1) It was awesome watching the "Troy Polamalu Show" in the first quarter.
He was everywhere and it seemed like there was nobody else on the defense; the Titans' offense vs. Polamalu—number 43 was winning.
While the penalties he incurred were costly, his sheer dominance in the first quarter and a half was insane.
Replaying the memories, I'm still awestruck. He dominated tackle after tackle, had a one-handed leaping-backward push-off interception, a two-second 20-yard dash to take out the Titans' Chris Johnson, a flying leap to make a tackle out of bounds (resulting in a penalty), and he had one crazy block where he just stood there with the ball-carrier running at him, and his arm just whipped out and dragged the guy down.
That last ended in a face mask penalty—but again, the sheer dominance in the move was glaringly apparent.
And that was only in 20 minutes of football!
2) Two-Way Football
Speaking of Polamalu and the defense—Polamalu's interception was so incredible that it made me dream for a few minutes about whether James Farrior could quarterback. Because at that point in the game the Steeler offense was terrible, and I was starting to wonder if the Steelers' D could play both ways—with Polamalu as wideout.
Thankfully, the Steeler offense showed up soon after that—but more on that later.
3) After listening to the broadcasting crew, if I hear the phrase "pump fake" one more time I might break something.
I was participating in a live blog during the game and somebody suggested a drinking game based on how many times the TV crew said "pump fake." But I decided I didn't have enough beer on hand nor enough cash in the bank to buy enough beer to make it possible.
Of course, it's not like they said it too excessively because Roethlisberger really did seem to pump fake excessively.
While the pump fake worked on the Titans' Chris Hope (who went for the fake), is this move really going to give consistent success for the rest of the season? It seems like something other defenses would catch on to and adjust to.
And that raises a whole other issue: Roethlisberger is, in my opinion, the best in the league on making successful plays on the fly—but it doesn't necessary follow that I'm comfortable with him doing it all of the time.
Seriously, I don't keep enough pepto bismal on hand for that sort of constant heartburn.
4) Santonio Holmes was a rockstar last night.
It seemed like everything thrown his way was magically snatched out of the air, and every play he made was big.
I also found his stats of the game interesting in that they mirrored his stats from the Superbowl; in both games he had nine catches for 131 yards and one touchdown.
A good omen, you think?
5) While the blocked field goal was awesome, the repercussions (Polamalu's injury) make me wonder if it was even worth it.
It was good, obviously, because it kept the score down, but if number 43 hadn't been injured, would it have been as critical to make that block as it later turned out to be?
6) Speaking of omens and signs, you know it's a bad sign when you start cringing every time your team tries to run the ball.
I know this is sacrilegious to many, but by the middle of the second quarter I just wanted Big Ben to throw the ball and keep throwing—annoying interceptions and stupid 15-yard sacks included.
I just couldn't stand to watch Parker and Mendenhall keep trying to run and repeatedly getting stuffed.
And you know you're in trouble when on Mendenhall's first touch he ran straight into Roethlisberger!
I think we all died a little bit on the inside at that gaffe.
After we laughed ourselves silly, of course.
7) But the bright side to last night's run-game: Mewelde Moore
And the third-down back does it! Three of the Steelers' 19 first downs—and all in the second half (when the other two backs were noticeably absent).
But it must be pointed out that while watching the game, my impression was that Moore was succeeding more as a receiver than as a back.
But, I'll take it—because he, at least, had success.
8) Ben Alone vs. Titans' Defense
Similar to how Polamalu seemed to take on the Titans' offense by himself, so did it seem that Roethlisberger was alone when facing the Titans' raging defense.
Because I saw no offensive line protection at the beginning of the game and only when absolutely necessary at the end.
They got it together at the end of the half for a two-minute drill and then really pulled together in overtime. But seriously, five minutes solid protection out of 60+ minutes playing time?
Don't get me wrong, I'm as grateful as hell that the Steelers' two-minute drills are almost impervious to failure, but it would be nice if some of that level of play could carry over to other 55+ minutes of the game.
9) Wait a minute, it was Hines Ward who fumbled in the red zone? What twilight zone am I in?
It was so startlingly similar to when Jerome Bettis fumbled against Indianapolis in the Steelers' 2005 Superbowl run, and yet, I wasn't laughing at the similarity. In fact, I got off my couch, whacked my terrible towel against the armchair in frustration, and paced around in utter disbelief and agony while muttering to myself.
An agony, by the way, which was mirrored on the face of Hines Ward. I have never seen him look so distraught before. He looked like he let the entire world down and would never forgive himself.
I think it was actually more shocking to see Ward look like that than it was for Ward to fumble in the first place.
Regardless, he's Hines Ward, and even while I was in the ultimate stage of disbelief that the turnover had happened, I never doubted that he would be able to play again immediately and make some unbelievable catches—which he did.
It was nice to see Holmes give him a pep-talk on the sideline after the turnover happened though. Holmes is definitely maturing in a very positive way.
10A) Ben Roethlisberger is elite—even John Clayton says so.
Roethlisberger looked so shaky for the first quarter that I was starting to doubt his non-workout preseason workout routine.
But he quickly made me remorseful for my doubt.
Thirty-three of 43 attempts for 363 yards. Three two-minute drills and a hurry-up offense. Overtime drive down the field for the score and the win.
O' me of little faith; please, forgive me.
And yet it's funny; with the two-minute drills I never doubt Roethlisberger & the offense's success. It's the drives during the game that make me question things and make me worried.
I remember a drive from a couple years ago that our offense put together. I forget which team we were playing, but I remember that Roethlisberger and the Steelers completed a 14-play drive that took up more than 10-minutes of the clock and ended in a touchdown.
That is the kind of drive success I'm hoping to see happen just as consistently as our two-minute-come-from-behind drive success.
10B) Special Teams has made it! Starring, Stephen Logan, Daniel Sepulveda, Jeff Reed, and Aaron Smith.
The very first play of the game:
Kickoff to Stephen Logan + Run-back for more than 30 yards = BLISS.
Seriously, it was so nice not only to have talented punt and kickoff returners, but also to have punting talent again.
Last year, the Steelers' special teams unit was so gruesomely horrible that the change in personnel is one of the most glaring improvements.
From punts deep into enemy territory, to clutch overtime field goals, to blocked field goals, and kick-returns for more than five yards—the Steelers' special teams performed at an elite level all night. And without their efforts and high level of performance, the Steelers would've had to fight even harder than they did.
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