After the ball hooked proper of the upright, the Pittsburgh Steelers jumped and danced and cavorted alongside their sideline. As it fluttered vast, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s jaw fell. He appeared to mutter, “He missed it,” to nobody specifically, earlier than turning, smiling, to his teammates.
The Steelers retreated to their locker room at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Sunday as the one unbeaten crew in a rugged A.F.C., however sooner or later over the subsequent 15 minutes or so, after the preliminary delight of a 27-24 victory, their moods modified. It was as if that they had muddled by means of a horrible, horrible, no-good, very unhealthy day as a substitute of their opponents, the Tennessee Titans (5-1); as in the event that they had been those who had misplaced when a field-goal try within the waning seconds soared unfaithful.
“I don’t take it for granted, but there’s a way that we like to play,” Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward mentioned. “There’s a lot of meat on that bone.”
“No one’s really satisfied after today,” outdoors linebacker T.J. Watt mentioned.
“There’s a lot for us to be urgent about,” Coach Mike Tomlin mentioned. “We won’t spend a lot of time celebrating this or appreciating this, because of our work that lies ahead.”
The Steelers, who led by 24-7 at halftime, dominated the primary half Sunday. They scored on their first 4 drives. They transformed their first seven third-down makes an attempt. They silenced operating again Derrick Henry and muffled quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and held the Titans, the A.F.C. crew with the very best scoring common, to a single landing.
The Steelers (6-Zero) flailed within the second half Sunday. Their offense consisted of a measly discipline objective. They allowed a 73-yard landing. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions. The second, by Amani Hooker ultimately zone, gave Tennessee, trailing by Three factors, the ball with 2 minutes 35 seconds remaining.
In 4 of the Titans’ 5 wins, Tannehill had led them on game-winning drives or in a fourth-quarter comeback, and as he dissected Pittsburgh — 7 yards to Corey Davis on third-and-2, 21 to A.J. Brown on third-and-12 — it appeared altogether attainable, if unlikely, that he would achieve this once more. The Titans, after having a first-and-10 on the Pittsburgh 25, moved backward on their subsequent three performs — however, apparently, not far sufficient.
Tennessee kicker Stephen Gostkowski is extra correct from far distances. He had made all 5 field-goal makes an attempt of no less than 50 yards this season. But he had missed 5 of 10 from 49 yards or nearer, together with two final week towards Houston and three within the Titans’ season opener at Denver. The try on Sunday, with 19 seconds remaining, was from 45 yards, and the consequence was predictable.
The loss doesn’t take away the sheen from the Titans’ robust begin, nor does it dismiss their standing inside a demanding A.F.C., the place Baltimore, Kansas City and Buffalo additionally lurk.
Over the approaching weeks and months, that knot of aggressive groups will little doubt untangle, however whether or not Tennessee contends for the convention’s high seed — and the one first-round bye within the playoffs — and never simply an A.F.C. South title relies upon partly on whether or not its protection can clear up its third-down troubles. The Titans entered the sport because the worst third-down protection within the league, permitting conversions on 57.eight % of possibilities, but by some means fared worse Sunday: Pittsburgh was 13 of 18.
“We’re not starting fast enough on defense,” Titans security Kevin Byard mentioned. “It’s kind of like we’re expecting the offense to always dig us out of a hole.”
In that sense, the Steelers are the extra full crew, with pass-rushing guide ends, a stout secondary and an offense that noticed 10 gamers — together with Diontae Johnson, who caught 9 passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns — contact the ball. That they gained regardless of a minus-Three turnover margin appeared to vex Tomlin, however seven weeks into the season, no different crew within the convention had weathered challenges — accidents and attrition and adhering to coronavirus protocols and, on Sunday, a formidable comeback from a formidable crew — higher than it had.
After it was over Sunday, after bettering to 6-Zero for the primary time since 1978, the Steelers, who play at Baltimore subsequent week, acquired not a shimmering trophy or commemorative attire or a Gatorade bathtub, however reasonably a reward that’s much less tangible. They briefly savored the satisfaction that accompanied an accomplishment that will imply far, way more in January or February.