Titans Vs. Steelers: Pittsburgh Dominates, Wins 38-17

After a rough day in Houston, Big Ben is seen leaving the locker room on crutches and in a walking boot.

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2011 NFL Standings: Week 5 Action Shakes Up Standings Across League

Week 5 of the 2011 NFL season is in the books. Let's take a tour across the league to see what unfolded and what lies ahead for the Steelers and the rest of the field.

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Hines Ward Moves Up Career Leader Boards In Sunday's Win Over Titans

Four games into the 2011 NFL season, we hadn’t heard Hines Ward’s name called too frequently. Ward had just 13 receptions through four weeks, including a one-catch game in the Steelers Week 4 loss to the Texans. Ben Roethlisberger and Bruce Arians finally got the heart and soul of their offense involved more regularly in Week 5, however, and the results were outstanding. Ward hauled in seven catches in the 38-17 win. He only amassed 54 receiving yards, but Roethlisberger was clearly trying to get the ball out more quickly this week after being battered and bruised in the pocket the previous two weeks. Most importantly, two of Ward’s seven catches went for touchdowns. They were his first two TDs of the season.

Ward, in his 14th season, continues to climb the career leader boards in every significant statistical category for receivers. Let’s first take a look at his career numbers:

Receptions: 974
Receiving Yards: 11,892
Receiving Touchdowns: 85

Here’s where he stacks up against the competition for his career.

Receptions: 8th
Receiving Yards: 20th
Receiving Touchdowns: 85

Ward will not be catching the seven players ahead of him in career receptions anytime soon. Isaac Bruce is seventh on the list with 1,024 catches. With 11 games still remaining on the schedule this year, Ward has a shot at catching Bruce sometime in December. Of course, he’ll be honored sooner than that when he eclipses the 1,000 career receptions plateau sometime next month.

Ward is, however, likely to pass Hall of Famer Michael Irvin (11,904) this coming Sunday provided he has at least 13 receiving yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Seems like a pretty safe bet that Ward will bump The Playmaker down to No. 20 all-time in that department.

Finally, Ward moved up several spots in the career receiving TDs charts. Heading into Week 5, his 83 TDs were the 19th most ever. Ward’s first TD of the afternoon put him in a tie for 16th with Andre Rison, Tommy McDonald, Mark Clayton and Irving Fryar. His second TD, a nifty catch and jump into the endzone, moved him past that quartet and into a tie at 13th with two Hall of Famers, Lance Alworth and Paul Warfield.

Impressive stuff from a future Hall of Famer himself.

The Steelers return to action in Week 6 against the Jaguars. Kickoff at Heinz Field is 1:00 pm local time.

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Ben Roethlisberger Matches Career Record With Five Touchdowns In 38-17 Win Over Titans

Just one short week ago, the talk of Steeler Nation was about Ben Roethlisberger’s unacceptably high rate of turnovers, and whether he’d be able to survive another game of punishing hits while nursing a sprained left foot. Well, Big Ben silenced his critics on Sunday with a masterpiece performance that propelled Pittsburgh to a resounding and much-needed win over the visiting Tennessee Titans.

Here was Big Ben’s stat line for the day:

24-of-34 (70.6%), 224 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 115.7 QB rating

Impressive stuff. Roethlisberger took fewer chances down the field which is why the yards total was relatively low. But that appeared to be by design as a result of his injured foot. The result was a far more efficient and productive day from the pocket as he got rid of the ball before taking too many hits.

Roethlisberger’s five touchdown passes matched a career-high set back on one of the more memorable nights in recent Steelers history. You surely don’t forget November 5, 2007, the night the Steelers celebrated the 75th anniversary did you? Roethlisberger also threw five TDs that night in front of a raucous Heinz Field crowd and a number of Steelers legends who were in town for the game.

Roethlisberger now has eight TDs on the year, and for the first time all season, more TDs than interceptions (six). Had he not thrown that bizarre interception right before halftime, his quarterback rating might have approached a perfect mark.

Let's hope there’s more of where that came from in the weeks ahead.

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Steelers Vs. Titans: Pittsburgh Turns Weaknesses Into Strengths, Crushes Tennessee

After last week's 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans, I bemoaned the Steelerssudden 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.

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Steelers Vs. Titans: Reaction To Pittsburgh's 38-17 Victory

The Pittsburgh Steelers needed a win on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, not because they were on the edge of losing control of their season, but just so that that they and their fans could feel good about what they were trying to get done. Mission accomplished, I guess. They beat up on the Titans 38-17, even though some of their best players were either out or dealing with injuries. Our Steelers blog Behind the Steel Curtain isn't surprised.

The question is, how? With an injury list that prominently featured some of the Steelers' marquee players, it was understandable that many felt they had no chance against a surprisingly strong Titans team. Of course, the injury list was headed by the only person who actually played, Ben Roethlisberger. Much has already been made, and rightly so, of Ben's stellar play while injured. That didn't surprise me. Honestly, I'm not sure he doesn't prefer it that way. It takes some of the pressure off of him to perform well and leaves him free to improvise in unexpected ways.

The Steelers were on Sunday the team we expected them to be before the Season started, and now everything is suddenly right in Pittsburgh.

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain, and continue to follow the rest of this StoryStream for updates on the Titans vs. Steelers matchup.

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Week 5 NFL Scores: Bengals Beat Jaguars To Move To 3-2

The Cincinnati Bengals moved to 3-2 and kept pace with the Steelers, one loss behind the division-leading Baltimore Ravens.

Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton looked very good, throwing for 179 yards and two touchdowns, though he did throw an interception. The Bengals defense did give up 296 yards of total offense, but used two forced fumbles to help out their cause, including one that was returned for a touchdown as the final seconds ticked off the clock. They also limited all-everything Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew to 85 total yards (all rushing) on 19 carries.

Cedric Benson struggled to get any footing in the running game, rushing for only 53 yards in 24 carries. Bernard Scott scored the only rushing touchdown of the day for the Bengals. Jermaine Gresham and rookie wide receiver A.J. Green were the targets on the touchdown receptions. The Ravens and Browns were both idle on the day.


Keep coming back to SB Nation for all of your Pittsburgh Steelers news.

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Titans Vs. Steelers Final Score: Ben Roethlisberger's Five Touchdown Passes Lead To Convincing 38-17 Win

Ben Roethlisberger threw his fifth touchdown pass of the day in the waning minutes of the Steelers’ matchup versus the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers were already ahead by two touchdowns, but they kept throwing, and Mike Wallace streaked toward the end zone, badly beating the Titans’ secondary and easily catching a perfectly-thrown ball.

With two minutes left, the Titans are turning to the run, so it appears this one is over. The Steelers will be 3-2, and their offense finally looks like it’s firing on all cylinders, despite continued problems with the health (and talent level) of the offensive line. It has been a great day for Roethlisberger, who threw his five touchdowns despite a sprained foot. It was also a career day for Jonathan Dwyer, who has 117 yards so far, thanks mostly to one huge run. The Steelers also have gotten great play from Mike Wallace (who had 82 yards receiving) and Ike Taylor (who shut down the receivers he covered, as usual).

UPDATE: It’s final. The Steelers win, 38-17.

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Damian Williams Scores To Narrow Lead To 31-17

The Tennessee Titans have narrowed the Steelers’ lead to 31-17 with a touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Damian Williams. The Steelers’ secondary left Williams open after a breakdown involving Keenan Lewis and Ryan Mundy.

There are now three and a half minutes remaining, so it looks like time for another onside kick for Tennessee.

Keeping track of the Steelers’ many injuries today: Isaac Redman’s apparent injury was just cramping, and he’ll be fine. The Steelers have relied much more on the pass in this game, even after they took a big league.

… The Titans did in fact try the onside kick, but Emmanuel Sanders quickly recovered it for the Steelers, so Pittsburgh will now try to get a first down or two and run out the clock. The Titans are out of timeouts. Jonathan Dwyer is in at running back. It appears the Steelers are headed for a 3-2 record.

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Titans Vs. Steelers Score: After Onside Kick And Interception, Steelers Still Lead 28-10

The Titans finally made some headway in cutting into the Steelers lead, with a drive that resulted in a short touchdown run by Chris Johnson.

Following that was an extremely strange pair of plays. The Titans tried an onside kick and appeared to recover it. One referee signaled that the Titans had the ball, and at exactly the same time, another signaled that the Steelers had it. Then both refs simultaneously switched their calls. The ball was ultimately (and apparently correctly) rewarded to the Titans.

On the next play, though, Matt Hasselbeck threw a pass that Brett Keisel hit near the line of scrimmage, and LaMarr Woodley intercepted it. If the Titans had scored again on that drive, it would have been a game, but for now, the Steelers’ 28-10 lead appears secure, with about one quarter left.

Maurkice Pouncey is back in the game, fortunately, so it appears his injury wasn't serious.

For more on the Titans vs. the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Hines Ward Touchdown Gives Steelers 28-3 Lead, But Offensive Line Problems Mount

Late in the third quarter, the Steelers have taken a 28-3 lead on the Tennessee Titans after a great move for a touchdown by Hines Ward. Ward caught the ball at about the three yard line and then, in almost the same motion, cut back and then leapt to dodge a Titans defender, landing in the end zone.

The touchdown gave Ben Roethlisberger four for the game.

Unfortunately, injury issues continue for the Steelers’ offensive line. Marcus Gilbert hurt himself earlier in the game and was replaced by Jonathan Scott, and now it appears Maurkice Pouncey is hurt as well, with knee problems. Doug Legursky will probably replace him at center, with Trai Essex taking Legursky’s place. The offensive line could mostly play fine today, but if Pouncey and Gilbert are out for any sustained period of time, the line should continue to be a problem.

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Titans Vs. Steelers Score: Ben Roethlisberger Throws Weird Interception, But Steelers Still Lead 21-3 At Halftime

The Steelers' domination in the first half against the Titans was nearly complete. Late in the second quarter, the Steelers had a 21-3 lead and were charging downfield in a drive that could have given them a three-touchdown lead. Then there was apparently some miscommunication between Ben Roethlisberger and his teammates. It looked like Roethlisberger would spike the ball, but instead he threw some bubble-screen type of pass to the right side, apparently intended for Hines Ward. It didn't look like any of his teammates were prepared for it, though, and it went right into the hands of Cortland Finnegan. The Titans were therefore able to escape to the locker room with only an 18-point deficit.

Still, this was a surprisingly great first half for the Steelers, who dominated in every phase of the game. The Steelers' offense looked terrific throughout.

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Jonathan Dwyer's Huge Run Keys Yet Another Touchdown

After the Steelers defense stopped the Titans yet again, and then the Steelers got the ball back deep in their own territory. Jonathan Dwyer ripped off a 76-yard run, easily the best of his career, taking the Steelers down to the 15-yard line. From there, the Steelers turned to Isaac Redman, who carried defenders with him on a couple of nice runs. Ben Roethlisberger then dumped the ball to David Johnson for a touchdown.

It’s been all Steelers so far, as Pittsburgh has looked great offensively and defensively, and have had some creative and well-timed play calls as well. Pittsburgh leads 21-3.

Offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert was hurt on the drive. He was replaced by Jonathan Scott, who lost his starting job to Max Starks after getting beaten badly last week in Houston.

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain, and continue to follow the rest of this storystream for updates on the Titans vs. Steelers matchup.

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Titans Vs. Steelers Score: Daniel Sepulveda's Pass To Ryan Mundy (?) Leads To 14-3 Lead

After the Steelers took a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter, the Titans punted in their next possession, and it looked like the Steelers would do the same. What happened next was a play we’ll be looking for on YouTube later. Punter Daniel Sepulveda took the snap, and threw a rather long pass over the middle to a wide-open Ryan Mundy. Sepulveda was clearly thrilled by what he’d done, as the cameras repeatedly showed him on the sideline laughing it up with his teammates.

The Steelers apparently weren’t through being creative, as they picked up a first down on an end-around by the speedy Antonio Brown. Ben Roethlisberger then dumped the ball in to a wide-open Hines Ward for Ward’s first touchdown catch this year. The Steelers lead by a score of 14-3 early in the second quarter, and they’ve looked great so far.

For more on the Steelers, be sure to check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace Lead Steelers To 7-3 Lead

After giving up a field goal in the first drive of the game, the Steelers got great field position near midfield thanks to a big kickoff return by Antonio Brown. After a one-yard run by (starting!) running back Isaac Redman and an incomplete pass, Mike Wallace made a brilliant diving catch on third-and-nine. The pass was initially ruled incomplete, but was reversed on Mike Tomlin’s challenge.

A pass over the middle to Brown gave the Steelers a first-and-goal from the eight yard line. Ben Roethlisberger then hit Heath Miller over the middle for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter.

At least on this opening drive, the offensive line looked much better than it looked last week. It looked like Roethlisberger generally tried to get his passes off quickly, but he did have enough time to make them.

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Titans Vs. Steelers Score: Titans March Downfield In Penalty-Filled Opening Drive, Lead 3-0

A penalty-filled opening drive resulted in a field goal for the Tennessee Titans.

Chris Johnson racked up a huge 21-yard-run on the first play from scrimmage. The Steelers then got the Titans into a third-and-long situation near midfield, but a personal foul penalty on Ryan Clark got Tennessee a fresh set of downs. The Steelers continued to have trouble tackling Johnson, and then Matt Hasselbeck hit Jared Cook on the right side to get the Titans to the five-yard line.

An illegal block in the back penalty on the Titans moved the Titans back to the 14, and then a false start penalty moved the Titans back even farther. An illegal contact penalty against James Farrior gothe Titans a fresh set of downs at the Steelers’ eight yard line.

LaMarr Woodley then registered an awesome sack, bringing down Hasselbeck despite the efforts of a blocker in between them, and the Titans had to settle for a field goal.

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Titans Vs. Steelers Injury Update: Rashard Mendenhall Active, But Will Not Start

The list of inactive players has been released for Sunday's game pitting the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Tennessee Titans, and it appears Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall is not on the list after all. It was reported earlier Sunday morning that Mendenhall would not suit up for the game, but it appears he will now dress but will only play in an emergency situation. Isaac Redman will get the start at running back for the Steelers.

Steelers Inactives for Week 5:

T Casey Hampton, LB James Harrison, G Chris Kemoeatu, DE Aaron Smith, RB Mewelde Moore, LB Jason Worilds, CB Cortez Allen

Titans Inactives for Week 5:

S Chris Hope, QB Rusty Smith, CD Chris Hawkins, C Kevin Matthews, T Byron Stingily, DT Zach Clayton, DT Malcolm Sheppard, FB Quinn Johnson

Click here for the full list of Week 5 Inactives.

For more on the Steelers, please visit Behind the Steel Curtain. For more on the Titans, check out Music City Miracles. Follow the league at-large at SB Nation NFL.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: RB Rashard Mendenhall Out Against Titans, According To Report

An already banged up Pittsburgh Steelers team will be now without running back Rashard Mendenhall when they face the Tennessee Titans Sunday afternoon, according to a report on ESPN.com. Via Josina Anderson:

Barring any unforeseen changes, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is out for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans with a hamstring injury.

Mewelde Moore was already ruled out at running back as well, so Isaac Redman will get his first NFL start in the backfield for the Steelers. Seldom used Jonathan Dwyer is also expected to see the field at some point.

The Steelers ground game has struggled so far this season, ranking just 21st in the NFL, and now faces a stout Tennessee defense that is surprisingly leading the league by allowing just 14.0 points per game.

For more on the Steelers, please visit Behind the Steel Curtain. For more on the Titans, check out Music City Miracles. Follow the league at-large at SB Nation NFL.

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Week 5 NFL Injury Report: Titans Vs. Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers, already in rough shape physically through the first four weeks of the NFL season, lost another key contributor this week when veteran linebacker James Harrison went down with a fractured orbital bone around his right eye. The timetable for Harrison's return is still unknown.

The good news for Steelers fans? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who sprained his left foot in Week 4's 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans, is listed as probable on the injury report and is expected to start this week against the Tennessee TitansRoethlisberger practiced in full all week, but it is not known how much the injury may limit him when the game officially begins. Injury report for Steelers and Titans below:

Here's the official NFL.com injury report for the Steelers for Week 5:

Out: T Casey Hampton (shoulder), LB James Harrison (eye), G Chris Kemoeatu (knee), DE Aaron Smith (foot), RB Mewelde Moore (ankle), LB Jason Worilds (quadricep)

Questionable: CB Cortez Allen (ankle), RB Rashard Mendenhall (hamstring)

Probable: QB Ben Roethlisberger (foot)

Here's the official NFL.com injury report for the Titans for Week 5.

Out: S Chris Hope (forearm)

Questionable: G Leroy Harris (knee), TE Craig Stevens (rib)

Probable: S Michael Griffin (illness), KR Marc Mariani (hip), LB Gerald McRath (knee)

Click here for the full list of Week 5 NFL injuries.

For more on the Steelers, please visit Behind the Steel Curtain. For more on the Titans, check out Music City Miracles. Follow the league at-large at SB Nation NFL.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Time, TV Schedule, Radio Streaming And More

The Pittsburgh Steelers return to Heinz Field to host the Tennessee Titans this Sunday, Oct. 9. Following a 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans, Pittsburgh looks to rebound against a surging Titans team, and it'll have to do so without linebacker James Harrison. The former Defensive Player of the Year fractured his eye socket against Houston and will miss between four and six weeks. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will start despite a sprained left foot; perhaps not coincidentally, the Steelers re-signed offensive lineman Max Starks this week, boosting their pass-protection.

The Titans have won their last three games, most recently a 31-13 drubbing of the Cleveland Browns. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns on just 20 pass attempts, while Chris Johnson amassed 101 yards rushing on 23 carries. Tennessee picked up the win despite allowing Cleveland's Colt McCoy to throw for 350 yards.

Game Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 9; 1:00pm ET

Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA

TV Schedule
National: CBS
Announcers: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf

TV Distribution Map: The506.com

Radio Schedule
Titans: WGFX 104.5 FM
Steelers: WDVE 102.5 FM, WGGB 970 AM

For more on the Steelers, please visit Behind the Steel Curtain. For more on the Titans, check out Music City Miracles. Follow the league at-large at SB Nation NFL.

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Steelers Vs. Titans: Complete Friday Injury Reports For Both Pittsburgh And Tennessee

It was already reported earlier that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be without the services of three key veterans when they host the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon. Casey Hampton (shoulder), G Chris Kemoeatu (knee) and DE Aaron Smith (foot).

Of course, earlier in the week, Steeler Nation learned that James Harrison would be out for an extended period time as he recovered from a surgically repaired orbital bone fracture. One of his potential backups, Jason Worilds was also ruled out with an ailing quadriceps muscle. And last but not least, the Steelers will be without RB Mewelde Moore (ankle), leaving Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer as the only two healthy running backs on the roster. Rashard Mendenhall is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury suffered during a nondescript touchdown run in Pittsburgh’s Week 4 loss to the Houston Texans.

Ben Roethlisberger, to the relief of fans, is listed as probably and fully expected to play on Sunday.

Here’s the injury report filed by the Titans for Week 5.

Out: S Chris Hope (forearm)

Questionable: G Leroy Harris (knee), TE Craig Stevens (rib)

Probable: S Michael Griffin (illness), KR Marc Mariani (hip), LB Gerald McRath (knee)

It goes without saying that the Titans enter Sunday’s game in much better shape injury-wise. Too bad former Steelers safety Chris Hope won’t be able to go. It’s been five full years since he helped the Steelers win SB XL, but you can tell he always enjoys seeing some of his former teammates who, like him, have managed to continue playing at a high level well into their 30s.

For more Steelers coverage and analysis leading up to Sunday kickoff, visit Behind the Steel Curtain.

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Titans Vs. Steelers Injuries: Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Jason Worilds Out

The Pittsburgh Steelers will play very shorthanded when they host the Tennessee Titans this Sunday, Oct. 9. According to ESPN NFL analyst John Clayton, the Steelers have ruled out six players: defensive linemen Casey Hampton (shoulder) and Aaron Smith (foot); linebackers James Harrison (eye) and Jason Worilds (quadriceps); guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee); and running back Mewelde Moore (ankle).

Further, the Steelers limited running back Rashard Mendenhall (hamstring) in Friday's practice; they'll determine his availability at game-time. Mendenhall leads Pittsburgh in carries (58) and rushing touchdowns (two). Rookie cornerback Cortez Allen (ankle), who hasn't played since Sept. 18, is also questionable.

If Mendenhall is unavailable, many of his duties would fall to Isaac Redman. In addition to scoring his first career rushing touchdown this season, the three-year veteran is averaging a career-best 4.9 yards per carry. Whether he can handle an increased workload is unclear, as Redman has never attempted more than 10 carries in any game of his young career.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Max Starks Thinks He Will Start

Last week, Max Starks did not have an NFL job. Sunday, he might start for the Pittsburgh Steelers at left tackle (in place of the injured Jonathan Scott) as they host the Tennessee Titans. Starks "took the majority of repetitions in practice this week," according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"I will have a shot at running with the [starters]," said Starks.

The Steelers re-signed Starks, who's played all 95 games of his seven-year career with Pittsburgh, on Tuesday. He has not appeared in a game since November 2010, when he suffered a season-ending neck injury.

Pittsburgh is indeed desperate enough for offensive-line help to add a free agent who hasn't played in nearly a year, though Starks' familiarity with Pittsburgh's offense and personnel should ease his transition back to the field. Due in part to poor offensive-line play, the Steelers average just 93.8 rushing yards per game (No. 21 in the league) and have allowed 14 sacks (T-No. 27).

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Steelers (2-2) Vs. Titans (3-1): Facts And Figures For Two Old AFC Central Rivals

Two former divisional rivals meet at Heinz Field on Sunday when the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers host the upstart Tennessee Titans. For Pittsburgh, Week 5 represents a chance to get back above .500 and shore up two of the team's most glaring issues through the first four weeks -- protecting the quarterback and stopping the run. For Tennessee, the trip to Pittsburgh represents the perfect opportunity to prove that their 3-1 start is no fluke and that their ready to contend for the AFC South title in Mike Munchak's first year at the helm.

Let's take a look at a few facts and figures for each squad as Steeler Nation nervously waits to see how the six-time Super Bowl champions will rebound from early-season adversity.

STEELERS:

  • Club has won 4 of past 5 at home.

  • In 3 career games vs. Titans, QB Ben Roethlisberger is 2-1 & has completed 67 of 93 passes (72 pct.) for 910 yards with 5 TDs & 102.9 passer rating. Roethlisberger has 18-7 (.720) record as starter in Oct.

  • RB Rashard Mendenhall has 6 rush TDs in past 7 games.

  • WR Hines Ward (11,838) needs 67 rec. yards to surpass HOFer Michael Irvin (11,834) for 19th-most in NFL history. Has 100+ rec. yards (109, 103) in 2 of past 3 vs. Titans. 

  • WR Mike Wallace averages 113.5 rec. yards per game this season (454 total). Aims for 4th consecutive game with 100+ yards at home (102, 104, 126).

  • 11 of WR Antonio Brown's 15 rec. have been for 1st downs (73.3 pct.) this season.

  • TE Heath Miller (298) needs 2 catches to become 1st Pit. TE with 300 career...Defense allows 277 yards per game, 2nd-lowest in NFL this season (Bengals, 275.5).

  • In last game vs. Ten., LB James Harrison had 2 sacks, 2 FFs & FR. (Who's ready to step up in his place since he'll not be available?)

  • S Troy Polamalu has 3 INTs in 5 career games vs. Titans.

TITANS

  • Seek fourth consecutive win.

  • In past two, QB Matt Hasselbeck has 5 TDs vs. 1 INT & 119 passer rating. Hasselbeck aims for fifth  consecutive game with 100+ passer rating. Has 8 TD passes this season - his most in 1st 4 games of any of his 11 seasons as starting NFL QB.

  • RB Chris Johnson (101 yards) record 25th career game with 100+ rush yards last week. Johnson (5,907) needs 93 scrimmage yards to reach 6,000 career.

  • WR Nate Washington spent 4 seasons (2005-08) with Steelers.

  • TE Jared Cook had career-long 80-yard TD rec. last week - longest TD catch by Titans/Oilers TE since Willie Frazier on 11/6/64 (80). 

  • TE Craig Stevens posted 1st TD catch in '11 last week...Defense allows NFL-low 14 points per game in '11.

  • LB Barrett Ruud leads team with 27 tackles.

  • DE Derrick Morgan has sack in 2 of past 3.

  • Rookie LB Akeem Ayers (2nd round, No. 39) recorded 1st career sack last week.

  • S Jordan Babineaux had 97-yard INT-TD return last week, 3rd-longest in franchise history...
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Steelers Stats At The Quarter Pole: Team Defense Edition

Onward with our overview of various team and individual statistics for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the quarter pole of the 2011 NFL season. We began with a look at several offensive team statistics and how they stacked up across the league. Now let's turn to the team defense numbers and how Dick LeBeau's unit has fared through the first four weeks. Obviously not as well as fans and analysts would have expected, particularly against the run where they've been next to impossible to exploit for the past decade.

To the numbers:

TEAM DEFENSIVE STATS (league rank):

  • Points/Game: 18.0 (5th)
  • Yards/Game: 277 (2nd)
  • Yards/Play: 4.9 (t-4th)
  • Passing Yards/Game: 157.5 (1st)
  • QB Rating Against: 85.2 (13th)
  • Sacks: 7 (t-22nd)
  • Rushing Yards/Game: 119.5 (22nd)
  • Yards/Rush: 4.8 (t-23rd)
  • 20+ yard Rushes Allowed: 4 (t-25th)
  • Interceptions:0 (32nd)
  • Forced Fumbles:2 (t-25th)
  • Fumbles Recovered: 1 (t-25th)

Lots of numbers there, and not all are as revealing as they might appear. For example, the Steelers passing yards allowed figures look good. But the quarterback rating against is closer to the middle of the pack, which I'd say is about how the pass defense has performed.

The four runs of 20-plus yards is certainly troubling. By contrast, the Steelers defense allowed only 1 run of 20 or more yards in 2010. Obviously the turnovers are a huge issue as well. If the Steelers don't start pressuring the quarterback more consistently -- ahem, LaMarr Woodley -- those takeaway totals may not jump up quite as much as we might expect or hope. We'll see how Lawrence Timmons fares playing outside linebacker against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. James Harrison, of course, is shut down for the next few games at least as he recovers from surgery to repair a broken orbital bone.

TEAM STATS (OFFENSE)

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Max Starks Could Start On Offensive Line

Scott Brown of the Trib reports that the newly-reacquired Max Starks may start against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, thanks in part to his past experience with the Steelers’ offense. It was previously reported that Starks would not be ready to start initially, since he hasn’t played at all this year and wasn’t in training camp anywhere. But the Steelers might be desperate enough for offensive line help to give him a shot immediately.

Starks said he took 66 to 75 percent of the snaps with the first-team offense today. Yesterday, Starks split first-team snaps at left tackle with Jonathan Scott, who has practiced both days this week after missing last Sunday`s game because of a sprained ankle.

Elsewhere on the ever-shifting offensive line, Doug Legursky will start at left guard, and Ramon Foster will be at right guard. Guard Chris Kemoeatu has a knee injury, and it sounds like he’ll be out.

For more on the Steelers/Titans matchup, head over to Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Maurkice Pouncey To Appeal $7,500 Fine For Late Hit In Week 4 Loss To Texans

Wow, I was disappointed in Maurkice Pouncey at the time for his 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty in the final minutes of the first half last Sunday, but never did I think that he would be fined for the infraction.

To refresh your memory, with the Steeelers trailing 10-0 in the second quarter of their Week 4 loss to the Texans, Mewelde Moore scampered inside the Texans' 10 yard line. After the play, Pouncey came flying in and was called for a late hit that moved the ball back from the 6 yard line to the 21. The Steelers had to settle for a field goal instead of finishing off the drive for a touchdown. Of course, Shaun Suisham then had his FG blocked and the Steelers went into halftime having left points on the board.

According to Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Pouncey will appeal the fine. I don’t blame him. The penalty was somewhat questionable to begin with, and even if ‘unnecessary’, it did not seem to be an egregious infraction that put a defenseless player at risk of injury. Just one more piece of evidence that suggests the NFL is becoming a softer and more heavily-regulated league.

The Steelers look to get back above .500 this Sunday when they host the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field.

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Week 5 NFL Lines And Odds: Titans Vs. Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers test their mettle this Sunday, Oct. 8, against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field. The Steelers haven't performed to expectations as yet, due largely to an injury-depleted offensive line which has proven ineffective at protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (14 sacks allowed) and creating lanes for its running backs to use. Indeed, the Steelers' average of 3.7 yards per carry puts them No. 23 in the league in that category.

Behind the steady play of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (66.7 percent completion rate, eight touchdowns, just three interceptions), and a strong defense that leads the NFL in points allowed per game (14), Tennessee has surged to 3-1; their lone loss came by a mere two points to the Jacksonville Jaguars on opening weekend.

Yet the oddsmakers favor the Steelers at home anyway, according to SB Nation partner OddsShark, though the line has moved significantly. Pittsburgh opened as a 6.5-point favorite, but news that linebacker James Harrison would miss four to six weeks and that Roethlisberger is ailing from a sprained foot has shrunk that margin. The Steelers are now favored by three or 3.5 points, depending on the source.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Brett Keisel To Play

Defensive end Brett Keisel missed the Steelers' last two games against the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts and it showed, particularly against the Texans. The Steelers were uncharacteristically weak against the run, letting Arian Foster run wild. That of course cannot be completely attributed to Keisel's absence, but it must have hurt. Luckily, it appears that they will get the defensive end back against the Titans and Chris Johnson this weekend, according to Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune.

"It felt really good," Keisel said of the knee, which he injured against Seattle. "It's just a matter of going out and doing football movements and trying to do it at full speed. There wasn't anything that indicated that I wouldn't (play Sunday)."

Like I said, Keisel won't fix the whole rush defense by himself, but he certainly will help. The Steelers will have to deal with another run-first team in the Titans. They'll need all the help they can get to bottle up Chris Johnson.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Could Max Starks Start?

Max Starks has been back with the Pittsburgh Steelers for just about a day now, but it already seems like he might be back in the starting lineup. Starks has only been to one practice, but he reportedly took about half the snaps with the first team at left tackle. According to Dave Bryan of Steelers Depot, running back Isaac Redman made a pretty compelling little sound bite after practice that might signal Starks' immediate return to the starting lineup.

Our line is beat up, there is some inexperience. We have to establish the run. We need it. We need to shut people up. We have Max Starks back. Hopefully he can add some some spark to the offensive line and we can get some movement.

I know he didn't specifically say that Max Starks would be starting, but it does seem like he will be put in a position that will impact the game, and that has to be as a starting offensive lineman, right? We probably won't know for sure until the Steelers line up for their first offensive set on Sunday.

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NFL Injury Report, Titans Vs. Steelers: Rashard Mendenhall Misses Practice With Hamstring

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall missed practice Wednesday, unsurprisingly, with a hamstring injury. Mendenhall suffered the injury last week against the Houston Texans. If Mendenhall can't practice the rest of the week and misses Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, as most expect, Isaac Redman would look to get the bulk of the carriers at running back.

Defensive lineman Casey Hampton also missed practice with a shoulder injury. Also, guard Chris Kemoeatu missed practice with a knee injury. The Steelers offensive line has been ravaged, so that's not something they need right now. Cornerback Cortez Allen also missed practice with an ankle injury.

Wide receiver Hines Ward also missed practice, but it was his typical day off. Mike Wallace was not on the injury report and practiced in full. Last week, Wallace was dealing with a rib injury that had him limited most of the week.

For complete Steelers coverage, please visit Behind the Steel Curtain. Stay tuned to this StoryStream for everything you need to know about Sunday's matchup against the Titans.

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Ben Roethlisberger Injury Update: Due To Sprained Foot, Steelers Quarterback To Wear Oversized Shoe, Metal Plate

When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who's ailing from a sprained left foot, takes the field this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, he'll do so wearing two differently-sized shoes. Via Twitter, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review explains why:

#Steelers Roethlisberger will wear a one size bigger shoe on his left foot with a metal plate in the bottom to keep it from getting bent.

Let's review that last bit again: "With a metal plate in the bottom to keep it from getting bent." Yikes.

That ... that sounds not so great, and on some level one has to wonder if playing with such an orthotic could erode his performance if sustained over time. Then again, Roethlisberger played most of the 2010 season with a broken - not sprained, but broken - right foot, and he mostly acquitted himself.

For complete Steelers coverage, please visit Behind the Steel Curtain. Stay tuned to this StoryStream for everything you need to know about Sunday's matchup against the Titans.

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Week 5 NFL Picks: Titans Vs. Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers can crawl back to above the .500 mark this Sunday when they host the Tennessee Titans. Myriad injuries and generally uninspired play has most fans and experts down on the defending AFC champions, which their fall in the NFL power rankings reflects. How do the prognosticators feel about Pittsburgh's chances against the Titans, who've won three straight games to improve to 3-1? Let's take a look.

SB Nation Chicago: Tim Sieck says this game is "tough to pick" without knowing more about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's health; though Big Ben is expected to play, he's nursing a sprained foot. Nonetheless, Sieck picks Pittsburgh to "win a close one" thanks to its home-field advantage.

CBSSports.com: Pete Prisco, Clark Judge, Mike Freeman, and Dave Richard all believe the Steelers will fend off the Titans. Will Brinson is the lone CBS expert to pick the visitors.

FOX Sports: Peter Schrager leads his preview with some distressing Steelers facts:

the big, bad Pittsburgh Steelers are averaging just 93.8 rushing yards, while allowing opponents to average 119.5 yards on the ground. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that Dick LeBeau’s defense has just one takeaway through four games. The defense looks old, the offensive line looks shoddy, and the quarterback’s nursing injuries.

... and then he picks the Steelers to win anyway, joining Sieck in letting the venue being the deciding factor.

Six of seven experts surveyed agree: Pittsburgh is primed to take a step forward this week.

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Tristan Davis Signs With Steelers To Help Prepare For Chris Johnson, Titans

The Steelers have officially signed running back Tristan Davis to the practice squad, and have released safety Damon Cromartie-Smith.

We wrote about this Tuesday. Despite recent injuries to Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore, you shouldn’t expect Davis ever to suit up for the Steelers for game action. Instead, they’re using him only in practice, by having him imitate Titans running back Chris Johnson. The Steelers’ two main healthy backs, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, are bigger, heavier players, whereas Johnson and Davis are small and quick. Davis was primarily a special teams player at Auburn, and he hasn’t yet played in the NFL. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon. But it’s interesting that the Steelers are specifically bringing in a player to emulate Johnson.

Cromartie-Smith was signed as an undrafted free agent last year and has been a practice-squad guy since then.

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Max Starks Re-Signs With Steelers

Offensive lineman Max Starks writes on Twitter that he has returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Good morning, Steelernation!!!! It is with great pleasure that I thank you for your prayers and support! I’m back!

This is good news for Steelers fans, who are sick of seeing their team’s offensive line struggle to protect Ben Roehtlisberger. The Steelers waived fellow offensive lineman Chris Scott (and not cornerback Bryant McFadden, as one reporter had speculated) to find a place on the roster for Starks, and Behind The Steel Curtain notes that Scott could hook on with the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers.

Starks, a Steelers veteran who has played parts of seven seasons with the team, can play either tackle position, which is good, because tackles Jonathan Scott and Marcus Gilbert have struggled. Starks isn’t likely to start right away, however – he hasn’t played any competitive football in months, and will therefore probably need a few weeks before he’s ready to play too much.

For more on Starks and the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Max Starks Reportedly Could Sign With Steelers Wednesday

Dale Lolley reports that the Steelers could sign former offensive lineman Max Starks on Wednesday in order to address the lack of depth on their offensive line. After watching the offensive line get run over by the Texans' defenders, Starks' return should be a hit with most Steelers fans. It doesn't appear likely, however, that Starks will make a huge impact right away - he hasn't been playing competitive football since being cut.

Also, Lolley thinks Starks could take cornerback Bryant McFadden's roster spot. 

The Steelers like what they've seen of rookies Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen. And William Gay and Keenan Lewis have been solid while McFadden has been out of action the past three weeks – including the last two as a healthy scratch.

That's certainly a possibility. Steelers Depot, though, thinks it's more likely to be Jamon Meredith, an offensive lineman who recently signed and can be released without a lot of fuss.

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Max Starks Could Re-Sign With Steelers

Max Starks visited with the Steelers on Tuesday night, and it's expected that he will be re-signed soon.

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Week 5 NFL Injury Report: Steelers Running Backs Rashard Mendenhall And Mewelde Moore Banged Up

While Steelers injury headlines focus on Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison, Mike Tomlin struggles to find healthy and able bodies to fill in at running back.

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Steelers Stats At Quarter Pole: Team Offense Edition

Tunch Ilkin once said in an interview with Behind the Steel Curtain that the NFL changes every four games. What he meant really is that teams' fortunes can change, for better or worse, every four games. Think the Steelers are in a world of trouble right now? You wouldn't be alone. But four games from now, they might look nothing like the team that's struggled to stop the run, force turnovers or protect the quarterback. Let's sure hope that Ilkin's words of wisdom ring true this season, as I don't think anybody would argue that the Steelers' level of play through the first quarter of the 2011 season has been sub-par and not nearly good enough to contend for a playoff spot.

With one-quarter of the season in the books, let's take a look at some individual and team statistics this week, beginning with the team offensive stats. 

TEAM OFFENSIVE STATS (league rank):

  • Points/Game: 16.0 (27th)
  • Yards/Game: 359.2 (13th)
  • Passing Yards/Game: 265.5 (10th)
  • Rushing Yards/Game: 93.8 (21st)
  • Yards/Rush: 3.7 (t-24th)
  • Sacks Allowed: 14 (t-3rd)
  • 3rd Down %: 47.1 % (6th)
  • Time of Possesion:32:07 (7th)
  • Giveaways: 11 (t-1st)
  • Turnover Differential:-10 (32nd)

Thoughts:

  • Obviously the stat that matters most (aside from the W-L column) is points scored. And quite simply, the Steelers aren't putting enough points on the board to survive.
  • The good news though is that they're faring sufficiently well in other key statistical categories -- yards/game, time of possession, and third down percentage. Those last two are particularly important, and you'll notice that the small handful of teams above Pittsburgh in those departments are sporting winning records and playing good football.
  • Doesn't matter if you possess the ball and move the chains if you're turning the ball over that frequently, and not getting much help from the defense in return with takeaways.
  • Sacks continue to be a problem, though as is the case every year, a percentage of the 14 sacks of Roethlisberger could have been avoided by Big Ben getting rid of the ball more quickly.

Next up: Team Defense.

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Steelers Vs. Titans: Pittsburgh Looks To Avoid Third Conference Loss In Sunday Matchup With Tennessee

It’s only Tuesday, which means we have plenty of time to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ upcoming matchup with the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field on Sunday. Tuesday brought the unfortunate news that the Steelers would be without the services of James Harrison, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, for potentially 4-6 weeks due to the broken orbital bone he sustained during the team’s Week 4 loss to the Houston Texans.

The loss is a big blow to a Steelers team that can ill-afford to drop a third AFC game this early in the season. Of course, at the end of the day, the Steelers primary goal is to win the AFC North. But were Baltimore to win the division, the Steelers would fight for a Wild Card berth, which is determined by conference record in the event of a tie in the standings.

There’s a lot of football to be played before we can start talking about playoff positioning, but it’s worth keeping in mind this Sunday when the Tennessee Titans come to town. The Steelers already have two AFC losses — against Baltimore and Houston. Assuming either Tennessee or Houston wins the AFC South, the other might be in contention for one of those two precious Wild Card spots. The Steelers would need to finish a full game clear of either in order to get the nod and have their postseason ticket punched.

Here’s one tidbit of good news though for anyone that’s excessively alarmed by the 2-2 start to the season: in five of the past ten seasons, a team has advanced to the Super Bowl after starting out the year 2-2. Three of those clubs – 2001 Patriots (1-3), 2003 Patriots (2-2) and 2007 Giants (2-2) – went on to win the Super Bowl.

Stay tuned here and at Behind the Steel Curtain for more coverage leading up to Pittsburgh’s Week 5 showdown with the Titans.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Pittsburgh Considers Signing Tristan Davis To Imitate Chris Johnson In Practice

Scott Brown tweets that the Steelers are having former Auburn running back Tristan Davis take a physical for them. The Steelers are currently banged up at running back, with both Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore dealing with injuries. But if the Steelers sign Davis, that wouldn’t be the reason why.

Steelers need someone to emulate Chris Johnson in practice this week, hence Davis visit.

Davis, 25, didn’t even play too terribly much at Auburn – he rushed for only 253 yards in his entire career and was really more of a kick return specialist. Don’t expect him to make much of an impact with the Steelers, if they even sign him.

Johnson has struggled so far this year, averaging only 2.9 yards per carry, but he had 101 yards in the Titans’ 31-13 win over the Browns this week.

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Ben Roethlisberger Injury: Mike Tomlin Expects Steelers Star To Play Against Titans

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he expects quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is dealing with a foot injury, to be ready to play this week against the Tennessee Titans.

Tomlin “Based on the information i have now, we expect Ben to be limited in the early part of week, and ready by weekend”

This was about what we expected. Roethlisberger typically fights hard through injuries and is willing to play through them. If the foot wasn’t going to fall off, Roethlisberger was probably going to play. (Tomlin confirms that the injury is a sprain, not a break.)

This injury could bother him for a while, though, and the Steelers’ patchwork offensive line probably won’t give him the protection he needs, so the most urgent issue probably isn’t whether he will play, but whether he will survive if he does. Roethlisberger will do everything possible to stay on the field, but these next couple weeks are probably going to be very tough for him.

For more on Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Ben Roethlisberger Injury Update: Steelers QB Sprains Foot, Could Miss Next Game

The Pittsburgh Steelers have determined the injury quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered during his team's 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday is a sprained left foot, reports Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com, citing sources. The upshot is that Roethlisberger's foot is not broken, as initially feared after the game. Still, the injury could force him to miss this Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, though Mortensen's sources declined to speculate as to Roethlisberger's status for that game.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger has played through foot pain before, taking the field last season even with a broken right foot. With the Steelers languishing at 2-2, they need Roethlisberger relatively healthy if they are to get back into contention in the AFC North.

That fact becomes especially apparent when one considers Pittsburgh's alternatives at quarterback. 37-year-old Charlie Batch is Roethlisberger's backup, with Dennis Dixon serving as the third-stringer. Batch has thrown just 51 passes in the last two seasons, while the 26-year-old Dixon has made only four appearances in his three-year professional career.

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Titans Vs. Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger Wants To Play Through Injury

Scott Brown reports that Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers aren't sure whether the quarterback will play against the Titans this week after injuring his foot in Pittsburgh's mess of a loss against Houston. He will have an MRI to help determine the severity of the injury. It sounds like Roethlisberger will do his best to be ready for the Titans, and will play if at all possible:

"If I can be out there, I'm going to be out there," Roethlisberger said after completing 16 of 30 passes for 206 yards and one interception. "If I have to cast it up — we saw I had to do that last year — I cast up my foot for the last half of the year. If we have to do it, I'll do it."

Good luck to Roethlisberger in staying healthy while playing behind the Steelers' current offensive line. If I were Roethlisberger, the last thing I would want would be to be walking wounded at the quarterback position while Trai Essex and company are getting run over out there. 

For more on Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Ben Roethlisberger Injury Update: Leaves Reliant Stadium On Crutches And With Walking Boot On Left Foot

After a rough day in Houston, Big Ben is seen leaving the locker room on crutches and in a walking boot.

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