Here are the things I'm thinking about during and after the Pittsburgh Steelers' 19-11 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
* Obviously Dick LeBeau's defense was phenomenal. I posted a few of the defense's incredible team statistics here. You can't say enough about how good they were clogging running lanes, taking good angles to the ball, pressuring the quarterback, shadowing wide receivers and tight ends all day, getting their hands on footballs, and then capitalizing on turnover opportunities when the ball was coughed up or thrown to them. I was very disappointed that the Titans got a cheap late-game touchdown, not because I was concerned about the final outcome or worried that we may be watching the same pattern that haunted us materialize again in '10. No, I was just mad that the final numbers got skewed even just slightly. The Steelers defense absolutely destroyed the Titans on Sunday, and neither the final total yardage (238), nor the final score (19-11) reflects just how ridiculously in control the Steelers were all day thanks to their D.
* Titans fans may now be quiet about Chris Johnson's 'Superman' like qualities. He's good. Very good. But nobody runs the ball effectively against the Pittsburgh Steelers, even when their Pro Bowl nose tackle is sidelined. Johnson finished with a mere 34 yards on 16 carries, and saw his consecutive games streak of 100-plus rushing yards end at 12. Johnson can also kiss goodbye making a run at 2,500 yards, which he claimed was the goal this year. Please don't cite the holding penalty that brought back one of his long runs. He saw daylight for the first time all game thanks to that hold.
* Jeff Fisher should be fired if he considers playing Kerry Collins next week against Denver. The only reasonable explanation for taking Vince Young out in the 3rd quarter would be that he didn't want to expose Young to any more violent hits than he had already taken. Young was 7-for-10 for 66 yards and 2 costly INTs before being yanked. Troy Polamalu grabbed the first in the endzone to save points; LaMarr Woodley hauled in the other by dropping back into the window Young was staring at on a 3rd and medium. Bad mistakes by Young, particularly on the Woodley pick. Young also fumbled twice, losing one.
Collins, in just three series, turned the ball over twice himself! And on the Titans' lone TD drive, he was lucky not to have turned it over again. He actually had the ball stripped on the second play of the drive from his own 22, but the ball fortuitously rolled over to his tight end who picked it up and rumbled for 8 yards. Kerry Collins then strung together a some fairly elementary throws against a defense that was rightfully protecting a two-score lead by playing off and bringing just three pass rushers. Whoopdy-do.
Now, like I said, I can understand yanking Young and letting him start fresh next week. Perhaps that shields him from even more mistakes against the Steelers, errors that could conceivably hurt him psychologically. But if Fisher is even contemplating playing Collins next week, that in my mind would go down as one of the most ridiculous and irrational coaching decisions I've ever seen in my years watching football.
* Man oh man. James Harrison is a bad dude. Jiminy Christmas does that man play the game angry and with a frightening level of controlled, clean violence. 10 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles. Deebo is the best 3-4 outside linebacker in football. Bar None. Please, please, please let him stay healthy all year. I really don't think there's much offenses can do if he's at full strength and playing with Troy Polamalu behind him.
* It also helps that Lawrence Timmons has confirmed his 100% arrival as a force in this league. Credit Timmons with 12 tackles on the afternoon, as well as one forced fumble on a play where he put his helmet on the ball just as Johnson was about to go to the ground. Very instinctual and beastly play by Timmons there. I, and many others, preached patience with Timmons. He's still just 24 years old. So sick. And to think, we may just be in year one of a five to six year stretch of watching Timmons explode to the ball and annihilate people. Look out!
* We officially have issues again along the offensive line. It wouldn't be a Steelers' season without them though, would it? Jonathan Scott and Tony Hills had their hands full all day keeping the Titans' speed rushers from tracking down Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. Trai Essex also left with an injury in the second half. No word yet on his status.
* One of my keys to the game this week was Jeff Reed and how he'd perform after missing two FG attempts last week, including what would have been the game-winner in regulation from 40 yards out. Reed was money on Sunday, converting all four of his attempts (36, 34, 25, 27).
* Thank you Coach Tomlin for hiring a legitimate special teams coordinator this past offseason. Al Everest called a nifty reverse on the game's opening kickoff, and Antonio Brown showed why he needs more opportunities in the return game (and perhaps even on offense) as the season progresses by darting 89 yards for the score. It seems like forever since the Steelers have been on that end of a long kick return TD (2007 I believe). I love the fact that it was the product of a little trickery from the ST coach.
* I want to say that the Steelers' offensive performance was 'atrocious', but it's probably more fair to say that it was just 'unimaginative' and 'poor' due to the unique circumstances at QB. It wasn't clear to me how serious Dixon's knee injury was. We saw him on the sidelines in the second half and it looked almost as if he was available to play if need be. But I'm not certain of that due to being in a loud sports bar for this one and unable to hear the commentary. Anyway, more on the play of the offense this week, but the team finished with 127 yards on 54 plays, good for an anemic 2.4 yards per play. The offense also turned the ball over once, but it could have been worse, as they luckily recovered their three other fumbles on the day.
* Survival. All that matters. 2-0 and atop the standings in the AFC North for at least another week. Go Steelers!