The Steelers are certainly happy with the 6-0 record that they brought back with them from Tennessee on Sunday, but the way the victory happened left an unpleasant taste in the mouth of the victorious Black and Gold.
After racing out to a 27-7 lead, the Steelers yielded points on three of the next four Tennessee possessions, turned the ball over twice, had to sweat a last-minute field goal attempt and were fortunate that Stephen Gostkowski’s effort slipped wide right, securing Pittsburgh the win.
The first half of the game was the way the Steelers want to play football, with a methodical, patient offense that dominated the time of possession and a defense that limited star Titans running back Derrick Henry and got off the field on third down.
But what happened in the second half is what is going to stick with them.
“There was too much splash,” linebacker T.J. Watt said. “We have goals so high for ourselves because we know what we can do. We feel like we can be a truly special defense. That’s why no one’s really satisfied after today. We need to do a lot better job, especially in the second half. It starts with the run. Even though we did a good job in the first half, you’ve got to roll it over into the second half.”
As usual, defensive captain Cam Heyward summed up the mood.
“We’re 6-0. We won the game. Nothing’s guaranteed. It’s a good win,” Heyward said. “But there’s a lot we’ve got to improve on going forward. We were able to answer the challenge in some cases, but we’ve got bigger challenges ahead going forward. …
“There’s a lot of meat on that bone as Coach likes to say. I’m fine saying that. I believe in the guys that we’ve got. I’m confident that we can do more. I look forward to answering the call next week.”
Not that the Tennessee Titans aren’t a quality opponent — they were 5-0 coming in to Sunday’s game — but the Steelers know that as the season goes on and the games get critical, the mistakes they made in the second half against the Titans can be enough to end a team’s season.
“We gave up a big play for a touchdown, we turned the ball over. You do those things against good people, they’re going to get back into the game 100 percent of the time,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Thankfully, our guys didn’t blink and they were able to hold it together and make enough plays to secure victory.”
But they’re also thankful to be working on correcting those errors with a 6-0 record, alone in first place in the AFC North.
“It’s so important to get out of these games with a win, no matter how awesome or how ugly they look,” Watt said. “The offense did a phenomenal job today, and the defense, we’ve got to do a better job in the second half. … I’m not satisfied at all.”
Alex Highsmith Needs MRI after Ankle Injury Suffered vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Highsmith left the game in the first half and was seen limping on the Pittsburgh sideline. He made an attempt to return to the game, but was unable to continue playing and did not see the field at all in the second half.
In-game, the Steelers announced that Highsmith was doubtful to return with an ankle injury. After the fact, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Highsmith suffered a high ankle sprain. Highsmith’s father posted on Twitter early on Monday morning that Highsmith will require an MRI on his injured ankle.
Not the way we wanted the season to end but I am thankful to have been a part of this amazing ride! The Highsmith Family is proud to wear the Black & Gold and we look forward to more success in the future! Please pray for Alex as he gets an MRI tomorrow on his ankle! #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/JJA4PpZpvx
— Sam Highsmith (@SHighsmithClan) January 11, 2021
Given that Highsmith was able to walk and even run in short bursts after the injury, it does not seem likely that it will impact his offseason training plans.
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Charlotte, Highsmith was thrust into a starting role after starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffered an ACL injury that required surgery.
On the season, Highsmith played in 16 regular season game and made five starts. He finished with 48 tackles, five for a loss, six quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defended.
With Dupree set to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, Highsmith should be expected to retain his starting role in 2021.
Mike Tomlin Doesn’t Regret Punt, Will Talk to Ben Roethlisberger About Future
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answers questions from the media following his team’s shocking defeat at the hands of the Browns in the playoffs. Tomlin explained why he decided to punt on a 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter while trailing by multiple scores. He also touched on the timeline for when he will talk to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about his future with the team.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Says He Doesn’t Regret ‘Browns Is the Browns’ Comment
PITTSBURGH — It was repeated so often in the five days between when JuJu Smith-Schuster said the phrase on Wednesday to Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field, that it nearly became the No. 1 talking point coming into the game.
“The Browns is the Browns.” Before the game, after the game and probably during the game, many of the Browns made it clear that they had taken exception to Smith-Schuster’s characterization of the team.
The Browns IS THE BROWNS!! 🌚
— Jedrick Wills Jr.®️++💕 (@JWills73) January 11, 2021
Smith-Schuster said after the game that he had no regrets about what he said.
“You know, I don’t regret what I said,” Smith-Schuster said. “I said, ‘The Browns is the Browns.’ They came out and they played a hell of a game. You know, there’s been games where we feel we lose them and today wasn’t our night and hopefully the same Browns will show up next week against the same opponent and go out and do the same thing they did tonight and have a hell of a game.”