Don't worry about Steelers peaking too soon

A struggling running game and defense that allowed more than 300 yards to a Kerry Collins-led offense show this team can improve greatly.

I know the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Tennessee Titans, 13-10, in overtime here Thursday night at Heinz Field. But it was anything but a good victory.

Don't give me that any victory is a good one stuff. When you lose your All-Pro strong safety for what is likely the next three games – at least – it's not a good win.

When you rush for 36 yards on 23 carries, it sends up some warning signs.

And when you supposedly stout defense allows a Kerry Collins-led popgun offense to put up more than 300 yards for the second time in less than a year it sends up even more warning signs.

Head coach Mike Tomlin took it easy on his team in training camp this season - in a move akin to many of Bill Cowher's camps – and it showed in this one. The Steelers weren't sharp at all, at least not until there were about 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

How else do you explain a one-yard first quarter?

Or how about having 10 men on the field on defense and allowing rookie Kenny Britt to run for a 57-yard gain after the offense scored a first-half touchdown?

There's plenty of room for improvement with this team and maybe that's what Tomlin is banking on.

He doesn't want this team to peak too early. And after watching the Steelers play against the Titans - even in a victory - peaking seems a long way off.

© As poorly as the offensive line played in the first half - and it was pretty bad as the Steelers rushed for 12 yards and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times – it really picked things up in the rest of the game.

The Titans were coming with some all-out blitzes in the second half - blitzes that worked in the first half - and the Steelers were able to hit some hot reads thanks to the line picking everybody up quickly.

And when Tennessee didn't send the house, Roethlisberger had plenty of time to look over the field. It was a nice change against a team that beat him up pretty badly in 2008.

Roethlisberger, by the way, was 18-of-22 in the second half and overtime for 183 yards and was sacked just once.

© Other than a 32-yard run on a cutback run across the field by Chris Johnson, the Titans' running game was held largely in check as well. Even with that 32-yard run, Tennessee managed just 3.4 yards per carry, though that number looks a heck of a lot better than the 1.6 yards per carry the Steelers averaged.

Collins isn't supposed to beat you and he didn't - thanks to a couple of botched first-half field goals by usually reliable Rod Bironas.

© Willie Parker admitted to being rusty in the first half, when he had eight carries for nine yards.

Parker picked up just 10 yards on five attempts in the second half, but he was more decisive in the final two quarters than he was in the first two.

© The MCL injury to strong safety Troy Polamalu could be troublesome.

Polamalu was in on seemingly every play - both good and bad - in the first half of this game before the injury.

His one-handed interception of Collins in the first quarter ranks among the best defensive plays I've seen in an NFL game and we saw his closing speed on a two-yard tackle for a loss against Johnson to end Tennessee's first possession.

There's no way Tyrone Carter even comes close to making either one of those two plays.

© I'm still not sure what the officials were looking at when they penalized Polamalu for unnecessary roughness for tackling Johnson at the end of his 32-yard run.

Johnson hadn't set foot out of bounds and even though he landed about five yards out of bounds after being hit by Polamalu, there's no way that's deserving of an unnecessary roughness call.

© After opening the game with screens to quick passes, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians got away from those plays after the first two series.

Arians said he called those plays to help the offense get into a rhythm but I'm not quite sure why he went away from them.

Then again, I'm not sure why the Steelers don't use a no-huddle offense almost exclusively.

I know when it doesn't work, it's putting a lot of undue pressure on your defense, but isn't this defense capable of standing up to that pressure?

© Keyaron Fox held up well at inside linebacker in place of Lawrence Timmons, but with Polamalu likely on the shelf for a while, this team needs Timmons and his game-changing speed on the field more than ever.


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