What we learned from Steelers' win over Titans

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  • By Jelani Scott NFL.com
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Both the Steelers and Titans played the majority of their starters but it was the first-teamers in black and yellow that walked away with the W after a dominant showing. Here's what we learned on Sunday night:

Pittsburgh Steelers 18, Tennessee Titans 6


1. The Steelers first-team defense made so many plays in the first half that acknowledging their success started to sound like a roll call. Stephon Tuitt. Cameron Heyward. T.J. Watt. And even the new kid in class, Devin Bush. Each player made an impression, besting Tennessee's offense in a variety of ways early and often. After a three-play, 10-yard Titans opening series -- a sequence that saw Bush engulf Titans running back Dion Lewis almost immediately after securing a handoff for no gain -- the Steelers took little time to top their first act.

Following a pass breakup by safety Terrell Edmunds and with the Titans pinned on their own 4 after a punt, Tuitt bypassed two offensive linemen to sack quarterback Marcus Mariota for a safety. The six-year defensive end wasn't done, though, as he would force fourth down on the Titans' next series, this time bringing down backup QB Ryan Tannehill. Bush and Watt held it down for the linebackers, with the latter showing his versatility on consecutive plays, covering slot wideout Adam Humphries before breaking through a double team to bring down RB Jeremy McNichols. Heyward joined fellow DE Tuitt in the sack column, tackling Tannehill to force a punt late in the half. Weakside LB Vince Williams also added a sack, pushing the total to four in the first 30 minutes. In all, defensive coordinator Keith Butler's starting group held Tennessee to a field goal through two quarters, an encouraging stat for a group that will travel to Foxborough in Week 1.

2. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made his preseason debut and wasted little time testing out his connection with JuJu Smith-Schuster, his new No. 1 wideout. On Pittsburgh's third drive of the night, Big Ben strung together three passes for a gain of 21 yards to help position the Steelers for a shot at the endzone.

After RBs James Conner and Trey Edmunds rushed for three yards each on back-to-back plays, Roethlisberger dropped a nice 17-yard pass into the waiting hands of Smith-Schuster to give both their first preseason TD. Roethlisberger would exit the game after going 8-of-13 for 63 yards in 19 plays. Smith-Schuster's night ended not long after; he left with four receptions for 37 yards.

3. Two drives was all Titans coach Mike Vrabel needed to see before pulling Mariota in the first quarter. Thanks to the constant Steelers pressure and a couple missed opportunities, the incumbent starter had an off night, going 0-for-3 and being sacked once for a safety. Tannehill didn't fare much better after taking over for Mariota at the 4:25 mark in the 1Q; the eight-year vet threw for 63 yards and was sacked three times.

"We knew coming in that was a strength of their football team," Vrabel said of the Steelers' front line after the game. "Give them credit in what they did. I've got to do a better job in making sure we're ready to go and find ways to protect the pressure."

The O-line was a glaring area of weakness all game -- they allowed seven sacks on the night -- but Mariota and Tannehill's inability to get the offense going is notable considering how both could conceivably start the season as QB1. Two weeks ago, Mariota said he's competing against himself and nights like this won't help that cause with Week 1 rapidly approaching.

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