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Sunday, October 9, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Steelers 38, Titans 17

By Jamison Hensley

PITTSBURGH -- Thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 38-17 win against the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: The early demise of the Steelers has been greatly exaggerated. After getting pushed around by Houston last week, Pittsburgh was the bully on the field against a Titans team that had convincing wins over two AFC North teams (Baltimore and Cleveland). It didn't matter that four starters were sidelined (nose tackle Casey Hampton, linebacker James Harrison, defensive end Aaron Smith and left guard Chris Kemoeatu), their starting running back (Rashard Mendenhall) didn't get on the field because of a hamstring injury and their starting quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) played with a sprained foot.

Thumbs up: The Steelers' maligned offensive line. Pittsburgh opened up big holes for its backup running backs, including an especially big one that sprung Jonathan Dwyer for 76 yards. The line also protected its hurt quarterback, even though Roethlisberger did get the ball away quicker Sunday. On the touchdown pass to Heath Miller, Roethlisberger had time to pump and look to his left before finding the tight end over the middle.

Delivering some pain: Despite playing with specialized footwear for his sprained left foot, Roethlisberger had one of the best games of his career, throwing five touchdowns. It marked the fourth time in Roethlisberger's career that he had at least four touchdown passes in a game. He had only three touchdown passes in the four games before the injury.

Capitalizing on "special" play early: A 52-yard kickoff return from Antonio Brown set up the Steelers' first touchdown, and a 33-yard pass from punter Daniel Sepulveda on a fake at midfield led to Pittsburgh's second touchdown. But the Steelers' special teams tried to give that lead back in the second half after failing to recover an onside kick and getting a punt blocked.

Timely takeaway: Speaking of that onside kick, the Steelers' defense didn't let the Titans keep the momentum. On the next play, Brett Keisel deflected Matt Hasselbeck's pass with his right hand and LaMarr Woodley made the interception. It was just the second turnover forced by the Steelers this season.

What's next: The Steelers stay at home to face the Jacksonville Jaguars.