Steelers Team Report
Yahoo! Sports

Pittsburgh’s defense looks as dominating, if not more so, than the one that led the NFL nearly across the board during their most recent Super Bowl season in 2008.

The Steelers have allowed just one touchdown in two games plus an overtime session, and that came when they played a prevent defense in the final minutes while ahead of Tennessee 19-3 Sunday.

They’ve yielded only 104 yards total rushing in those two games. They have eight takeaways in two games and six sacks.

“We’ve got a chip on our shoulder this year because of how things went down last year with our five-game losing streak,” said nose tackle Chris Hoke, who started for injured Casey Hampton.

Last season, the Steelers lost five games in which their defense could not hold a fourth-quarter lead. They played without two of their stars, safety Troy Polamalu and end Aaron Smith, for 11 games apiece.

“We have something to prove,” Hoke said.

The general feeling about the Steelers during Ben Roethlisberger’s four-game suspension was that a 2-2 record would be a good one. Now that they are 2-0, they do not want to settle for getting by without Roethlisberger.

“We think we’ve got a good football team and we feel that the quarterbacks that are filling in for Ben are capable to do the job,” Hoke said. “For people to go out and say, ‘Hopefully, they’ll be 2-2,’ we think that’s a knock on us a little bit.”

Coach Mike Tomlin, though, still has a dilemma at quarterback.

He saw another, Dennis Dixon, leave with a knee injury Sunday, and initial reports indicate he could be out at least two weeks with a meniscus tear. Byron Leftwich was re-signed Monday and his injured left knee may be well enough to play.

Only Charlie Batch is left at quarterback in full health as they head to Tampa next Sunday.

NOTES, QUOTES

• The Steelers have now gone 36 games while giving up just one 100-yard rusher (Baltimore’s Ray Rice), 140 yards on Dec. 27). Chris Johnson was held to 34 yards.

“It really wasn’t to keep him under 100 yards,” LB James Harrison said. “If they were to give him the ball 30 or 40 times, I’m sure in some shape or form he would have got 100. We did a good job of keeping him contained and sort of steered them away from what they would normally do.”

• The Steelers joined some unlikely 2-0 teams in the NFL, including the one in Tampa, where Pittsburgh visits on Sunday.

“We’re pleased that we are 2-0 but we are not astounded by it,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’re capable.”

Troy Polamalu’s interception against the Titans was his second of the season and the Steelers ran their record to 18-3 when he intercepts a pass.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Player Notes

• LB Lawrence Timmons has 26 total tackles after two games, tops on a Steelers’ defense that has played near perfect football.

• CB Bryant McFadden became the first cornerback to intercept a pass for the Steelers this season. Last season, it took cornerbacks until the 16th and final game before any of them intercepted a pass.

• C Maurkice Pouncey, the first rookie to start an opener for the Steelers since 2000, was the only offensive lineman to play every snap on Sunday.

• QB Dennis Dixon has been sacked five times in just five quarters of play. He was not sacked at all in his lone start last season.

• NT Chris Hoke ran his record to 15-1 when he starts a regular season game. He started for injured Casey Hampton (hamstring), Hoke’s first start since 2008.

Report Card Vs . TITANS

Passing Offense: D-minus—Incredibly, the Steelers completed 9 of 17 passes for a net of 21 yards, counting the four times their two quarterbacks were sacked for 22 yards in losses. Dennis Dixon also lost a fumble when he was sacked early in the game. The only positive is they did not throw an interception.

Rushing Offense: C-minus—Under the circumstances, the Steelers ground game was the lone bright spot on either team’s offense. Rashard Mendenhall ground out 69 yards on 23 carries and the Steelers managed 106 yards on 33 carries, many of which helped control the clock. Isaac Redman picked up one of their two third-down conversions when he gained 6 on third-and-one. QB Dennis Dixon contributed the longest run of the day for either team on a 21-yard scramble.

Pass Defense: A—Three interceptions, including one by Troy Polamalu in the Steelers’ end zone, more than offset the 24 of 35 passing and decent yardage total of 215 allowed, although most of that was gained in the prevent defense in the final minutes of the ballgame. Tennessee’s two quarterbacks were sacked four times. Vince Young seemed to have no clue during his three quarters of play, while Kerry Collins had a better go of it and gave his team a chance at the end with the game’s lone TD pass and two-point conversion.

Rush Defense: A—Not only was Chris Johnson’s 100-yard rushing streak stopped at 12 games, it was euthanized. Johnson ran 16 times for only 34 yards, tying his second-lowest career output. The Titans as a whole ran 22 times for 46 yards. That’s two straight games in which the Steelers defense has slammed the door on a decent ground game. Johnson has not gotten 70 yards in any one of three games he’s played vs. the Steelers.

Special Teams: B-plus—Rookie Antonio Brown’s return of the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown not only was the first by a Steelers kickoff return man in three years, it got them off on the right foot and scored their only touchdown of the game. Daniel Sepulveda’s(notes) punting was disappointing only because he kept popping them into the end zone and the Titans averaged 14.3 yards on three punt returns.

Coaching: B-plus—The reverse from Mewelde Moore to Brown on the opening kickoff produced their only TD and their defensive schemes were to control Chris Johnson and let Vince Young try to beat them. There was little choice on offense, but that empty set early in the game with Dennis Dixon did not work well when a defender came free, sacked Dixon and forced a punt.