It was primetime for the Titans as they finished their series against the AFC North by taking on the Steelers on Monday Night Football. The Steelers didn’t play particularly well for three quarters but they were money when the game came down to the wire. We bring you our Steelers at Titans recap.
This wasn’t Ben Roethlisberger’s finest performance and through three quarters he was pretty terrible. However, with the game on the line Roethlisberger, and the Steelers, did what they do best when they are at their best. La’Veon Bell carries the ball 12 times for 74 yards and scored on a 5 yard run to start the quarter.
Then Roethlisberger went to work on the Steelers second drive in the 4th, leading the Steelers offense down the field for a 4 minutes touchdown drive. The drive featured Roethlisberger throwing five passes including a 12 yard strike to Antonio Brown to cap off the drive. Bell contributed three runs for 20 yards.
The Titans inability to stop that drive, as well as the resulting one that took 6:58 off the clock to end the game, is certainly big. The Titans defense isn’t ready yet to dominate and win games and they only forced two punts all game long. This on a night where the Steelers offense wasn’t particularly good.
Still, the offense shares a portion of the blame here. The Titans held the ball twice in the 4th quarter. They punted both times. The Titans conservative play style seems at odd with head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s reputation as an offensive guru. It also didn’t help matters that his rookie quarterback threw a pick six on his first play under scrimmage.
The Titans started Mettenberger for a reason and there are reasons to love his big arm. If they aren’t willing to use it to try and win football games though it’s all for naught. Once again the Titans handcuffed their rookie quarterback whose longest pass completion in the 4th was 10 yards and who was confined to throwing only short passes. Not surprisingly, the Titans were absolutely unable to run the football when it really mattered.
Combine that with the time of possession and you end up with a defense that is simply on the field too long. The Steelers held the ball for 39:49 minutes while the Titans held the ball for 20:11. This is not a winning recipe and it smells and tastes like failure. It’s been a recurring theme for the Titans this season.
The offensive line fared better than it has and the right side of the line actually got positive grades from Pro Football Focus. This was Chance Warmack and Michael Oher’s best grades of the year. If the line continues to improve some of the offensive struggles should improve as well.
Another recurring theme for the Titans is their putrid run defense. the Titans let Bell dance all over them to the tune of 204 rushing yards and a touchdown. That is simply unacceptable. They face the Philadelphia Eagles and their high flying offense next week and you can imagine LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles are licking their chops at coming up against this group.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson continues to improve but he got burned a couple of times during the game and was only able to recover due to his good speed and the wounded ducks Roethlisberger was serving during portions of the game. Unfortunately, the NFL had not made the game film available before we posted this recap. Jason McCourty was the victim on the Brown game winning touchdown.
The Titans defensive line did get pressure on Roethlisberger and they sacked him five times. This hasn’t been as big an issue for the Titans as previously. The Titans have 29 sacks and are only 7 sacks away from eclipsing their 2013 total of 36. The secondary is just susceptible of giving up the big play. Despite improvement, there is still a ways to go before that group can be considered solid.
The Titans are blitzing more and more which does tend to weaken the backend of the defense. Blitzing can be very successful but the old adage you live by the blitz you die by the blitz cannot be denied. Sacks look fancy and smell pretty but they are relatively unsatisfying fare
Bishop Sankey was very solid at kick returns and was helpful in getting the Titans good field position throughout the game. Hopefully we will see more of him there because he looked good. Brett Kern didn’t have his best game punting but let’s be real that didn’t do significant damage in this game. The Titans and the Steelers both had pretty good starting field position throughout the game.
As noted earlier, the Titans playcalling remains an issue and has contributed in varying degrees to many of their losses. The Titans remain a poor third down conversion team going 3 of 8 for a 38% conversion rate. To their credit, the coaches renewed emphasis on penalties seems to be working as the Titans were only penalized one time for 10 yards and that was a Chance Warmack holding call.
Up next are the Eagles as the Titans travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles at the Linc. Stay tuned for our preview of that game as well as updates on further Titans news.
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