Ben Roethlisberger passed for 221 of his 356 yards in the first half, including an 82-yard TD to Mike Wallace, and passed Terry Bradshaw as the team's all-time leading passer. But the offense was mostly out of sync the rest of the half with nothing more than a bunch of quick screens to the wideouts. Roethlisberger even had his streak of 136 passes without an interception ended in the first half. And he couldn't pull off any last-minute magic, either.
One game after their best rushing performance of the season, the Steelers morphed back to their old ways against the Titans. They had just 11 yards on six carries in the first half against the league's 28th-ranked rush defense, including just 8 yards on 5 carries by Rashard Mendenhall. The only bright spot was Isaac Redman, who had three catches for 92 yards in the first half, including a 55-yarder in the final two minutes that went for naught when Roethlisberger was intercepted.
Mike Wallace caught an 82-yard touchdown on the second series to give the Steelers a 10-3 lead, but he didn't have another catch in the first half. It is usually not a good thing when a running back is the 100-yard receiver, but Redman finished with 105 yards on four catches. Antonio Brown spent most of the half going nowhere with quick bubble screens. TE Heath Miller was his reliable self with several big third-down catches.
The Steelers lost two starters in the first half -- C Maurkice Pouncey and RT Marcus Gilbert -- which would help explain the anemic running game and the leaky protection for Roethlisberger. The Steelers rushed for only 56 yards on 22 carries, but 45 came in the second half when they came back from a 16-10 deficit. Mike Adams, who replaced Gilbert, made the big block on Baron Batch's 1-yard touchdown that gave the Steelers a 20-16 lead.
The Titans kept trying to shake Chris Johnson free, even into the fourth quarter. Johnson finished with 86 yards, even though he never had a run longer than 13 yards. The Titans finished with 94 yards rushing, but they had 48 in the second half when they should have been trying to protect a 16-10 lead. Johnson had 58 yards through three quarters, but he could never break a big gain on the stretch plays designed to create gaps and cut backs against the line. He finished with 81 yards.
Just when the defense needed to make a play, Lawrence Timmons stepped in and intercepted Matt Hasselbeck in the fourth quarter, leading to the field goal that gave the Steelers a 23-16 lead. But giving up another 80-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter is a disturbing trend. And James Harrison got beat on a 25-yard catch-and-run that allowed the Titans to kick the game-winning field goal.
After allowing just one pass longer than 18 yards in the previous 11 quarters, the Steelers allowed three in the first half alone and six in the game. And the corner getting picked on is Ike Taylor, who had a couple more pass interference calls in the first half (one declined) and a critical holding penalty in the fourth quarter. He also gave up the tying touchdown. S Ryan Clark continues to play very well, especially in run support with the loss of Troy Polamalu.
Nothing else seemed to matter after Drew Butler had a punt from his own 23 blocked, leading to the Titans' first touchdown. A 52-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham, his third of the game, appeared to prevent that gaffe from being as costly as it appeared. Chris Rainey had a 49-yard kick return to start a field-goal drive and the coverage units did a nice job on kick returner Darius Reynaud. Still, in the end, the block was the difference.
It was a mostly embarrassing performance against a team that had lost four previous games by 21 or more points. The offense never seemed to get in any rhythm and lacked production against a defense that had allowed an NFL-high 181 points. The decision to try a 54-yard FG in the final minute of the game came back to bite them.
REPORT CARD TODAY'S TEAM GRADE: D (Average mark of the 9 categories)
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org First Published October 12, 2012 5:15 AM