I am going to get to my many thoughts about the Steelers in this game, but I first wanted to write a few things about the game played by the Titans, and the coaching jobs done by Jeff Fisher and whoever the Titans offensive coordinator is.
* The Titans were definitely very prepared coming into this game. Their recipe for success in the first half was to dink and dunk the ball in the flats to Alge Crumpler and Justin McCarreins primarily. Crumpler in particular proved hard to bring down immediately. The Titans mustered nothing huge at all in the first half, but they certainly packed a punch with their efficiency. I really felt we could have taken control of this game early and often, even after the fumble. But the Titans 6 play, 45 yard drive following Roethlisberger's fumble was huge for them. We had all the early momentum in that game, having stopped the Titans on their first two series and gaining the early edge in the field position department. Then the fumble. Then they take it out near mid field before punting, and all of a sudden, we're pinned back at our own 3 yard line. Three uninspiring Bruce Arians calls later and they have the ball just outside of FG range.
* Even though we blew some opportunities in the first half, we were in plenty good shape to start the 2nd. I felt we were extremely fortunate that Jeff Fisher decided to punt the ball away on 4th and 1 inch. Literally 1 inch. With the way that game had been going, I think it was entirely appropriate for Tennessee to keep delivering blows to the Steelers defense. I'll get back to this later, but I really liked how our offense capitalized on that sequence of events.
* Unfortunately for us, Jeff Fisher and his coaching staff called an amazing game from there on out. I think they were well prepared and coached a good game for most of the game, but it was after we took the lead 14-10 on a Hines Ward TD that Fisher and his offensive coordinator really delivered. Collins went to TE Bo Scaife in the flat on two straight passes; then he hit Justin Gage for 21 yards on a free play on 3rd down (the Steelers jumped offsides). We then blew it when we gave up 19 yards on 3rd and 20 - something this defense just hasn't done all year. But as we've said before, it was bound to happen.
Anyway, Fisher rolled the dice on 4th and 1, calling a beautiful fake dive to the fullback then option flip quickly to Chris Johnson, who was all sorts of open. TD Titans. Fantastic play call in the running game. Something we simply don't get to see much of as Steelers fans. The ensuing series, Fisher rolled the dice again on 4th down and 3, this time from the Steelers 30. Another great play call by Fisher, who at that point could sense blood in the water. It's one thing for a coach to play fairly conservatively at certain moments in the game; but that same coach has to be able to sense opportunity when it's staring him in the face. Fisher did that in spades today and for the first time in 2008, our defense was beaten up by an opposing offense.
* Congratulations to Kerry Collins for a nearly perfect game today. He was better than just serviceable today, that's for sure. He was extremely decisive with his throws. And he still has a plenty big arm when need be. He played as well as he can quite frankly. The question is, could he and that group of WRs and TEs beat Pittsburgh's defense another way - which is what they'd have to do after LeBeau gets a sneak at this film and adjusts. We'll see if both teams even get there before we might find out.
For now, good work by Tennessee - the AFC's 2008 regular season champion. Has a nice ring to it, but there's bigger fish still to fry.