The momentum of the Tennessee Titans' three-game winning streak came to a crashing halt Sunday in Pittsburgh as the Steelers dominated in a 38-17 victory.
Michael Griffin and the Titans defense had a rough day in Pittsburgh Sunday.
After giving the Titans a quick 3-0 lead on the opening series, the Steelers then proceeded to run over the Titans, dominating Tennessee's defensive front with a beat up and much-maligned offensive line, and with a couple of unheralded running backs in Jonathan Dwyer and Ike Redman.
Dwyer gashed the Titans for 107 yards on just 11 carries, pushing the pile and breaking tackles time after time to put the Steelers in position to score. Redman added 49 yards on 15 carries as the Steelers hardly missed Rashard Mendenhall on Sunday.
That set up Ben Roethlisberger, who was suffering from a sprained foot, but proved there was nothing wrong with his arm, throwing five touchdown passes in all against a befuddled and beleaguered Tennessee defense.
“We didn't play well today,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said on the team's postgame radio broadcast. “They played better than we did today. We'll have to learn from this thing. It's going to hurt for a while. We don't play for a couple of weeks, but that's the NFL. If you don't play and make plays, you're gonna have this feeling.”
On the few times when the Titans did manage to do something right, like an onside kick in the second quarter after cutting the lead to 28-10, only to have Matt Hasselbeck's pass tipped and intercepted on the first play after that by Lamarr Woodley. It led to a Steelers field goal.
Later a punt blocked by Tim Shaw and returned for a TD by Cortland Finnegan, only to be called back by a block in the back penalty on Jamie Harper.
"They executed right from the start, and we found a way not to make a play," Munchak said. "When you see things like us blocking a punt and we score for a touchdown and we have a block in the back, or we have the great onside kick and we get the ball batted and picked off."
The Titans' troubles were obvious from the start, as they had the assistance of two Steeler penalties on the opening drive, yet could only manage Rob Bironas' 29-yard field goal.
From there, the Steelers dominating, running the ball right through the Titans to get in position to score, and having Roethlisberger and his receivers do the rest once in scoring position. It added up to a 21-3 halftime lead.
Now 3-2, the Titans take their bye week this week with much more work anticipated than perhaps believed when they entered the contest.
For one thing, Hasselbeck came back to earth after a solid first month, hitting on 29 of 49 passes for 262 yards, but he and his receivers struggled at key times.
“I don’t know what to attribute everything to. We didn’t execute the way that we need to execute,” Hasselbeck said. “I know we had different people playing different positions, but I don’t think it was that necessarily. I think we need to be a little sharper and a little crisper. I know we got tired at the end; we were going two-minute for the whole second half. You got guys in there that played a ton of snaps. Snap after snap, deep route after deep route.
“And then you got other guys like our fullback that just didn’t play a lot of plays today. When you get in a 2-minute situation it’s tough. I think really we made it really hard on ourselves in the first half.”
Chris Johnson was again mostly a non-factor, going for 51 yards on 14 rushes, although he did score his first TD of the year on a 1-yard run.
"It was just kind of a little bit out of rhythm, and things just weren't going our way today," running back Javon Ringer said.