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mesaSteeler
09-19-2010, 11:06 PM
Harris: Given the adversity, 2-0 start is a gift
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/print_700378.html
By John Harris
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, September 20, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Steelers opening any season 2-0 -- but particularly this crazy, upside-down season in which they've entered both games as underdogs -- is like getting a week's vacation on the sandy beaches of Aruba.

Forget for a minute that the Steelers quarterback situation is a mess, or that their offense has scored one touchdown in the first nine quarters.

Forget that the Steelers' offensive line during crunch time of Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans featured Jonathan Scott, Tony Hills, Maurkice Pouncey, Doug Legursky and Flozell Adams.

And forget that the Steelers and Titans put on a display of offensive futility that set the NFL back 50 years.

"It feels good to be 2-0. I'm pretty sure nobody outside this locker room believed we could do it,'' wide receiver Hines Ward said in the joyous aftermath of the Steelers' 19-11 win at LP Field. "Hats off to the guys on this team believing in each other, playing hard and not worrying what people say outside this locker room.''

The Steelers' 2-0 start means they can finish no worse than 2-2 when Ben Roethilsberger returns from his four-game suspension Oct. 17 against Cleveland at Heinz Field -- despite their quarterback and offensive line issues.

It also means the Steelers, who visit Tampa Bay and host Baltimore over the next two weeks, could conceivably open the season 4-0 and take command of the AFC North. After the first two weeks, the Steelers are the only undefeated team in the division.

"I like what the team is doing in terms of working together, in terms of fighting adversity, in terms of uplifting one another,'' said coach Mike Tomlin, who opened the season 2-0 for the third time in his four years.

The Steelers' win wasn't pretty, but the end result was all that mattered.

The Steelers' offense couldn't tear its way its way out of a soggy paper bag -- amassing 127 total yards on an embarrassing 2.4 yards a play.

Ineffective starter Dennis Dixon left in the second quarter with a knee injury, and the best thing said about equally ineffective backup Charlie Batch is that he didn't throw an interception.

But how about that Steelers' defense? Seven turnovers and four sacks against Tennessee made it possible for Jeff Reed to kick four field goals, although we won't go into how the offense should have scored at least two touchdowns with the excellent field position it had all day.

The Steelers left star running back Chris Johnson feeling like a jilted lover who had his heart broken in one of those country western tunes this city is famous for. Johnson carried the ball 16 times for 34 yards and had his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games snapped at 12.

Titans quarterback Vince Young fared just as poorly and was replaced by Kerry Collins in the fourth quarter.

Toss in rookie Antonio Brown's 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown the first time he touched the ball in the NFL, and you have what passes for a Steelers masterpiece in 2010 -- or at least until Roethlisberger returns to the lineup.

"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 improved his regular-season record to 15-1 as Casey Hampton's replacement. "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 (ticks) us off.''

That's the last thing that next week's opponent Tampa Bay wants to do.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.


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