Sunday, September 08, 2013

"Inexcusable. Not good enough. Unacceptable."

Isaac Redman fumbles.  Photo courtesy of
A safety to open the game.

That was pretty much the highlight of the Steelers' season opener, and it was achieved by virtue of nothing they did.

By the late fourth quarter, with about five minutes left, CBS announcer Ian Eagle pronounced, "This has been a nightmare for the Steelers: injuries, poor execution, lack of execution, no running game."

That sums it up pretty well.  After the game, head coach Mike Tomlin said, "Inexcusable. Not good enough. Unacceptable."

Emmanuel Sanders lets the first pass of the season
go through his hands.
Photo  credit:
On the first offensive play following that gift safety for a two-nothing lead, Ben Roethlisberger launched a perfectly thrown long pass that sailed right through Emmanuel Sanders's hands. Remind us, please, just why did the Steelers match the $2.5 million offer sheet New England offered Sanders? ... who was covered tightly all day and failed to catch another well-thrown long pass later in the game?

After that, Todd Haley's "offense" scored no points in the first half. And no points in the second half until the final two minutes, by which the time the game was lost.

Blame it on the catastrophic knee injury to center Maurkice Pouncey? Maybe, some, but just in part. Pouncey's injury didn't help, that's for sure. About David Decastro's cutblock on Pouncey --why? Pouncey had his man contained. Decastro went to Stanford --he should be smarter than that. It appears both Pouncey and linebacker Larry Foote (biceps) are done for the season. Not good.

DT Jurell Casey tortured Ben Roethlisberger all day.
Not surprisingly, following Pouncey's departure, the offensive line looked disjointed. The Titans mounted solid, steady pressure up the middle, with defensive tackle Sammie Hill hitting Ben Roethlisberger as he released the ball on the second-quarter interception.  Hill and fellow defensive tackles Jurell Casey and Mike Martin tortured Roethlisberger all day and allowed him little time to set up. Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster and DeCastro looked overmatched most of the day.

Isaac Redman, bottled up.
Photo courtesy of
No Running Game
Pouncey's departure also presumably hampered the Steelers' running game, as well. Eye-catching stat: eight rushing yards halfway through the second quarter, with Redman laying the ball on the ground twice (one lost). Eleven carries for 13 yards in the first half.

On the other side of the ball, the run defense didn't look so good on Tennessee's scoring drive of 12 plays (11 runs) for 49 yards over seven minutes just before halftime. For a mere 49-yard drive, that's a lot of plays taking a lot of time off the clock. That sort of drive used to be Pittsburgh Steeler football.

On the plus side, Lamarr Woodley had a good-looking sack, and rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones announced his presence in a big way with a huge hit on Chris Johnson. Whoopee.

From a fan's perspective, this game was torture to watch.

Next game: At Cincinnati on Monday night, Sept. 16th.

Links Worth a Read:

Steel City Blitz: Tomlin Must Address a Plethora of Issues

Steelers Depot: Pouncey & Foote Injuries

Behind the Steel Curtain:  Maybe the 2013 Steelers are Who We Feared They Might Be

Gene Collier: No Excuse for This Awful Performance

Season Opener Game Day: Tee it Up

Remember this?
Before Steeler Nation makes it a foregone conclusion the Steelers will win today's 2013 season opener at Heinz Field, let's remember what happened in Nashville as recently as the night of Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012.

Mike Martin, Ben Roethlisberger
A flawed Tennessee Titans squad "upset" the Steelers behind the now-departed Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback. The Steelers' now-departed Drew Butler had a punt blocked, and that was just one of many, many mistakes that night for the Black 'n Gold.

The defensive line got pushed back consistently, and the secondary (featuring the now-departed Ryan Mundy and Keenan Lewis, who dropped an interception) got scorched. It was an ugly loss for the Steelers, and it foreshadowed subsequent losses to Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Diego and Baltimore.

That was then. This is now.

What do we know about the 2013 Tennessee Titans? 
The Titans have 20 new players on this year's roster. Twenty!  

That sounds like a lot of new faces on a 53-man roster, and it is. How many new players are on this year's Steelers' roster? Nineteen.

Tennessee invested heavily in beefing up their interior lines during the off-season. On offense, there's always lightning-fast running back Chris Johnson, but the critical additions this year are veteran left guard Andy Levitre, who signed on as a free agent out of Buffalo, and right guard Chance Warmack, who was drafted 10th overall with the team's No. 1 pick. For a while this past off-season, the NFL Network's Mike Mayock trumpeted Warmack as the best player in the draft and the potential No. pick overall. Also fortifying the offensive line will be tight end Delanie Walker, who was signed as a free agent from the 49ers.

Not Jake Locker
The Titans are hoping for a huge step up from last year's No. 1 pick, quarterback Jake Locker, who was drafted eighth overall in April 2011 but missed last year's game vs. the Steelers because of injury. In 11 games last year, Locker threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10), and he took 25 sacks, but the Titans invested a high first-round draft choice in him, so he's their guy.  He will need help from receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington (former Steeler) and Kendall Wright, the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 draft.

On defense, the Titans have a strong defensive line featuring tough-to-move Mookie Johnson, Sammie Hill and Mike Martin in rotation at tackle and Derrick Morgan a mobile force as a pass-rushing defensive end. Morgan blistered Steelers tackle Mike Adams last year but will be paired up against Marcus Gilbert today, since Adams has moved to left tackle. The Tennessee linebackers and secondary have some question marks, although Tennessee invested heavily in the safety position with head-hunter Bernard Pollard (Baltimore) and veteran George Wilson (Buffalo).

Tennessee could have a good team this year, but ... with 20 new players, it has a lot of "ifs."

Pretty much the same could be said about the Steelers.

Links worth checking:
Dave Bryan at Steelers Depot offers his typically thorough analysis of the opposing team.

Steel Curtain Rising considers the team's potential vs. question marks.

Behind the Steel Curtain profiles new special teams ace Kion Wilson.