Steelers blow late lead, fall to Titans, 26-23


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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ben Roethlisberger broke Terry Bradshaw's passing record Thursday night, but there was not much else memorable about the Steelers' performance.

After staging their own fourth-quarter comeback to take a seven-point lead, the Steelers allowed the Tennessee Titans to score twice in the final four minutes and change to win, 26-23, on Rob Bironas' 40-yard field goal with no time left.

It was his fourth field goal of the game and came after Shaun Suisham's 54-yard attempt for the Steelers fell just short with 48 seconds left.

Suisham had made a career-long from 52 yards earlier in the fourth quarter so coach Mike Tomlin decided, after taking a time out to think about it, to let him try from 54. When Suisham missed, Tennessee got the ball at its 45 to start the winning drive.

"He banged the other one pretty good," Tomlin said. "We decided to give him a shot at it."

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The loss dropped the Steelers to 2-3 and raised Tennessee's record to 2-4. It was the third time the Steelers have blown a fourth-quarter lead this season, including Sunday when they mounted a comeback win against Philadelphia. They have blown leads in the second half of all three losses.

"We have to find a way to close it out," linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "We had opportunities to close out the game and didn't do it. We allow those drives to continue to happen."

They have lost all three of their road games.

"We are not doing enough to finish games in hostile environments," Tomlin said.

The Steelers lost more than a game. More injuries piled up on the ones they had before the opening kickoff. They included halfbacks Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle), offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey (knee, medial collateral ligament) and Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring).

It looked as if it might well be a big night for Roethlisberger and Suisham, who made his three earlier field-goal tries to give him 11 for 11 this year before his long-distance miss.

With 363 yards passing (24 of 40), Roethlisberger broke Bradshaw's career passing yardage record with the Steelers. He has 28,066 in his career; Bradshaw 27,989. Roethlisberger produced 82 on one throw, a touchdown pass to Mike Wallace on the game's second drive. He also threw his second interception this season, his first since the opener.

"Congratulations to him, but he knows it doesn't really matter right now because we didn't get the win," Wallace said.

Roethlisberger had put them in position to do so.

The Steelers drove 80 yards on 15 plays to reclaim the lead, 20-16, in the fourth quarter, and they did so with two starting linemen and their top two backs on the bench. Baron Batch scored his first touchdown to end that drive from a yard out early in the fourth quarter.

Lawrence Timmons then intercepted a pass from Matt Hasselbeck, under pressure from a blitzing Cortez Allen, on the next series. That led to Suisham's 52-yard field goal to put the Steelers up by seven with 8:18 left,

But Tennessee wasn't finished.

The Titans started their next drive from their 20 after the kickoff and covered the 80 yards in 11 plays. Early in that drive, cornerback Keenan Lewis, otherwise playing his best game as a starter, dropped what would have been an easy interception at the Tennessee 47.

On third down at the 15, Ike Taylor was called for holding receiver Damian Williams at the 13. The 5-yard penalty gave the Titans a first down at the 10.

On third down at the 5, Hasselbeck completed a pass in the end zone over Taylor's head to Kenny Britt, who bobbled it before he hung on.

That tied the score, 23-23, with 4:19 left.

"Guys just have to play better -- everybody, especially in the fourth quarter," linebacker Larry Foote said.

The Steelers moved to the Tennessee 35 on their next series, but Batch lost a yard and a pass fell incomplete on third down. That's when Tomlin had Suisham try the 54-yard field goal.

"We just needed a big play at the end of the game," said Wallace, who finished with two catches for 94 yards.

Redman also did something that no Steeler had done in a long time. He caught four passes for 105 yards, the first back to top 100 in 42 years. Frenchy Fuqua last did it in 1970.

The teams traded field goals on their first drives. After the Roethlisberger-Wallace touchdown on the first play of the next possession, Bironas kicked his second field goal, from 38 yards, to cut the lead to 10-6.

Tennessee used a blocked punt to help them to a 16-10 halftime lead.

The Titans went ahead, 13-10, two plays after Tim Shaw blocked a Drew Butler punt and recovered at the Steelers 1. Jamie Harper scored from there on second down.

The Steelers were poised to tie the score or take the lead late in the first half, but Jason McCourty intercepted a Roethlisberger pass at the Titans 12.

The play came right after Roethlisberger completed a 55-yard pass to Redman that gave the Steelers a first down at the Tennessee 32.

Tennessee took over at its 12 with 1:32 left and swiftly moved into position for Bironas to kick his third field goal of the half, from 47 yards with no time left.

The Steelers had a first down at the 14 on the first drive of the second half. But on two plays from the 10, Roethlisberger overthrew his receivers in the end zone and Suisham kicked a 28-yard field goal, his second of the night to cut Tennessee's lead to 16-13.

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For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published October 12, 2012 5:45 AM


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