New Steelers defenders shine despite Week 1 loss to Titans

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Steve McLendon and Jarvis Jones showed outstanding individual skills, but the Steelers defense still couldn't force takeaways.

Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon was thought to be a question mark heading into the Steelers' season. Preparing for their first year without Casey Hampton in 12 years, there was some concern whether McLendon would be able to hold down the nose tackle spot as well as Hampton did for so long.

While he's a different kind of player, McLendon did more than just hold his own in his first game playing more than just a few snaps. Against an impressive running team, McLendon had six tackles - two solo - and was seen often in the backfield. It seems like the Titans ran all over the Steelers; they rushed 42 times for 112 yards - 2.7 yards per carry - with a long run of 11.

That's not bad, considering the only touchdown drive the Titans had was on short field after a Ben Roethlisberger interception.

McLendon looked quick and his lateral movement was outstanding. If this will end up being the worst Steelers game of the season - and the hope is it will be - this defense will be a tough unit to face through the rest of of the year.

For what McLendon helped do against the run, it was accentuated by rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Two tackles, and both came for loss in his debut. Jones had 31 snaps (starter Jason Worilds had 44), and made two highlight-level plays. It's likely the Steelers will figure out ways to get him on the field more frequently against Cincinnati in Week 2.

The Steelers also saw outstanding play from safety Troy Polamalu and defensive ends Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward. The problem, though, is once again, the defense failed to make plays on the ball. While Titans quarterback Jake Locker certainly cannot be mistaken for Dan Marino after that game, they caused enough pressure where it seemed like a turnover was bound to happen.

They did force a fumble from tight end Delanie Walker, but were unable to recover it.

It sounds too much like the last two seasons, but the defense played aggressively enough to feel like turnovers will happen eventually. Jones and McLendon played well enough to instill that wounded belief.

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