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Steelers Win Without Ben Roethlisberger ... Barely

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Looks like kicker Jeff Reed owes running back Rashard Mendenhall a couple of cold ones.

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Atlanta Falcons 15-9 in overtime. If this game is any indication of the season to come, expect a lot of hungover Steelers fans on Monday mornings.

However, it's great to see a defense that can step up when it counts and an offense focusing on the running game. Hey, that's Steelers football.

After a missed 40-yard field goal by Reed, the Steelers' usually reliable kicker, with 39 seconds left, the game went into overtime. The Falcons won the coin toss but had to punt after their first possession. Then, at 2:35 into overtime, Mendenhall ran 50 yards for a TD and the win. It was the only touchdown in the entire game and the first offensive play for the Steelers in OT. Mendenhall ended up with 120 yards in 22 carries. Not too shabby, huh? Running back Isaac Redman (6 carries for 19 yards) also looks like he was an excellent pickup for the Steelers.

It was an epic day for Steelers receiver Hines Ward, with his 26th career 100-yard game. He also became the first Steeler ever to have over 11,000 yards. Wow ... that's a lot of yards. Congratulations, Hines, and way to shut up the naysayers who say you're too old to still be effective.

The defense also stepped up brilliantly, limiting the Falcons to three field goals and giving up only 49 yards to running back Michael Turner. Are the defense's fourth-quarter woes a thing of the past? Let's cross our fingers.

Safety Troy Polamalu had an amazing, and I mean amazing interception at the end of the fourth quarter, stepping in front of Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White. Dragging both feet in bounds, holding the ball up with one hand, curly mane flowing in the breeze -- it truly was a thing of beauty.

And even though it didn't count, it's always fun to watch linebacker James Harrison pick up the ball and huff and puff his way into the end zone, slowly losing steam with each stomp, as an entourage of Steelers defenders surround him and cheer him on.

Polamalu's interception set up Reed's missed field goal attempt, when every Steelers fan thought the game was won. Nope, clearly they just felt like making their season opener a little bit more exciting.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 27 in 44 attempts for a total of 252 yards. He threw to White 23 (ahem, 23!!) times, as White seemed to be able to consistently beat cornerback Bryant McFadden. White ended up with 13 catches for 111 yards, a pretty productive afternoon.

Dennis Dixon, the Steelers' third-string quarterback, racked up 18 completions in 26 attempts for 236 yards. It was his second career start. He was also intercepted once and seemed at times to forget which team he was playing for, as he kept throwing to Falcon defenders. Luckily for him, they dropped a lot of potential interceptions. He either didn't recognize what the defense was doing or his aim really sucked. Let's hope it's something he can get better at before facing the Tennessee Titans next week.

But he also had moments of brilliance, like a 52-yard completion to receiver Mike Wallace (doesn't look like we're going to miss Santonio Holmes), and 24- and 25-yard completions to Hines Ward down the middle of the field. Hey, Dixon can only get better ... right? Right?

This is the eighth consecutive season opener the Steelers have won, the best streak in the league. That stat is good, but this one isn't: Converting 4-of-14 attempts on third down. That absolutely has to improve, or the Steelers are going to have to face an incredibly long season.

Also unfortunate: Nose tackle Casey Hampton injured his hamstring, and left tackle Max Starks hurt his left ankle. Both had to leave the game and neither returned, and their status for next week against the Titans is unknown. Let's hope they get better in time.

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