The defensive mentality: As the 2012 season ended, the Titans were already talking about the need to be more aggressive. Then Mike Munchak brought in Gregg Williams as a senior assistant/defense.
Munchak emphasized that defensive coordinator Jerry Gray called the Pittsburgh game. And the Titans didn’t go crazy with blitzing the way Williams’s defenses have in the past.
But the defense was well-prepared to keep Ben Roethlisberger hemmed in the pocket. The Titans sacked him five times. Though the Steelers found some plays to Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Jericho Cotchery, the biggest pass play was 22 yards.
Williams' influence and the swagger he brings seemed to be at work, at least to a degree. As I’ve said before, Gray is in a no-win situation. We’ll look at improvements because of Williams, and if they are bad we’ll say it’s the same old stuff.
Jake Locker's poise: One of his biggest issues has been his desire to do too much. So one of the Titans' biggest goals has been to shape a team that can shape games where he doesn’t feel like he has to overreach. And he didn’t overreach in Pittsburgh.
He was calm and efficient. He misfired a few times. But we’ve said in the right sort of context he could be a bit like former Titans quarterback Steve McNair, where the numbers don’t always look as good as the quarterbacking.
That was the case here. Locker did his part.
I think his confidence grew through a preseason where he showed steady improvement. And I am sure it will grow some more from helping engineer a tough win in a tough place against a tough defense.
Three tight ends: The Titans used a three-tight-end formation quite a bit, mostly with Damian Williams on the field as the lone receiver and a running back behind Locker.
By the count of Terry McCormick of Titan Insider, the Titans gave up a sack and threw just twice in 17 snaps with three tight ends, some of which was with Williams and a back, and some of which was with two backs. Locker threw incomplete once and connected on a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Nate Washington.
Williams said it won’t be too predictable.
“Sometime in that formation, you’ve got three tight ends and a receiver, that’s four eligible receivers that are capable of catching the ball,” he said. “You do have to throw out of it to keep them honest.”
Third-down defense: The Titans gave up some third-and-long conversions in their preseason game in Cincinnati that were of particular concern. The Steelers converted third-and-8, third-and-9 and third-and-8, respectively, on their opening possession.
That left me thinking the Titans were going to have some serious issues. But they settled down and played really well on third down the rest of the way, allowing the Steelers to convert just one of 10 the rest of the game.
“We knew those weren’t good on our part and those third downs were long, we weren’t happy,” cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “We came back to the sideline and said, ‘We can’t have that happen.’ We were able to respond.”