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Steelers spotlight

Jerry DiPaola

OUCH!: The Steelers’ first possession of the game lasted 9 minutes, 17 seconds and cost the Titans three injuries. Linebacker Peter Sirmon hurt his back and left the field on a cart after a crunching block from fullback Dan Kreider. Defensive ends James Atkins and Carlos Hall were also staggered by hard hits, but returned for the next series. Sirmon didn’t return, but his replacement Rocky Boiman returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

CLEVER GUY: Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey gained 20 of 64 yards on a first-half touchdown drive — almost one-third of the total — with consecutive trick plays. First, Amos Zereoue took a direct snap from center while quarterback Tommy Maddox was walking down the line of scrimmage, apparently barking instructions. Zereoue slipped and fell after a 5-yard run. Then, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El lined up as the quarterback in shotgun formation and ran 15 yards for a first down.

SHUT YOUR MOUTH: Steelers right tackle Todd Fordham, normally a mild-mannered guy, hollered at head linesman Tony Veteri, insisting that Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse was offsides in the second quarter. Veteri didn’t pay any attention to Fordham, but Kearse did. He hollered at Fordham.

NO FLOW: Steelers coach Bill Cowher made an exceptional effort to keep starting running back Amos Zereoue in the flow of the game, but he gained only 51 yards on 18 carries — zero yards on eight carries in the second half.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Titans lost the battle of possession in the first quarter, 13:03-1:57, and the first half, 21:13-8:47. … With nine receptions for the third time this season, Hines Ward moved past Louis Lipps and into second place on the Steelers’ all-time reception list with 361. Next up: Hall of Famer John Stallworth with 537. … The crowd of 63,244 was the fourth-largest at Heinz Field (second in the regular season).


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