In a battle between the AFC's last two undefeated teams, the visiting Steelers took a 27-7 lead before hanging on for a 27-24 win over the Titans. Pittsburgh is now the last remaining undefeated team in the AFC at 6-0, while the Titans, who missed a game-tying field goal attempt in the game's final seconds, fall to 5-1.
The Steelers dominated in all three phases during the first half. Ben Roethlisberger threw two first-half touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson, with Ray-Ray McCloud's 58-yard punt return setting up Johnson's second touchdown of the half. Benny Snell also ran for a first-half touchdown, as the Steelers out-gained the Titans 161-1 during the game's first 18 minutes. The Steelers, following a muffed Titans snap on fourth down, had a chance to further add to their lead before halftime, but Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone by safety Dane Cruikshank.
After Pittsburgh started the second half with a field goal, Ryan Tannehill, who initially got the Titans on the board with his second-quarter touchdown pass to Corey Brown, hit A.J. Brown for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Following linebacker Jayon Brown's interception of Roethlisberger, Stephen Gostkowski's 51-yard field goal made it a 10-point game with 2:55 left in the third quarter. The Titans then made it a three-point game after Derrick Henry's one-yard touchdown run with 10:13 left.
The Steelers, on the strength of two third-down catches by Johnson, embarked on a 16-play drive that reached the Titans' red zone. The drive ended without any points for Pittsburgh, however, as Titans safety Amani Hooker picked off Roethlisberger's third-down pass in the end zone with 2:40 left. Tennessee then drove into field goal range before Gostkowski's 45-yard attempt sailed wide right.
Why the Steelers won
After a strong start, Pittsburgh managed to hold on in a game between two undefeated teams. The Steelers' offense, led by JuJu Smith-Schuster (nine catches, 85 yards), Johnson (nine catches, 80 yards, two touchdowns) and running back James Conner (111 all-purpose yards), went 13-of-18 on third down while helping Pittsburgh race out to a 17-point halftime lead. Roethlisberger's three interceptions and several big plays permitted by Pittsburgh's secondary are among the things Mike Tomlin's team will surely look to clean up in the coming weeks.
We'd be remiss not to mention the strong play of Pittsburgh's special teams. McCloud's punt return was big, as well Boswell's two made field goal attempts. Jordan Berry, acquired late last week, booted a 51-yard yard punt in his first game of the 2020 season.
Why the Titans lost
The Titans' defense, dead last in the NFL in third down and red zone efficiency heading into the game, allowed Pittsburgh to go 8-of-9 on third down and 3-of-4 in the red zone in the game's first 30 minutes. And while Tannehill made some big plays, the Titans didn't get enough production from Henry, who was held to 75 yards on 20 carries. The Titans did receive a monster game from Brown, who caught six passes for 153 yards that included his 73-yard touchdown. No other Tennessee player, however, recorded more than 35 receiving yards.
While the Steelers' enjoyed solid special teams play, the Titans special teams allowed McCloud's long return before suffering a muffed fourth down snap that nearly resulted in a Pittsburgh score just before halftime. Gostkowski's missed 45-yard goal in the game's final seconds sealed the Titans' fate.
The Titans were down 27-7 before Brown's 73-yard touchdown catch made it a 13-point game with two possession game with just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter. The Titans scored 17 unanswered points before before coming up short.
Play of the game
On their final drive, the Titans were in position to possibly take the lead after Tannehill hit Brown for a 21-yard gain that gave Tennessee the ball on Pittsburgh's 15-yard-line with a minute left. But on the Titans' next play, defensive end Stephon Tuitt's pressure of Tannehill forced an intentional grounding. The Steelers' defense forced a short gain and another incompletion before the Titans sent out Gostkowski for the game-tying attempt, an attempt he ultimately missed.
Play of the game II
While the Titans eventually scored on the drive, Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane's jarring tackle of Henry on a third and goal play in the fourth quarter symbolized the physicality that was on hand between the AFC's last remaining undefeated teams. Spillane, a former Titan, started Sunday's game in place of Devin Bush, who underwent season-ending knee surgery last week. Speaking of linebackers Vince Williams also enjoyed a strong outing, recording a team-high 10 tackles to go with a sack and two tackles for loss.
Receiving honorable mention was Roethlisberger's crazy completion to Eric Ebron on Pittsburgh's first possession. Big Ben's vintage play helped set up his 11-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.
"We wanted to answer all questions from you guys about how we start the game. And so, we took the ball, we went down the field and scored a touchdown so you guys can stop asking me about it." -- Tomlin to reporters when asked why the Steelers decided to take the ball after winning the coin toss. The Steelers scored a touchdown on their first possession on Sunday for the first time since their win over the Patriots in Week 15 of the 2018 season.
Pittsburgh will head to Baltimore to face the Ravens, who went into their bye week with a 5-1 record. The Ravens swept the season series against the Steelers in 2019. The Titans will head to Cincinnati to take on a 1-5-1 Bengals squad that lost a nail-biter Sunday to the visiting Browns.