Steelers air it out in win versus Titans
PITTSBURGH — Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau schemes to make opposing offenses “one-dimensional.”
It was his mantra through 16 seasons as a Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coach.
So the Steelers did him a favor upon his return to Heinz Field.
They made themselves one-dimensional from the start and it paid off in a 40-17 victory over the Titans on Thursday night.
“We need to be a team that’s well-balanced, a team that’s capable of running it on anyone, a team that’s capable of throwing it on anyone,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’re very thoughtful about our approach in terms of being able to attack teams in different ways because we realize the challenges that lie ahead. We’ve got to be able to do a lot of things. And so the balance, the potential for that balance, is big for us. Tonight we threw it a lot.”
After rallying the Steelers to a win only four days earlier, Ben Roethlisberger came out throwing against the Titans and finished with four touchdown passes and 299 yards through the air. He completed 30 of 45 passes as the Steelers compiled a more than 2-to-1 pass-run ratio.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns. He entered the weekend leading the NFL in receptions and receiving yardage, and Thursday night went past 1,000 yards for the fifth consecutive season.
Le’Veon Bell, the NFL’s leading rusher, finished with 46 yards on 12 carries, and it was by design.
Bell carried only eight times for 30 yards through three quarters, or until the Steelers put the game away early in the fourth quarter with a spectacular one-handed, ball-pressed-to-helmet 10-yard touchdown catch by Brown that gave the Steelers a 37-17 lead.
“Obviously we were on a short week,” Bell said. “They were telling me they didn’t really want to run me into the ground on a short week. I’ve been getting a lot of touches, so we did the job a different way.
“I’m happy that we got the job done. I still got 21 touches. I had nine catches and 12 carries. It was a good day. I feel good. I feel like I really just had a practice day.”
The Steelers opened the game in a no-huddle attack and needed only six plays to score on a 41-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Brown.
Pittsburgh’s Mike Hilton intercepted Marcus Mariota at midfield to end the Titans’ first possession. Hilton returned the ball 26 yards to set up Chris Boswell’s 41-yard field goal and give the Steelers an early 10-0 lead.
The Titans answered with an 11-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Mariota running seven yards on a third-down play. The touchdown cut the Steelers’ lead to 10-7 with 3:05 left in the first quarter.
The Titans had a chance to tie the score early in the second quarter, but Ryan Succop’s 48-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by T.J. Watt.
The Steelers cooled significantly, but they were able to add to their lead after an interception by Coty Sensabaugh.
The replacement for injured cornerback Joe Haden returned the ball to the Tennessee 20 and Boswell kicked a 28-yard field goal for a 13-7 Steelers lead with 1:37 left in the half.
Boswell kicked his third field goal of the half, a 50-yarder, with 18 seconds remaining to send the Steelers to their locker room with a 16-7 lead.
Mariota and Rishard Matthews hooked up on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second half to cut the Steelers’ lead to 16-14, but the Steelers answered with another pass-heavy drive that ended with Roethlisberger throwing a 5-yard fastball to Brown to re-stake the Steelers to a 23-14 lead.
Tennessee answered with a Succop 44-yard field goal to cut the lead to 23-17 with 5:34 left in the third. However, the Steelers wouldn’t let the Titans hang around. Roethlisberger threw his third touchdown pass, a 1-yarder to tight end Jesse James, to put the Steelers back on top 30-17 with 14:56 remaining.
Brown now has 70 receptions for 1,026 yards.
“Anytime you play with a guy like Ben in a prime-time setting, you know the playmaking ability is going to be up,” Brown said. “You know the splash plays are going to be there and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The win gives the Steelers an 8-2 record, their best start since their 15-1 2004 season.
The Titans lost for the first time in five games and fell to 6-4.
“If you throw four interceptions, it’s tough to win,” Mariota said. “A lot of credit to Pittsburgh. They made a bunch of plays and got the best of us.”
NOTES: Titans S Kevin Byard injured a shoulder but returned to the game. ... DL Cam Heyward, who had two sacks to take over the Steelers’ sack lead with seven, left early in the fourth quarter but returned to finish. ... Pittsburgh hosts Green Bay on Nov. 26 on Sunday Night Football while Tennessee visits Indianapolis the same day.