldn't help but wonder about the intensity of the few remaining fans. But I was told these folks probably needed one more point for the total to go "over". Yeah, after Rocky Boiman's 60-yard interception return with 12:46 left in the fourth quarter, the Titans led 30-13 with a total of 43.5. So that may have explained the increased mania at Heinz Field as the Steelers reached the Titans 1 with 1:08 left. The intensity picked up with each subsequent failure, and when Amos Zereoue made a half-hearted flop into the middle of the Titans' line on his failed fourth-down run, a bottle of beer flew from out of the South end-zone seats and hit Jeff Hartings in the foot as he walked off the field.

  • My only morally pompous response is that, folks, we're not Cleveland.

  • The second image taken from the game, along with the angered Hampton, was the shaking head Maddox gave the Steelers' bench after Zereoue was stopped on that play. Maddox knew it was a bad play call. Coach Bill Cowher probably just wanted to stress to his team how far it has to go to regain its philosophy of power football.

  • Should they even try? Seriously. They're not a running team anymore. Not with those tackles; not with that tight end; not with that scatback. Is Jerome Bettis the answer? Probably not. Playing him would require the use of better tackles, a better blocking tight end and fullback Dan Kreider. That takes away from the team's strength, which is its quarterback and receivers.

  • They didn't look like a team strength yesterday, but if you pass more on first down, instead of bringing up a steady stream of 2nd-and-9s, your tackles don't figure into the mix as much against a team that had three outstanding pass rushers among its front four.

  • Just because end Kevin Carter has moved to tackle and the Titans are playing a nickel defense doesn't mean you have to hand off. Taking what the defense gives you only takes away your best weapons.

  • Plaxico Burress was critical of the short pass routes that were called all game, saying the Titans were playing the short routes. But, Plax, with those tackles going up against those pass rushers, the deep routes weren't an option.

  • Except on first down. But, the Titans often used their 3-DE line and nickel package on first down, probably for just such a reason. They knew the Steelers would stick with their philosophy and run against the Titans' nickel, and that didn't work.

  • Anyone see the guy, in black and gold, jumping up and down and screaming ecstatically every time the Steelers were stopped on that last four-down failure from the Titans' 1-yard line? Let's assume that guy took the "under".

  • Titans strong safety Tank Williams played like "a man possessed", according to his running mate in the deep patrol, Lance Schulters. Williams is a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder in his second year out of Stanford. Certainly, he's big, fast, tough and has great character, since he's from the Harvard of the West. Now, isn't that the kind of strong safety for whom you trade up in the draft?

  •  My good friend Craig Wolfley, of expert analysis fame, tells me once again to be patient, that Troy Polamalu will be that player some day. I'm afraid I lost my scope there a little bit when Polamalu gave away his one blitz attempt too early, was stymied by an offensive tackle, and then gave up a critical 15 yards by flipping that tackle in post-whistle frustration.

  • How bad are the San Francisco 49ers? Before getting waxed by the Gus Frerotte-led Vikings yesterday, they lost to the Browns, who lost to the Bengals, who lost to the Steelers.

  • Yeah, always a little down after all of the warts are exposed.

  • Even Pittsburgh's favorite son, Hines Ward, had his bell rung by the Titans. The toughest wide receiver in the business left the game with a concussion, but still faced the media after the game. "I really don't know what I'm saying," Ward said at one point. "I'm just talking."

  • A glazed Ward mouthing clichés after the game is the face of the Steelers right now.

  • Can they recover? Of course they can. They did dominate statistically. The Steelers had 25 first downs and the Titans had 9.

  • I hope those numbers aren't as misleading as, say, Polamalu's 4.3 40 time in comparison to Tank Williams' field-goal block and blitz that resulted in Boiman's interception return.

  • Not saying we're losing patience here. Just tossing the apples and oranges around a little bit.

  • Cowher, of course, isn't losing patience. The pleasant face he showed the media after the game was forced, of course, but only to show his team that it can, and should, recover, and that they're actually not as far away from the Titans and Chiefs as the scores of those games would indicate.

  • Even Cowher's patience was tested when, after the "last-question" warning was given, a TV man asked Cowher if he'd have his offense practice tackling this week in light of all the turnovers. After making sure he heard the question right, Cowher said "no," then exited right before dropping an F-bomb. It was a good sign that not every piece of BS is being accepted by the head man these days.

Jim Wexell

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