The Pittsburgh Steelers faithful had to wait a long time for their offense to finally put together a great performance in the National Football League and it came in the second half of the team's 40-17 win over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown had big nights but they were given the platform to do so by a standout performance from the Steelers' secondary. On the other side, Marcus Mariota had a game to forget about with four interceptions and a night of drops by his receivers.
The Titans limit the Steelers' offensive drives to some field goals
The game started quickly for both teams as they found a touchdown each early in the game. Roethlisberger and Brown combined to produce a 41-yard passing touchdown with only three minutes gone after the starting kick off. Tennessee responded later on in the quarter as Mariota scrambled for four yards to put his team on the board.
During the first half of the game, Mariota was picked off twice, once by Mike Hilton and then by former Titans player, Coty Sensabaugh. On both occasions, even with good field position, the Steelers could not punch the ball in and ended up having to settle for field goals instead. Fortunately for the Steelers, Chris Boswell was having a great night which was capped off at the end of the half with a 50-yard field goal that put the Steelers up 16-7 as both teams went into the locker room. Boswell's accuracy proved to be vital as Titans kicker Ryan Succop had his field goal attempt blocked by T. J. Watt in the second quarter which kept the Steelers ahead.
Tennesse come out of the locker room roaring
The second half started with a shock to the system for the Steelers. On their opening drive, the Titans scored their second touchdown when Mariota found Rishard Matthews on a 75-yard touchdown play. It brought the Titans within two points of the Steelers as they looked to not only hang in there but pull off an upset. Roethlisberger and company made that a little more difficult by immediately responding with a touchdown of their own as Brown got his second of four touchdowns on the night.
The game was pretty much decided for the Titans after one particular play in the third quarter. The offense marched down the field again, finding space with similar routes to that of their touchdown. They got into the red zone and Mariota picked out tight end Delanie Walker in the end zone completely unmarked. The player then proceeded to drop the ball on what should have been a straightforward touchdown and then the drive was halted as Mariota was sacked by Cam Heyward on third down. The Steelers defense had gotten their confidence back, began to create big plays and thus, give their offense great field positions to work from.
Brown finishes off the Titans
As previously mentioned, Antonio Brown ended his night with four touchdowns and 146 receiving yards. The passing game was vital for Pittsburgh after Tennesse had managed to limit Le'Veon Bell's impact through his running. That meant that the likes of Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, Martavis Bryant and Jesse James became Roethlisberger's go-tos as he looked to slow down the Titans pass rush. Bell had thought he had gotten his first touchdown of the night at the end of the third quarter but the ruling on the field was overturned.
Pittsburgh were undeterred and the quarterback found his tight end James with a well-sold fake run that allowed James to sneak into the end zone untouched. Brown and Smith-Schuster's ability to not only run good routes but also make tough catches made it easier for the Steelers to establish drives during the fourth quarter and Brown saved his best touchdown catch for last as he used his helmet to hang onto the ball in the end zone for a five yard touchdown catch.
The Pittsburgh defense did the rest and finished their night off with four interceptions and five sacks, two by Heyward. All of those turnovers came at key moments in the game and showed just how good the Steelers' defense has gotten this year. Their offense has all the big names and talent but the Pittsburgh defense have been playing at a very high level and helped their team to five road wins out of six, putting them on top of the AFC for the time being.