Perceived slight motivates Steelers' defense
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer dlolley@observer-reporter.com

[HIGH-LIGHT]The Pittsburgh Steelers defense talked throughout the offseason about having a chip on its shoulder from the way last season ended.[/HIGH-LIGHT] They gave up five fourth quarter leads en route to a 9-7 record.

Little did anyone realize that the team also had a chip on its shoulder over predictions it could not overcome the season-opening suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"We're a little bit annoyed, to be quite honest, about the premature reporting of our death," said head coach Mike Tomlin after the Steelers dismantled Tennessee, 19-11, Sunday at LP Field to improve to 2-0.

[HIGH-LIGHT]The Steelers are annoyed and their first two opponents, Atlanta and Tennessee, have paid the price.[/HIGH-LIGHT]

Pittsburgh has allowed just one offensive touchdown in its first two games - that coming with 58 seconds remaining Sunday after the team went into a prevent defense while holding a 19-3 lead.

Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, the NFL rushing leader last year with 2,006 yards, saw his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games end at 12 as the Steelers limited him to 34 yards on 16 carries.

This came one week after holding Atlanta's Michael Turner, an All-Pro in 2008, to 43 yards on 19 carries.

[HIGH-LIGHT]"We've got a chip on our shoulder this year because of how things went down last year with our five-gaming losing streak," said reserve nose tackle Chris Hoke[/HIGH-LIGHT], who started in place of injured Casey Hampton.

[HIGH-LIGHT]"So, we have something to prove.[/HIGH-LIGHT] So sometimes when people write that we're not going to be very good or maybe they'll go 2-2 or 1-3 when Ben's out, that's a lot of the stuff that (ticks) us off. 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. For people to go out and say, 'Hopefully, they'll be 2-2,' we think that's a knock on us a little bit."

It doesn't seem to matter who plays quarterback. With the defense hammering opponents, the Steelers also scored just one offensive touchdown, a 50-yard run by Rashard Mendenhall in overtime to beat the Falcons.

"We knew everybody was going to count us out, having Ben out," linebacker James Farrior said. "They think we can't win without Ben, but that just gives us a little more motivation. Mike Tomlin's been (ticked) off the last couple weeks, so he has been taking it out on us and we have been taking it out on other teams."

Dennis Dixon made his second start in place of Roethlisberger against the Titans and completed four of six passes for 18 yards before leaving in the second quarter with a knee injury. It's been reported that he suffered a torn meniscus. Veteran Charlie Batch replaced Dixon and was 5 of 11 for 25 yards.

The Steelers also allowed four sacks for 22 yards, giving them just 21 net yards passing, the lowest total by the team in a victory since 1960, according to STATS LLC.

As a result, the Steelers turned seven Tennessee turnovers into just 12 points.

Tomlin said Dixon could have returned to hand off the ball if needed, but Monday the Steelers also re-signed veteran Byron Leftwich two days after releasing him to make roster space for reserve defensive tackle Steve McLendon.

Leftwich or Batch will start next Sunday's game in Tampa Bay.

"We are leaving a lot of points on the field," said Batch. "One thing you want to do as an offense is put seven points on the board."

[HIGH-LIGHT]Odds and end zones[/HIGH-LIGHT]

To make room on the roster for Leftwich, the Steelers released McLendon. ... If Dixon does have a torn meniscus, he could be placed on injured reserve. ... Steelers placekicker Jeff Reed has attempted nine field goals in two games, making seven. No other NFL team has attempted more than seven.