Much of the focus entering the 2020 NFL season on the AFC North was placed on the Baltimore Ravens and the rookie campaign of Joe Burrow. Through Week 7, it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers that lead the division.
Facing a matchup against an undefeated Tennessee Titans squad, the Steelers faced a real opportunity to send a message in the AFC. Pittsburgh managed to do precisely that by coming away with a 27-24 win.
The first half of the Steelers’ win over the Titans showed what they can achieve when they are firing on all cylinders.
Within that stretch, the Steelers scored a touchdown on their first two drives and scored on all of their possessions within the half aside from a deep heave before halftime resulting in a pick. Meanwhile, the Titans’ offense struggled to get much done against Pittsburgh’s defense.
Overall, the Steelers’ managed to jump out to an impressive 24-7 lead at halftime. Ben Roethlisberger was ripping apart the Titans’ defense in the passing game. Meanwhile, aside from a touchdown drive, Tennessee failed to get a first own on each of their other drives.
The second half played out quite differently for the Steelers. The Titans made a real effort to rally back and actually almost pulled it off.
“I don’t know that they changed anything that they did,” Tomlin said, via ESPN Staff Writer Brooke Pryor. “We had a tipped pass that got intercepted and we were penalized, some things that happen when you stop yourself. They were confident, no doubt. But I don’t know that they changed anything schematically or anything substantial changed. We just got to play better. We didn’t play well enough in the second half for it not to be as tight as it was.”
A simple slant route from A.J. Brown turned to a 73-yard touchdown— making the score 27-14 with 9:36 left in the 3rd quarter. Ben Roethlisberger later threw a pick on the Steelers’ side of the field— setting up a Titans field goal. All of a sudden, Tennessee was down just 27-17 entering the final period.
It was clear the Steelers needed to turn things around after a sloppy third quarter. The miscues continued as the Titans pulled off a 70-yard drive over the span of 5:25 of gameplay. Pittsburgh’s lead was trimmed to just 27-24 with 10:13 left in the game.
There was a real potential for the Steelers to lose this game. Roethlisberger led a drive inside the Titans’ red-zone after having a starting field position of the 9-yard line. Instead of pulling off a score, Roethlisberger threw a pick— putting major pressure on their defense to get a stop.
The Titans had a chance to win this game had they executed a touchdown drive. However, the Steelers managed to hold Tennessee to a field goal attempt to which Stephen Gostowski missed wide right from 45-yards out.
It was a bit of an ugly outing for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger threw more picks (3) than touchdowns (2) and Pittsburgh nearly lost what was a 24-7 halftime lead at the end of the game. What that displayed was this team can overcome suboptimal execution against tough opponents.
“Thankfully our guys didn’t blink and was able to hold it together and make enough plays to secure a victory,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Not a perfect product. We understand that. But I appreciate their efforts. We are perfect from a record standpoint, and so we respect that.”
There is plenty for the Steelers to have to clean up after their win against the Titans. The fact that Pittsburgh still managed to come out on top against a tough Tennessee squad despite having an ugly second-half is intriguing to think about.
With an upcoming matchup against a tough Baltimore Ravens team, the Steelers will have another chance to prove they’re a legitimate Super Bowl contender. If they can get the win, expect the hype to build rapidly surrounding Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are well aware that going 6-0 through Week 7. Getting by the Titans with a win isn’t enough for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
“We feel we have a really good football team, right?” said Roethlisberger. “We feel that it could be very special and we’re happy with where we are right now, but that’s going to be a short-lived happiness because we know what’s coming up next.”
Taking down another elite team in back-to-back weeks would be quite the way to establish momentum. With a win against the Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be 7-0 entering a Week 8 showdown with a terrible Dallas Cowboys team.