The top story leading into the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season home opener is not the health of the running backs but the health of their leader, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Granted the Steelers’ first-team offense did not do much in preseason, but Roethlisberger proved to stronger and in better shape than last year – mentally and physically. Year 2 of the Steelers offense under Todd Haley should be light years ahead of the 2012 offense, which ranked No. 22 in points per game, just six points more than their first scheduled opponent, the Tennessee Titans.
Last year in Week 6 against the Titans, the Steelers learned that more than a healthy QB is needed to win in the NFL. Ben lit up the Titans for 363 yards and a touchdown in the matchup. The problem was Old Man Matt Hasselbeck gave the Steelers defense more than they could handle.
Hasselbeck led the Titans to victory with 290 passing yards, including two fourth-quarter drives that resulted in a t0uchdown (11 plays, 80 yards) and game-winning field goal (five plays, 33 yards). Both drives showcased why Ike Taylor remains a Pro Bowl wannabe. Taylor was cited for two penalties, bumbled a potential interception and failed to stop receiver Kenny Britt late in the game.
Taylor isn’t the only defensive player likely looking for a bit of redemption at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Steelers’ defensive line gave up 91 rushing yards to Titans running back Chris Johnson last fall.
Of note, the Steelers defense played without superstars Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley. This time around Brett Keisel, Steve McClendon, Ziggy Hood and backup Cam Heyward will need to be cramming the speedy style of the Titans’ best weapon in order to win the season opener.
Added pressure from first-year co-starters Jason Worilds and rookie Jarvis Jones on Titans quarterback Jake Locker would help. Worilds, Woodley and Jones should take advantage of Locker and Titans first-year offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
Let’s hope the 2013 Steelers season starts off with a fresh new beginning Sunday at Heinz Field.