Red-hot Titans seeking to extend Steelers’ not-so-Super start
Posted: Friday, October 7, 2011 7:02 pm
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Don’t even start with the Super Bowl hangover stuff. The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t want to hear it.
The defending AFC champions say there are plenty of reasons for their lackluster 2-2 record heading into Sunday’s game against surprising Tennessee. The defense can’t stop the run. The offensive line can’t keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright. The injury list is long and distinguished.
No need to throw the Super Bowl in the mix.
Yes, the Steelers failed to make the playoffs the next year after winning it all in the 2005 and 2008 seasons. Yet there’s a difference between then and now.
“We didn’t win, so it doesn’t even matter,” linebacker James Farrior said. “I was a loser last year. We were just like all the other (30) teams that (didn’t win) and was looking for a new year and a better start.”
The Titans (3-1) couldn’t have asked for a faster one under first-year coach Mike Munchak. The defense is playing lights out and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is enjoying a rebirth after bolting Seattle. In a Peyton Manning-less AFC South, Tennessee doesn’t think the rebuilding process needs to take that long.
A road victory over a perennial playoff contender would certainly look good on the resume.
The Titans are certainly coming in at the right time. The Steelers will be without All-Pro linebacker James Harrison for several weeks after he needed surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone near his right eye sustained in a 17-10 loss to Houston. Roethlisberger will wear a special shoe to protect his sprained left foot and the offensive line is so decimated the team re-signed veteran Max Starks practically off the street.
Everything from health to momentum appears to be tilting toward Tennessee.
“The media or the public perception is, ‘Man, so-and-so is not playing, that means we win.’ It doesn’t work that way,” he said.
Munchak need only point to last year’s meeting between the two teams for proof.
The Steelers were without Roethlisberger, serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, and then lost backup Dennis Dixon to an injury in the first half.
No matter. Veteran Charlie Batch came on in relief and led the Steelers to a 19-11 win in a game that may have served as the starting point for longtime coach Jeff Fisher’s departure. Fisher pulled quarterback Vince Young in favor of Kerry Collins, who nearly led Tennessee to a stunning comeback.
By the end of the season both Fisher and Young were gone and the team decided to reboot under Munchak, who has been in the organization for 30 years.
Never, though, has he been in this position. Munchak just laughed when asked if being a head coach is easier than he thought considering how quickly the Titans have gotten out of the gate.
In typical understated fashion he pushed most of the praise toward Hasselbeck, who has kept the offense afloat while running back Chris Johnson gets his legs back following a lengthy holdout. Hasselbeck has thrown for 1,152 yards through four games, the second-highest total over that period in team history.
Published in The Messenger 10.7.11