F. Dale Lolley Column
Steelers should run home opener streak to 11
Look for Steelers to build upon winning streak in home openers
Does a 0-4 preseason mean anything to the Steelers?
As quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said this week, he couldn’t tell you what their record is in the preseason since he’s been here. It’s 24-17, in case you’re wondering.
The people who set the betting lines in Las Vegas apparently don’t care the Steelers went winless in the preseason, either.
Pittsburgh opens the regular season at home today against Tennessee as a 7-point favorite, a nice-sized spread to be sure, especially considering the Titans beat the Steelers, 26-23, in Nashville last season.
But Pittsburgh has won 10 consecutive home openers, the longest active streak in the NFL, including all six of head coach Mike Tomlin’s home openers.
That streak is unlikely to end today, despite the Steelers’ struggles in the preseason.
The Steelers are healthier than they were at any point in 2012, a season that saw them stumble after a 6-3 start to an 8-8 finish.
Linebacker James Harrison and safety Ryan Clark missed last year’s opener in Denver, and when Clark returned, safety Troy Polamalu was out. By the time Polamalu returned later in the season, cornerback Ike Taylor went down with a broken bone in his leg.
And Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and a number of offensive linemen missed significant chunks of time in 2012.
It seemed as if every time the Steelers would get one key player back, two more would get hurt.
Tomlin likes to remind us the standard doesn’t change when backups enter the game, but when you’ve got backups all over the field, it’s silly to think there won’t be some kind of falloff. If there wasn’t, those players wouldn’t be backups to begin with.
Pittsburgh’s run defense looked outstanding in the preseason, limiting opposing starting running backs to 38 yards on 16 carries. It will face another challenge today in Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, whom the Steelers have not allowed to rush for more than 100 yards in any of their previous five meetings.
The Steelers will shut down Johnson again today and start the season off with a bang with a 24-13 victory.
In two games against the Lions last season, Adrian Peterson ran for 273 yards and a touchdown.
Take Minnesota, 23-20.
Rookie E.J. Manuel becomes the latest Bills starting quarterback, but Tom Brady and the Patriots have won 18 of the past 19 against Buffalo.
Take New England, 31-9.
I don’t think the Colts will repeat as a playoff team this season, but Oakland has the worst collection of talent in the league.
Take Indianapolis, 27-13.
Robert Griffin III will return to start for Washington after missing the preseason. Something tells me Philadelphia wins Chip Kelly’s coaching debut.
Take Philadelphia, 24-20.
The Packers are my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this season. But this is a tough opener.
Take Green Bay to cover in a 24-20 loss.
Sean Payton is 10-2 against the Falcons and returns to the sideline after his year suspension.
Take New Orleans, 31-27.
Seattle coming East always seems to struggle, but after not having a game – at least one that mattered last week – that shouldn’t matter.
Take Seattle, 27-17.
Both of these teams should be improved this season. The Rams swept the Cardinals in 2012.
Take St. Louis, 24-17.
Geno Smith gets the start for the Jets, while Darrelle Revis returns to New York for the Bucs.
Take Tampa Bay, 23-9.
The Giants have won six of the past eight against the Cowboys, including 29-24 last year in Dallas.
Take the Giants, 29-24.
Chicago’s defense is one of the better and opportunistic units in the NFL. Working in front of a home crowd, that will be the difference.
Take Chicago, 17-13.
Miami has been better on the road than at home in recent seasons, though Cleveland has surprisingly won four straight against the Dolphins.
Take Miami, 20-17.
The Texans just have too much talent for San Diego.
Take Houston, 30-17.
Both went 2-14 in 2012. But Kansas City went out and got a quarterback in Alex Smith. Jacksonville is sticking with Blaine Gabbert.
Take Kansas City, 23-13.
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at email@example.com