NFL: 5 takeaways from the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 7 win over the Tennessee Titans
In a contest that saw the AFC's last two remaining undefeated teams go head-to-head, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Tennessee Titans 27-24 in a close one at the Nissan Stadium.
The Steelers raced to a 24-7 lead by the end of the second quarter. Ben Roethlisberger twice found Diontae Johnson in the end zone, and Benny Snell Jr. snuck in for his second rushing touchdown of the year.
A touchdown catch by Corey Davis from Ryan Tannehill got Tennessee on the scoreboard in the first half, but the hard-hitting Steelers' defense seemed in control.
This is the NFL, though, so of course coach Mike Vrabel's well-oiled Titans offense made a game of it. The Titans struck back in the second half with this dazzler of a 73-yard score from AJ Brown in the third quarter:
Tennessee running back Derrick Henry finally got over the line for a TD with about five minutes remaining, leaving the Titans just three points down.
Roethlisberger found the second half of the game much more problematic than the first, and he ceded possession back to the Titans for the third time in the game when his pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster was intercepted by Amani Hooker.
Off the back of that error from "Big Ben," the Titans got themselves into position for a game-tying field-goal for Stephen Gostkowski who did this:
To the dismay of the limited numbers of fans in attendance at Nissan Stadium, the former New England Patriot kicker hooked it wide. The Steelers took a hard-fought W and remain the only unbeaten team in the AFC.
5. Good defenses can still limit Derrick Henry
Don't get me wrong, Derrick Henry still finished the day with a hard-earned 75 rushing yards and a touchdown to his name, so it's not like he played poorly. But a a commendable Steelers' defense did a great job in limiting him to 3.8 yards per carry.
After running for 212 yards against the Houston Texans in Week 6, it seemed as though "Little Tractor" was rounding into postseason form early, but the Steelers may have helped create a blueprint on how to keep Henry in check.
Something tells me that Lou Anarumo, defensive coordinator of Tennessee's next opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, is going to want a copy of this game on tape.
4. The Titans need to improve their pass rush
How the Titans rank third in the league for takeaways (12) is beyond me; they barely get any pressure on the quarterback, generating pressure on a measly 16.8 percent of defensive snaps. It certainly looks like a 'bear market' for that particular statistic.
Roethlisberger had a tough afternoon throwing the football on Sunday. His range just seemed off. If the Titans had been able to get to him with more consistency and force him into more uncomfortable throws, they would have seen more of the ball on offense and could have won.
More, more, more.
The pass rush is certainly something for Tennessee defensive coordinator Dean Pees to work on with the squad; if you give the league's best quarterbacks too much time in the pocket, you will struggle to win football games, and that's what they found out against the Steelers.
3. The Steelers' receivers cause big problems for defenses
Because the Steelers played most of last season with an underperforming Mason Rudolph at quarterback, we didn't get to see a lot from the Steelers receiving corps. I almost forgot they existed during some of those games.
Fast-forward to this season, and things have changed. Big Ben is back in the pocket, Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster is back healthy; second-round draft pick Chase Claypool is performing way above expectation; and Diontae Johnson has 227 yards and 3 touchdowns to his name, too.
This all makes the Steelers an incredibly hard team to prepare for on defense. If a team wants to try and put double coverage on Smith-Schuster, Roethlisberger has plenty of other options, including tight end Eric Ebron.
If anyone is going to put an end to the Steelers perfect start to the season (6-0), that team is going to need to figure out a pretty spectacular coverage scheme to stop all those receivers.
2. The Steelers' defense really is that good
No one defensive player came away from this game with stats worth bragging about, but the Steelers pass rush played exceptionally well against a talented Titans' offense.
They were in Ryan Tannehill's face all afternoon, constantly breaking across the line of scrimmage and hurrying the Tennessee quarterback on six occasions. The Steelers got two sacks from TJ Watt and Vince Williams.
On top of that, they spent the afternoon chasing down Derrick Henry for minimal gain, keeping the MVP candidate under 100 yards.
All in all, not a bad afternoon's work for one of the NFL's most talented defenses, and Lamar Jackson's Ravens had better take note for next week.
1. AJ Brown seems set on making up for lost time
After missing a month due to injury, Titans receiver AJ Brown rebounded quite spectacularly into form against the Steelers.
In what was an exceptional performance, Brown went for 153 yards and averaged 25.5 yards per catch.
Surely one to consider for your fantasy team?
I'd expect to see him up against double-coverage next week versus the Ravens.