Starting Dennis Dixon forces Steelers to get back to their roots

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 12: Rashard Mendenhall  of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs through the Atlanta Falcons defense during the NFL season opener game on September 12, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

For decades, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been known for two things: playing defense and running the ball down opponents’ throats.

Under head coach Mike Tomlin, they haven’t gotten away from playing defense, but the running-the-ball-down-opponents’-throats-thing has kind of gotten away from them.

On Sunday, they did both things well in a hard-fought 15-9 win over the Falcons in overtime. They held Atlanta’s offense to 58 yards rushing and three field goals, while gaining 143 yards on the ground, which included a 50-yard touchdown burst by Rashard Mendenhall to win the game.

One thing that will get overlooked about Pittsburgh’s big rushing day was the fact that they had to start Dennis Dixon at quarterback because Ben Roethlisberger was suspended. With Dixon under center, the passing game was extremely limited. And with the game being tight throughout, OC Bruce Arians almost had to keep the ball on the ground and his young quarterback out of pivotal passing situations.

The end result was a big win for a Steelers team that needs to at least split their first four games while Big Ben is out. Dixon certainly wasn’t flawless (he skipped throws into receivers all day and threw a brutal interception late in the first half with his team driving for a score), but he made a couple of key throws to keep the chains moving in the second half and allowed the defense and Mendenhall to win the game in the end.

Pittsburgh fans had to love what they saw today. That was good ol’ fashioned Steeler football at its best.

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