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Steelers pick apart Titans for fifth straight win

Joe Rutter

When Ben Roethlisberger walked into the locker room at halftime Thursday night, it didn’t matter that the Steelers were halfway toward that elusive 30-point mark.

It didn’t feel that way to the franchise quarterback, and he let everyone on offense know it.

After delivering a halftime speech that challenged the offense to do more, Roethlisberger went out and backed up his words.

Roethlisberger threw three of his season-high four touchdown passes in the second half as the Steelers zoomed past the Tennessee Titans, 40-17, before a national television audience.

The Steelers scored 24 points on their first four possessions of the second half to pull away after the Titans had pulled within 16-14 and 23-17.

The lead was 16-7 at intermission, but the Steelers were 1 of 7 on third downs and needed two Chris Boswell field goals in the final two minutes to establish the margin.

Center Maurkice Pouncey said Roethlisberger didn’t hold back his thoughts upon entering the locker room.

“He said, ‘Thank you to the defense, you guys did a great job,’ ” Pouncey said. ” ‘Offense, get your (stuff) going, we’ve got to go out and score points. We’ve got to help the defense. They’ve been helping us the entire half, now we’ve got to go out and do our job.’

“Obviously, guys went out there and responded to that.”

On the next three possessions, Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to Antonio Brown and one to Jesse James. Brown finished with three touchdown receptions among his 10 catches for 144 yards. Boswell added his fourth field goal to close the scoring.

“I just felt like I wanted to challenge all of us — and I included myself in that,” Roethlisberger said. “I told the guys, ‘The defense has done their job … and more.’ … I said, ‘Somebody’s got to make a play for this team or else we’re going to keep relying on our defense. It’s time we step up and do something.’

“I love the way they all responded.”

The win was the fifth in a row for the Steelers, whose 8-2 record is tops in the AFC. The Titans, hoping to leapfrog the Steelers in the playoff seedings, lost for the first time in five games and dropped to 6-4.

Entering the game, the Steelers were one of five NFL teams without a 30-point performance. The other four — the Los Angeles Chargers, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants — have a combined 7-29 record.

“We needed a game like this,” guard David DeCastro said.

The Steelers reached that elusive goal by having Roethlisberger work primarily out of the no-huddle. He set the tempo on the first series by leading the Steelers on a 75-yard touchdown drive that culminated with Brown making a 41-yard catch between two defenders on a free play.

Roethlisberger was 4 of 5 for 71 yards on the drive, and it would be a familiar story for the offense.

When the Steelers increased their lead to 37-17 with 12 minutes, 12 seconds remaining, Roethlisberger had thrown 41 passes and running back Le’Veon Bell had carried just nine times.

“That was kind of the game plan,” Bell said. “We were on a short week, and they didn’t want to run me into the ground. They kept me involved in different ways.”

Roethlisberger finished with 30 completions in 45 attempts for 299 yards and a 115.0 rating. He won his seventh consecutive prime-time game at home and improved to 19-3 in such situations at Heinz Field.

“It’s something special,” Brown said. “Any time you play with a guy like Ben in a prime-time setting, you know the playmaking ability is going to be up. You know the splash plays are going to be there, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Roethlisberger picked apart a Titans defense that is run by 80-year-old coordinator Dick LeBeau, the former Steelers defensive guru.

Bell finished with 46 yards rushing on 12 attempts. He had nine receptions for 57 yards.

A secondary minus injured starters Mike Mitchell and Joe Haden gave up another long touchdown pass but chipped in with four interceptions. Cam Heyward had two of the five sacks for the Steelers.

The defense that Roethlisberger praised at halftime allowed a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the third quarter. Marcus Mariota’s pass to Rishard Matthews pulled the Titans within 16-14.

It was the third time in the past two games that the Steelers allowed a touchdown pass of at least 60 yards.

Like the start of the game, the Steelers answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive to take a 23-14 lead.

Roethlisberger threw his second touchdown pass to Brown, a 5-yarder.

On the next series, Mariota had a 42-yard completion to tight end Delanie Walker. But Walker dropped a pass in the end zone, and the Titans ended the drive with Ryan Succop kicking a 44-yard field goal to make it 23-17.

The Steelers came back with another 75-yard touchdown drive, this one spanning 12 plays. Roethlisberger was 7 of 8 for 66 yards on the drive. After an apparent touchdown run by Bell was reviewed, the ball was placed at the Titans 1 as the third quarter ended.

Roethlisberger’s 1-yarder to James on the next play pushed the Steelers’ advantage to 30-17.

He went back up top on the next possession, hitting Brown in the right corner of the end zone with a 10-yard touchdown pass for a 37-17 lead.

“Keep your foot on the pedal and keep going,” right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “We came back in the second half and did just that.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.


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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers safety Sean Davis intercepts the Titans in the fourth quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver takes a selfie with fans before playing the Titans Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Shuster poses with Marines before playing the Titans Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota dives for a touchdown in front of the Steelers' Mike Hilton in the first quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers defensive linemen T.J. Watt (90) and Vince Williams stop Titans running back DeMarco Murray for a loss in the first quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown catches a touchdown in front of the Titans' Kevin Byard and LeShaun Sims during the first quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown catches a touchdown in front of Titans defensive backs LeShaun Sims and Kevin Byard in the first quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Actor Joe Manganiello revs up Steeler Nation before the Steelers game against the Titans Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers cornerback Artie Burns tries to stay warm on the side line before a game against the Titans Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin fires up his team before a game against the Titans Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward rushes Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota in the first quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Vince Williams tackles Titans running back Derrick Henry in the second quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Titans running back DeMarco Murray avoids a tackle by Steelers defensive back Sean Davis in the second quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers corner back Coty Sensabaugh celebrates his interception against the Titans in the second quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers Antonio Brown catches a touchdown in front of Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson in the third quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster fights for extra yards against the Titans in the third quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws a pass during the second quarter against the Titans Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers cornerback Coty Sensabaugh intercepts a pass in front of the Titans' Corey Davis during the second quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant recovers an Antonio Brown fumble against the Titans in the second quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Titans defensive back Adoree Jackson forces a fumble by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown in the second quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Titans tight end Delanie Walker avoids a tackle by Steelers linebacker Vince Williams during the third quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers tight end Jesse James scores a touchdown against the Titans during the fourth quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown uses his helmet to catch a touchdown pass next to the Titans' Logan Ryan during the fourth quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown celebrates a touchdown against the Titans with JuJu Smith-Schuster in the fourth quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks to throw against the Titans in the third quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant catches a pass agains the Titans in the third quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown uses his helmet to catch a touchdown pass next to the Titans' Logan Ryan during the fourth quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back James Conner runs against the Titans in the fourth quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers safety Sean Davis intercepts the Titans in the fourth quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown motions to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before the pair hooked up for a touchdown during the fourth quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown celebrates his touchdown catch with Le'Veon Bell during the fourth quarter against the Titans Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hugs Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau after their game Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward hugs Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau after their game Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hugs Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau after their game Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at Heinz Field.
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