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(Thursday, September 10th)
Final Score: Pittsburgh 13, Tennessee 10 (OT)
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Jeff Reed's 33-yard field goal split the uprights in overtime -- allowing Hines Ward to exhale -- and giving the defending Super Bowl-champion Pittsburgh Steelers a 13-10 victory over Tennessee in the season opener for both teams.
Without a ground game, Ben Roethlisberger worked in a no-huddle offense down the stretch in orchestrating his 18th come-from-behind victory since 2004, the most in the NFL during that stretch.
"I didn't want to start these fourth-quarter comebacks already. But a win is a win. And we will take it," said Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger threw for 363 yards on 33-of-43 passing, with Santonio Holmes hauling in nine passes for 131 yards and Ward catching eight passes for 103 yards.
Despite the 100-plus-yard game, Ward made a mistake that brought him to near tears late in the fourth, as he fumbled at the Titans four-yard line when he could have fallen to the ground and allowed the team to attempt a chip shot field goal in the waning seconds.
However, Pittsburgh (1-0) regrouped in overtime, moving authoritatively down the field for the game-winner, set up by a 22-yard pass to rookie Mike Wallace. The final drive took four minutes, 32 seconds and 10 plays, moving the team 63 yards right into Reed's range.
Pittsburgh won without its normal rushing success, averaging just 1.6 yards per carry with 36 net yards on 23 attempts, and losing star safety Troy Polamalu to a second-quarter sprained MCL. The time frame for such an injury is 3-to-6 weeks, according to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, but more will be known in the coming days.
Willie Parker ran for just 19 yards, leaving Roethlisberger on an island, bobbing and weaving in fourth-quarter play reminiscent of his final drive to win Super Bowl XLIII. Heath Miller caught eight passes for 64 yards as the Steelers have won seven straight season openers.
Tennessee (0-1) saw its usually reliable kicker Rob Bironas miss a field goal and have another blocked in the loss. Kerry Collins threw for 244 yards with one touchdown and one interception, dropping his first game in four career games versus Pittsburgh. Chris Johnson ran for 57 yards, but 32 of those came on one play, and Justin Gage caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.
"We played the world champs. If we get some things corrected, we are going to be a good football team," said Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.
A game with so little scoring featured so much action.
The first quarter saw Roethlisberger scramble into a 19-yard sack, taking the Steelers out of long field-goal range, and Polamalu grab an interception with one hand on a Collins deep ball intended for rookie wide out Kenny Britt.
The main star of the first quarter was Tennessee's defense, which held Pittsburgh to one total yard, while the main goat was Bironas, who missed badly wide right from 37 yards away.
The game finally picked up as each offense spread the field late in the first half. After Bironas' 31-yard boot was blocked by Aaron Smith, Roethlisberger navigated the Steelers on a five-play, 79-yard scoring drive culminated by the first touchdown of the 2009 NFL season.
Roethlisberger used the pump fake to perfection, freezing former Steeler safety Chris Hope on the drive's two big pass plays. The first was a 12-yard crossing route to Holmes, and after a four-yard swing pass to Mewelde Moore, Roethlisberger again held Hope with a pump fake and tossed a spiral to a streaking, and wide open, Holmes for a 34-yard score.
With Polamalu out -- and joined on the sideline by cramping linebacker Lamar Woodley -- Collins completed two long passes to tie the game. The first was 57-yard strike to Britt, and the second a basic 14-yard out-and-up route to Gage, as cornerback Ike Taylor was late rotating in the zone. Gage's score capped the first-half scoring with 48 seconds remaining.
The third-quarter was a battle of field position. Pittsburgh gained it early after recovering a Bo Scaife fumble. The tight end strained his left knee on the play and didn't return after catching five passes for 48 yards.
However, Tennessee flipped the field, and by the end of the period, the Steelers were backed up inside their own 20-yard line.
The Titans took advantage on their next drive as Britt hauled in a 15-yard pass then Gage worked the sidelines for 15 yards. The drive eventually stalled, but not before Bironas was true from 45 yards out for a 10-7 lead with 11:03 to play.
Pittsburgh then went into the no-huddle, spreading the field and leaving the game on Roethlisberger's right arm. The 12-play, 56-yard march late in the fourth took over eight minutes off the clock and included a 15-yard pass to Holmes on a 3rd-and-12.
Reed eventually kicked a 32-yarder that wasn't without drama. His plant foot gave out and his right foot struck the ground first, but the low line drive escaped any hands and sailed just over the cross bar.
Tennessee's next drive stalled, setting up what appeared to be Pittsburgh's game-winning march before Ward's fumble caused by Michael Griffin.
The defending Super Bowl champion has now won 10 straight season openers...Parker, despite little room on the ground, did pass 5,000 career rushing yards in the victory...Roethlisberger had five fourth-quarter comebacks last season...Pittsburgh had 357 total yards to 320 for the Titans...Pittsburgh controlled the clock for 36 minutes, 11 seconds compared to 28 minutes, 21 seconds for the Titans...The Steelers hold a 39-29 edge in the all-time series...Britt caught four passes for 85 yards in defeat.
09/11 01:14:11 ET
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