After last week's 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans, I bemoaned the Steelers' sudden vulnerability to opposing runners and their league-worst offensive line. However, Pittsburgh's dominant 38-17 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 5 mercifully showcased complete turnarounds in both areas.
Titans rusher Chris Johnson ripped off a 21-yard run off tackle on the game's first play from scrimmage, undoubtedly drawing some here-we-go-again sighs from the Steelers faithful. Fortunately, the defense held CJ2K to just 2.3 yards per carry on his subsequent 13 attempts, completely bottling up the lightning-fast runner. After getting gashed a week ago by Houston Texans back Arian Foster, it was encouraging to see the Steelers clog running lanes and get back to tackling fundamentals—particularly with starters Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, and James Harrison out with injuries.
On the other side of the ball, the offensive line—a putrid, porous unit through four regular season games—gave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger perfect pockets to throw from almost all day, paving the way for the signal-caller's five-touchdown binge and 70.6 completion percentage. Roethlisberger was sacked just once on the day and was rarely under duress. Left tackle Max Starks was perhaps the star of the show up front, playing his first NFL game since being cut by the team this offseason.
I'm still concerned about the team's defensive injuries up front, as well as the offensive line's depth and lack of top-tier talent, especially in pass protection. But Sunday showed Steelers fans that their team is more than capable of making adjustments week-to-week and putting themselves in a position to win. Expect Pittsburgh to keep the ball rolling the next two weeks against a couple of doormat teams (the Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals) before the New England Patriots come to town in Week 8.