We Had ‘Em All the Way: Titans @ Steelers
For whatever reason, I was far more nervous for this game than any I have watched this season. (Had I not already known the outcome, last Sunday’s game might hold that distinction.) Talk about thrills and chills, as Ivan would have it. Opening drive: Touchdown! Sweet! First Tennesse drive: Interception!! Even better!
But things quickly went—well, perhaps not south, but definitely in a southerly direction. There was the niggling worry that the Steelers couldn’t turn a drive that started at the TEN 24 into seven points. And then the Titans offense coolly sauntered out and put up a touchdown, and suddenly the lead was down to three points.
That’s when I started to get the shakes. The Steelers went three-and-out, and the Titans had another nice long drive (if you’re a Titans fan, although they had to settle for a field goal. But wait! I should have realized that however it might look, it was the Steelers’ night, because the field goal attempt was blocked! Hooray for the good guys!
Not that the Steelers made it comfortable, or at least not until well into the second half. But a lot of good stuff was happening, and eventually the offense got back off the schneide and did what they were supposed to be doing all season—put up lots of points and make it look easy in the process. So now for the Acceptable, the Objectionable, and the Appalling:
I’ll begin with the Appalling, and that’s the referees apparently not knowing the rule changes for fumbles in under two minutes left in the half. The AB catch that got knocked out and was recovered by Martavis Bryant should have, by rule, been spotted where it was fumbled, not where it ended up. And even though this benefitted the Steelers, I really think the refs ought to get it right.
Had that been called correctly, Boswell’s 50-yard field goal attempt (which he made) would have been a great many more yards than 50, and the Steelers would have had to punt. Or so I assume. Perhaps it wouldn’t have made a lot of difference, since there were less than 20 seconds left in the half, but you never know.
Once again, I suppose I should have taken this as a sign that all would be well, but frankly a nine-point lead didn’t feel like nearly enough. Especially when the Titans came out and scored on their first play of the second half. I’m getting tired of that narrative, but since the Steelers won I’m just going to put it into the Objectionable category. And since they won by quite a lot, I’m just going to move right along to the Acceptable category.
I’m sure we’ll discuss some of the stuff that was less than optimal in the coming days—we have a lot of time to kill before the next Steelers game, after all. But here are a few things I found rather more than Acceptable:
Four picks and five sacks by the defense—the first time they’ve done that in 30 years. Mike Tomlin, who was complaining about the -1 takeaway/giveaway ratio last week, must be a bit happier after tonight.
Cameron Heyward, who went down in the fourth quarter and didn’t look good at all, was back a few plays later. Hopefully we dodged a major bullet there. You’ve got a week and a half to heal, Cam!
Three touchdowns to Antonio Brown, including the crazy helmet catch, which was rather reminiscent of one of the first big plays of his career. Three touchdowns matches his career high, achieved last year right about this time against the Colts.
Coty Sensabaugh, in relief of Joe Haden, had one interception and almost had another. Robert Golden, in relief of Mike Mitchell, had an interception. L. T. Walton had a sack of Mariota. The Revenge of the Back-ups, I suppose you might say. Not that I didn’t appreciate the interceptions from regulars Mike Hilton and Sean Davis, or the sacks from Vince Williams, Cam Heyward (two of them), and Stephon Tuitt.
45 pass attempts for Ben and 12 rushing attempts for Le’Veon has not typically been a recipe for success. How refreshing that it actually worked. It seemed like as the game wore on Ben and his boys started to get some of their mojo back. And four touchdowns makes a nice accompaniment to four field goals. Makes the latter more palatable.
And speaking of the latter, the kicking game was almost uniformly excellent. Special teams was generally on the ball, as the TEN returner (Adoree Jackson) is a handful. And no special teams penalties on the PIT side, either, at least as far as I noticed.
NO Pittsburgh turnovers. That’s huge.
And while we’re at it, let’s note the Steelers offense finally broke through the Mendoza line of football for the first time this season, getting not just 30 but 40 points. Very gratifying.
And the most important of all—the Steelers are now 8-2, Mike Tomlin’s best start to a season ever. In fact, this now means the Steelers are 17-3 in their last 20 games. I’d say that’s pretty dang acceptable.
And with that I will say adieu. It’s past my bedtime. I’m sure we will have more to say about this. Amazing how much more fun it is to write about wins than losses, even measly wins against inferior opponents such as last Sunday’s tilt. A decisive win against a very respectable opponent? Practically priceless.*
*As was the obviously genuine and heartfelt hugs, plural, between Ben Roethliberger and Dick LeBeau after the game was over. It was quite sweet.