Rapid Reaction: Titans 26, Steelers 23
October, 11, 2012
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 26-23 loss at the Tennessee Titans:
What it means: The Steelers (2-3) fell two games back of the division-leading Ravens because they fell short on the road again. This marked the second time they started 0-3 on the road in the past 20 years (also 2006, Bill Cowher’s final season). It ended a three-game winning streak against the Titans.
Coming up short: Five days after winning in the final seconds, the Steelers couldn't do it again. Following Shaun Suisham's missed field goal attempt from 54 yards, the Steelers allowed the Titans to win the game on a 40-yard field goal by Rob Bironas. The key play was a 25-yard catch by tight end Jared Cook, who beat linebacker James Harrison in coverage.
Bad night for Ike: Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor extended a fourth-quarter drive with a holding penalty on third down and finished it by allowing a 5-yard touchdown to Kenny Britt. That tied the score at 23. In the first quarter, Taylor had a pass interference penalty and gave up a 31-yard pass, which led to two field goals. Taylor leads the NFL with four pass interference penalties this year.
Running on fumes: The Steelers entered the fourth quarter with their top two running backs hurt. It didn't matter to the Steelers, who gave it to Baron Batch for a 1-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. It put the Steelers up 20-16. It was also noteworthy because this was just the second rushing touchdown of the season for the Steelers. They had been tied for second worst in the league with the Jets, Raiders, Jaguars and Cowboys, all with one touchdown each. Rashard Mendenhall has an Achilles injury, and Isaac Redman hurt his ankle.
Timely turnover: After the Steelers took that fourth-quarter lead, their defense did something rare -- it forced a turnover. Cornerback Cortez Allen blitzed Matt Hasselbeck, who hurried a throw right to linebacker Lawrence Timmons. This was the second interception of the season for the Steelers. Only the Lions and Raiders had fewer. The Steelers converted that into a career-long 52-yard field goal by Suisham.
Suisham no longer perfect: A week after hitting the game winner against the Eagles, Suisham couldn't do it again. With 54 seconds left in a tied game, Suisham's 54-yard field goal attempt fell short. He had converted his first 11 field goals of the season and was named the AFC special-teams player of the week a few days ago. For some reason, the Steelers called timeout before Suisham's kick, which essentially iced him.
Roethlisberger passes Bradshaw: Lost in the Steelers' go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter was Ben Roethlisberger surpassing Terry Bradshaw as the Steelers' all-time leading passer. It came on a critical third down when Roethlisberger stepped up and hit tight end Heath Miller for a 17-yard gain. Roethlisberger needed only 119 games to break the record, 49 fewer than Bradshaw.
Injuries mount on offensive line: The Steelers lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (right leg) in the first quarter and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (right ankle) in the second quarter. Doug Legursky replaced Pouncey and rookie Mike Adams took over for Gilbert as the Steelers had no other healthy backups left. That meant that three projected starters on the offensive line (right guard David DeCastro was hurt in the preseason) were sidelined.
Another impressive mark: Before hurting his ankle, Redman became the first Steelers running back to have more than 100 yards receiving in 42 years. The last to do so was John "Frenchy" Fuqua in 1970. Redman only had 45 yards receiving in his first four games.
Costly mistake on special teams: Ahead 10-6 late in the first quarter, the Steelers had a punt blocked deep in their territory. Ryan Mundy, who didn't start for Troy Polamalu because of costly penalties, missed a Titans player coming up the middle. Tennessee took over at the Pittsburgh 1-yard line and scored a touchdown two plays later.
What's next: The Steelers have their second straight prime-time game, but they'll have more time for this one. Pittsburgh has 10 days until it plays Sunday night at Cincinnati (3-2), which is 5-5 at Paul Brown Stadium since the start of the 2011 season.