One team played as if they had nothing to lose. Another team played as if they just needed one play to get the knockout punch. And, when it was time to make that one play, the Steelers never delivered. Tennessee capitalized on each opportunity, culminating with Rob Bironas’ game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-23.
There were plays that changed the complexion of Thursday night’s contest. First of all, there was the opening drive where the Titans smacked Pittsburgh in the mouth. Ike Taylor afforded Tennessee with a first and goal situation, thanks to a pass interference penalty. Then, the pride of Pittsburgh swelled as they held Tennessee to three points. This was followed by two successful Steeler drives, resulting in a 10-3 lead.
Everything changed when Drew Butler had his punt blocked and set up the Titans once again with a first and goal from the 1-yard line. On this occasion, Tennessee did not falter as they scored their first rushing touchdown of the season to take a 13-10 lead.
As Pittsburgh plodded down the field running their two-minute offense, it looked like sure points until Ben Roethlisberger tried to fit a pass into too tight of a window in a cover-2 defense and got picked off. This seemed to startle to life the Titans offense, who moved just quickly enough to reach the scoring zone to post another Bironas FG before half to lead 16-10.
Pittsburgh scored 13 unanswered points in the second half to take a 23-16 advantage, but it never felt comfortable. Tennessee continued to gash the defense with steady, solid runs by Chris Johnson. Third down completions, penalties, and a dropped interception were the undoing of Pittsburgh’s secondary of Tennessee’s game-tying drive with just over four minutes to go. Keenan Lewis dropped a gift-wrapped interception in Titans territory that could have all but clinched a Pittsburgh victory. Taylor was once again victimized by a third down holding penalty that would have resulted in a 4th down and 10 attempt. Instead, Tennessee got a first down on the Steelers 10-yard line. Taylor was picked on again in the end zone as Kenny Britt bobbled a ball that Taylor should have at least deflected in the front corner of the end zone. The score was now tied at 23.
Pittsburgh was set up with the opportunity it craves – to win the game late with the ball in the hands of #7. Sure enough, Pittsburgh took time off the clock and approached scoring range. With 54 seconds to go, the drive stalled at the Tennessee 36-yard line. Mike Tomlin was posed with a precarious decision – punt, go for it, or kick a long FG. Tomlin opted for the 54-yard field goal, primarily due to Shaun Suisham making a 52-yard field goal earlier in the quarter. Unfortunately, Suisham’s attempt for a go-ahead score was a few yards shy.
Tennessee took advantage of this golden opportunity with excellent field position by converting two third down plays, including a huge 25-yard pass to Jared Cook that took advantage of a blitzing scheme to reach the scoring zone. Bironas capped the evening with his fourth field goal to send the Titan faithful at LP Field home happy with a 26-23 shocking upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As was seen in Oakland, against Philadelphia, the team that lines up for a last second field goal was the winner.
You Win Some, You Lose Some
On an otherwise terrible night, Roethlisberger passed Terry Bradshaw for most all-time passing yards as a Steeler. This occurred fittingly as Heath Miller caught yet another crucial 3rd down pass.
Chris Rainey had an explosive kickoff return.
Best noise I hear in road stadiums – HEEEEAAAAAATH!!!!
Isaac Redman’s escapeability – Ike has the ability to pivot and break tackles like a pinball. What “change of pace” back gets 100+ receiving yards in a game? This one, apparently.
Baron Batch, pressed into service, scored a huge 3rd down TD on the goal line. Not too bad for a guy of his stature in and amongst the trees.
Defensive Secondary – Penalties, blown coverage, missed interceptions / deflections. Too many culprits…the blame can be shared by everyone.
Run game – the Steelers had eleven rushing yards in the first half. ELEVEN!
Injuries – Losing Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, Rashard Mendenhall, and Isaac Redman to injury didn’t help, but weren’t the reason that this game was lost. It may hurt them in future weeks.
On the punt block, the middle of the line was completely overwhelmed. This was the first game-changing play.
There was way too much emphasis on the pass and the running plays were not well-disguised. On the run plays, the O-line could not block anybody or open any holes.
Red Zone Offense
First Down Defense – Chris Johnson seemed to get 6-8 yards per carry on each first down run. The Steelers D-line got bowled over, and allowed manageable third down conversions to Tennessee.
Ike Taylor – Has Pittsburgh’s #1 shutdown corner become a liability? He gets picked on (successfully) with regularity.
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.