The Tennessee Titans have bought themselves a little breathing room with a much-needed victory, and the Pittsburgh Steelers still can’t win away from Heinz Field.
Rob Bironas kicked his fourth field goal, a 40-yarder as time expired, and the Titans beat the Steelers 26-23 on Thursday night to snap a two-game skid.
Matt Hasselbeck threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt with 4:19 left to tie it at 23, and the Titans (2-4) snapped a three-game losing streak against the Steelers. More importantly, the team that had given up more points than any other team in the NFL held its first opponent below 30 points this season.
“It’s only one win, we know that,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “But it’s a great win for us at this point in the season when we needed a win to show people what we’re all about.”
Pittsburgh (2-3) lost its third straight road game this season and for the fifth time in six games dating to last season despite Ben Roethlisberger throwing for 363 yards and becoming the Steelers’ career passing leader.
“We’re not doing enough things to finish games in hostile environments,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “That’s just the reality right now. Hopefully, it’s just right now. We didn’t do the job tonight. We defeated ourselves in some areas. We’ll go back to work. Needless to say it’s disappointing. We tip our caps to those guys.”
Roethlisberger drove the Steelers into position to take the lead after the Titans tied it. Shaun Suisham, who already had connected from 29, 28 and 52 yards, had his 54-yard attempt fall short of the crossbar with 49 seconds left. Tomlin said Suisham hit the 52-yarder pretty good so he decided to give his kicker the chance to win a second straight game.
“I take full responsibility for the miss,” Tomlin said.
Chris Johnson ran for 91 yards on 19 carries, and Hasselbeck finished with 290 yards passing.
“It feels good to win against a good opponent,” said Hasselbeck, who started his second straight game in place of injured Jake Locker. “It feels good to win a close game.”
The Steelers were up 20-16 when Lawrence Timmons picked off Hasselbeck’s pass, but they had to settle for Suisham’s third field goal after moving the ball only 14 yards. That field goal put Pittsburgh up 23-16, and the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense couldn’t make that stand up.
Johnson, who has been criticized mercilessly for his struggles running the ball, kicked off Tennessee’s next drive with a 12-yard run. The Titans drove 80 yards before Hasselbeck found Britt to tie it. Britt had dropped a would-be TD the play before and bobbled the TD catch too.
After the Titans stopped Pittsburgh, Hasselbeck drove them 33 yards with the big play a 25-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook on a night his mother, Yulinda, was honored as a breast cancer survivor. The Titans gave the ball to Johnson to run down the clock, then sent out Bironas for the field goal.
Tomlin tried to ice Bironas with a timeout. Bironas waited it out, and then kicked the ball through to give the Titans a rare chance to celebrate this season.
“It’s kind of like Kevin Costner in “For The Love of the Game,” where he clears the mechanism,” Bironas said. “You go out there, and you’re in the zone.”
Roethlisberger entered the game with 27,703 yards, 286 yards shy of Terry Bradshaw’s franchise record. Roethlisberger was 24 of 40 and passed Bradshaw with a 17-yard pass to Heath Miller late in the third quarter of his 119th game. Bradshaw played 168 games from 1970-83. Roethlisberger also threw an 82-yard TD pass to Mike Wallace.
“We’re not scoring enough points, and we’re not making the play when we need to,” Roethlisberger said.
The Steelers, who played without safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker LaMarr Woodley, head home with a much longer injury report.
Steelers running back Ike Redman caught four passes for 105 yards for the Steelers before injuring his right ankle in the third quarter and never returned. Running back Rashard Mendenhall also went down with an Achilles injury.
Center Maurkice Pouncey injured his right leg on the Steelers’ first play from scrimmage and was ruled out for the rest of the game. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert hurt his right ankle in the second quarter. Doug Legursky stepped in for Pouncey, while rookie Mike Adams replaced Gilbert. A Steelers drive stalled when Derrick Morgan got around Adams and sacked Roethlisberger.
Bironas also had field goals of 22 and 38 yards in the first quarter, and his 47-yarder on the final play of the first half gave Tennessee a 16-10
Tennessee capitalized on a blocked punt to take the lead early in the second quarter.
On the final play of the first quarter, Shaw broke through the middle of the line and blocked Drew Butler’s punt. Jason McCourty recovered at the 1 to give the Titans first-and-goal. That set up a 1-yard burst from Jamie Harper that gave the Titans a 13-10 advantage.
Harper’s touchdown left St. Louis as the only team without a rushing touchdown this year.
The Steelers failed at moving above .500 for the first time this season after splitting their first four games. They should have felt right at home in Nashville, as roughly half the fans at LP Field were waving Terrible Towels while dressed in Steeler black-and-gold. They even had a fan run onto the field after the third quarter, waving a towel before being tackled.
Notes: Titans cornerback Jason McCourty had an interception, the fifth of his career and first this season. ... Tomlin is 3-2 against the Titans. ... Tennessee has won two of its last three home games against Pittsburgh. ... Titans cornerback Tommie Campbell hurt his ankle on punt coverage and did not return.
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