- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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Ripple effect: The knee injury that knocked Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey out of the game in the first quarter had a domino effect as it pressed Kelvin Beachum into duty at center. The Steelers experimented with the ultra-versatile Beachum in the preseason, using the second-year man as a sixth lineman/eligible receiver. They had planned to use him extensively in that role to help a running game that spun its wheels against the Titans. "We had a lot of plays with Beachum at tight end, and him not being able to play tight end we had to change our scheme of what we wanted to do in certain situations," running back Isaac Redman said. "But we’ve still got to go out and be able to execute." The Steelers averaged a paltry 2.1 yards on 15 rushes.
Missing in action: Heath Miller can’t come back soon enough from reconstructive knee surgery. Steelers tight ends managed only one catch for 11 yards against the Titans. David Paulson, the best receiver among the three tight ends who are healthy, didn’t have a catch in the Steelers’ opener. Miller, the Steelers’ MVP in 2012, is one of the best all-around tight ends in the NFL. His return would help the running game. It also would take pressure off starting wide receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, and provide quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with one of his favorite targets. Miller appears to be closer to returning as he practiced last week on a limited basis.
Numbers game: Mike Tomlin made some puzzling decisions even before kickoff Sunday. The seventh-year coach dressed only seven offensive linemen, and the Steelers were left with one healthy reserve after Pouncey went down. The Steelers went with five wide receivers even though first-year man Derek Moye didn’t play many snaps. Starting fullback Will Johnson played only on special teams after returning to action from a hamstring injury. Tomlin said the Steelers did not use Johnson on offense because they did not know if he would be able to play against the Titans until after the game plan had been installed. It did not help Johnson either that the Steelers ran the ball only 15 times. “He was there if we needed him,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, due to game circumstances, we did not get a chance to use him much.”
Solid but not spectacular: A defense that allowed an NFL-best 275.8 yards per game last season limited the Titans to 229 total yards. It also yielded only one touchdown and three field goals. “Our goal is to hold teams to 17 points or less,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. What left the defensive players disappointed is they didn’t help the Steelers win the turnover battle or put more pressure on Titans quarterback Jake Locker. The Steelers were -10 in turnover differential last season. They didn’t have any takeaways Sunday and committed two.