Thursday night’s finish between the Steelers and Titans represented a frustrating trend for many Steelers fans; the offense builds what looks like a comfortable lead, and then the defense proceeds to blow it in the fourth quarter.
For the Titans, it was an impressive win considering all four of their losses have been by 21 points or more, with an offense that has been anemic all season.
Whichever way you look at it, the Titans earned this win. They were the better team while the Steelers once again struggled to finish off their opponent.
Here are five things we learned after Thursday night:
1. The Steelers should consider benching Ike Taylor:
Really, is there any other corner in the league that gets picked on more that Taylor? He now has seven penalties called against him this season (five for pass interference, two for holding). Last night, Taylor was flagged twice for pass interference (one was declined) and once for holding. He was also beat for the touchdown that tied the game in the fourth quarter. That coupled with the fact that Taylor never seems to locate the football when it’s in the air.
On a defense that many consider to be too old and too slow, nobody exemplifies it more that Taylor. That is why the Steelers should consider giving Cortez Allen a chance in the upcoming weeks.
2. Matt Hasselbeck should remain the Titans starter:
The 37 year old Hasselbeck didn’t look his age on Thursday, going 25-for-44 for 290 yards in the win. He was able to lead the Titans on an 80 yard drive late in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and then, working with a short field, was able to put kicker Rob Bironas in a position to kick the game winning field goal.
I know Jake Locker is the Titans’ franchise quarterback, but Hasselbeck seems to give the Titans the best chance to win right now. That is why Hasselbeck should remain the starter even when Locker returns from his injury.
3. Mike Tomlin made the correct call:
It was risky, but Tomlin made the right choice to try and kick the field goal late in the game. Shaun Suisham hadn’t missed a kick all season, and had just hit a 52 yarder earlier in the fourth quarter. Why not give him another opportunity to kick what would’ve been Suisham’s second game winner in as many weeks?
The only thing you could question is why Tomlin would put the faith in his defense, which has consistently let him down this season at the most inopportune times.
4. The Titans made more big plays to win:
The Titans seemed to make the big plays when they had to, while the Steelers didn’t. Late in the first quarter, the Titans blocked a Drew Butler punt that would lead to a field goal.
Near the end of the first half, with the Steelers driving, Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted by Jason McCourty. That led to another field goal making it 16-10. And of course, with the game tied at 23-23 with 39 seconds remaining, the Titans came through with the big play, as Hasselbeck hit Jared Cook for a 25 yard gain to put Bironas in a position to win it.
In tight games like this, the team that makes the biggest plays usually wins. Thursday’s game was just an example of that.
5. The Steelers are a different team on the road:
The Steelers are 2-0 this season at home, but are 0-3 on the road. What is even more alarming is how bad the defense has been away from Heinz Field. In their three road games, the Steelers’ defense gives up an average of 30.3 points per game, compared to 12 points per game when they play at home.
For a team that for so many years played so well on the road, it’s amazing to see them play this bad now. Call it coincidence, call it the Steelers getting old, call it whatever you want. But if the Steelers can’t find ways to win on the road, they’ll struggle just to break .500 this season.