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NFL Draft

Steelers-Titans: What 2nd Half Performance Means For Both Teams Long-Term

  • The Draft Network
  • October 26, 2020
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If a win is a win then, in theory, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 27-24 victory over the previously unbeaten Tennessee Titans should suffice. However, when the Steelers emerged as the AFC’s only undefeated team, there were glaring concerns.

After quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made the Titans’ defense look silly for parts of the game, they made a big play in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The interception in the end zone set Ryan Tannehill up for a game-winning, or a game-tying, drive. After an unsuccessful drive down the field by Tannehill and company, Tennessee kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 45-yard field goal that would have sent the game into overtime.

Pittsburgh’s win highlighted a recurring problem for the 6-0 team, and, while Tennessee lost and moved to 5-1, the second-half adjustments and near comeback is encouraging for a team that’s trying to prove its 2019 success wasn’t a fluke.

What the second half of Sunday’s game means for the Steelers…

Pittsburgh had a 24-7 lead at halftime. The Steelers looked dominant, nearly shutting down the Titans with one of the league’s best defenses while efficiently moving down the field, scoring on all but one offensive drive; the final first-half drive resulted in an interception in the end zone.

None of this, other than the Titans’ dreadful first two quarters, was surprising. Roethlisberger has been playing better than some expected after elbow surgery and the Steelers are one of the most complete teams in the NFL. They find themselves with big, early leads, but have struggled coming out of the half. In four of their six games, the Steelers have scored three or fewer points in the third quarter. In matchups against the New York Giants and Denver Broncos, in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively, Pittsburgh built up a big lead in the first half and then played to hang on through the remainder of the game. This was also the case against the Titans.

If this happened for the first, or even second time, against Tennessee it could be chalked up to the Titans making their own push. But could there be a consistency problem within the Steelers? They’ve only beaten two opponents by double digits; first, the Giants, 26-16, and then the Cleveland Browns, 38-7. The defense entered Week 7 allowing the second-fewest yards (285.2) but gave up 220 to Tannehill and another 82 on the ground. Don’t ring the alarm yet, but Pittsburgh needs to be able to keep/extend its leads and continue momentum on both sides of the ball if they really want to be the best team in the AFC, as their record indicates.

What the second half of Sunday’s game means for the Titans...

The Titans almost did it again. Last week, Tannehill confidently led Tennessee down the field and engineered an overtime win over the Houston Texans. He was close to doing the same Sunday. 

Tannehill, and the Titans’ defense, couldn’t do anything in the first half. There was one point in the second quarter where the Steelers had 14 points and the Titans had only one total yard. It led to a vast majority of us wondering if Tennessee had made its run. What was touted as one of the best offenses, in the Titans, going against one of the best defenses, in the Steelers, turned out to be a lackluster first half until the tables turned—momentarily.

Despite the Steelers’ third-quarter woes, we got to see what both teams were best at; it just didn’t work out in Tannehill’s favor this time. The Titans won four of their first five games, including the victory over the Texans, with a late rally. It can be exciting to watch and fun to cheer for, but it’s ultimately not sustainable. We know that the Titans can get it done, but they’ll need to get their defense going quicker to avoid putting Tannehill in these pressure situations; he’s handled it well so far but he’s no Russell Wilson. The Titans have another chance to make a big playoff push, but against the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and Steelers, a big, early deficit can be costly.

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