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.”