A mistake-filled night for the Tennessee Titans came home to roost in an embarrassing second half as the host Pittsburgh Steelers rolled to a 40-17 victory Thursday night at Heinz Field.
The biggest pockmark against the Titans in the lopsided loss was a four-interception performance by Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota ,who struggled from the outset as he was picked off on the Titans first series of the game.
“If you throw four interceptions, it’s tough to win. A lot of credit to Pittsburgh, they made a bunch of plays and got the best of us,” Mariota said. “Those are on me. When it comes down to it, I am the one who makes the decision to throw. It’s just that simple.”
Mariota had problems Thursday night for sure but he was far from the Titans’ only culprit in a game that got out of hand in the second half.
The Titans, who saw their four-game winning streak come to an end, had two Mariota interceptions in the first half and also had a Ryan Succop field goal blocked as they trailed 16-7 at halftime. While the first two of Mariota’s four interceptions on the night only cost the Titans a pair of Chris Boswell field goals, it helped to put the Titans in an early hole that they could never quite dig out of.
The Steelers scored on the opening drive of the game with a Ben Roethlisberger 41-yard TD throw to Antonio Brown, and then converted the first interception of Mariota on Tennessee’s first series into a 10-0 lead.
The Titans answered on the next series to stay close at 10-7 as Mariota capped the march with a 7-yards scramble.
Pittsburgh added two more Boswell field goals, including one that came on former Titan Coty Sensabaugh’s interception of Mariota. The second field goal, a 50-yarder just before the half, was aided by a missed officials call following a fumble that gave w the Steelers’ about 8 extra yards of field position, enough for Boswell to be in range and and put the Steelers up by nine at the half.
Tennessee looked poised to make a game of it with a 75-yard scoring strike by Mariota to Rishard Matthews on the first play of the second half. That helped the Titans creep to within two points at 16-14.
“They said they were going to call a shot the first play. Marcus put a great ball out there, I just had to run under it and make a play. It was cool, but at the end of the day we didn’t win” Matthews said.
From there, though, the roof fell in on the Titans, as Roethlisberger threw three more touchdown passes in the second half, including two more to Brown.
Pittsburgh immediately answered the Titans touchdown with one of its down – Roethlisberger to Brown again.
Succop cut the Steelers lead to 23-17 with a 44-yard field goal, but even that was a missed opportunity, as the normally sure-handed Delanie Walker dropped a wide-open pass that would have been a 13-yard touchdown pass from Mariota.
“I took my eyes off of it. I just thought it was a for sure catch. It’s one of the things our coaches at practice told us not to do, was never take your eyes off the ball. I did that,” Walker said. “I put that on my shoulders. That could have been a momentum change in the game if I got that touchdown. Those things I don’t usually do.”
After that, the Steelers took control, as Jesse James caught a 1-yard TD pass, followed by Brown’s third touchdown catch this one a highlight reel grab where he pinned the ball against his helmet.
For the Titans, it was a terrible primetime performance all around. They ran for just 52 yards on the night, turned the ball over four times with out getting any takeaways, and allowed Mariota to be sacked five times, in addition to his four picks.
“You can’t turn the ball over against anybody, especially when you’re playing a good football team like Pittsburgh. You’re really giving yourself no chance to win,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
The Titans now will have 10 days until they return to action on Nov. 26 at Indianapolis.
Mularkey said he wants his team to learn from the bad experience.
“They know we can’t make some of those mistakes. We can’t miss opportunities that we had. Against good teams, it’s going to cost you,” Mularkey said. “You’re going to get beat bad. But I think it’s one game, and there’s a lot to learn from this, especially for some of our younger players that hopefully take it a little personal and come back to work and get back to work on Monday.”