Steelers vs. Titans: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers have lived by the game-winning field goal and died by the game-winning field goal.
Rob Bironas kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired Thursday night to give the Tennessee Titans a 26-23 win over the Steelers.
The loss came four days after Shaun Suisham kicked a 34-yarder to lift the Steelers over the Eagles.
The Steelers (2-3) haven't been better than .500 this season and haven't won a road game this season. The Titans improved to 2-4.
Let's take a look at the Steelers' final post-game grades and evaluations.
Roethlisberger threw for 363 yards to pass Terry Bradshaw as the Steelers' all-time passing leader. He still needs to win two more Super Bowls to match Bradshaw in the only category that really matters.
After what happened last night, it's hard to see Roethlisberger winning a third Super Bowl this season.
He completed 24-of-40 passes with a touchdown and an interception against the Titans, but missed some key throws and couldn't finish off the game-winning drive like he did four days earlier.
Roethlisberger turned back the clock to 2011 and went vertical with an 82-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace to give the Steelers a 10-3 lead in the first quarter.
However, he missed a chance to get the Steelers some points before halftime when he threw an interception with less than two minutes to go in the half. The pick came right after a 55-yard screen pass to Isaac Redman got the Steelers to the Titans' 32.
The Titans converted the turnover into a field goal, and the Steelers went into the locker room down 16-10.
Isaac Redman: A-
Redman caught four passes for 105 yards, including a 55-yard screen pass that put the Steelers on the cusp of field-goal position late in the first half.
Redman was difficult to bring down, bouncing off defenders all night.
He only ran for 14 yards on five carries, however, and was injured late in the game. None of the Steelers running backs could get going. The Steelers ran for just 56 yards on 22 carries.
Baron Batch: B-
Rashard Mendenhall missed most of the game with an injury, and Redman was injured late in the game.
Batch, a second-year man who missed most of last season with an injury, performed admirably when called upon. His longest run, 10 yards, came on a touchdown drive that gave the Steelers a 20-16 lead in the fourth quarter.
Batch lost a yard, however, when the Steelers were trying to get in position for the game-winning field goal, and he gained just 22 yards on 10 carries.
Rashard Mendenhall: C
Mendenhall missed most of the game with an Achilles injury, so he can't be faulted for that. But when he was in the game he ran for just six yards on six carries.
Mike Wallace: B
Wallace caught only two passes all night, but they came at key times.
He caught an 82-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to give the Steelers a 10-3 lead in the first quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, he caught a 12-yard sideline pass on the first play of a field-goal drive that extended the Steelers' lead to 23-16.
Antonio Brown: C
Brown caught four passes for just 20 yards, and was the intended receiver when Jason McCourty intercepted Roethlisberger in the second quarter. He also didn't do much on punt returns, running into one of his teammates on one return.
Emmanuel Sanders: B
Sanders caught four passes for 43 yards. One of his catches was for 10 yards on 3rd-and-8 on the final play of the third quarter, keeping alive a drive that culminated in a go-ahead touchdown.
Ben Roethlisberger turned to Sanders on the first two plays of the Steelers' final drive. Sanders caught two passes for 31 yards to get the drive rolling, even though it ended with Shaun Suisham's first missed field goal of the season.
Heath Miller: A
Miller had the most receptions among Steelers pass catchers with six for 67 yards. Three of his catches came on third down. His blocking duties became more important with injuries on the offensive line.
David Paulson: B
The rookie wasn't called upon much, but he did the job when he was. His only reception was an eight-yard catch on the opening play of the second half. He also drew an unnecessary roughness call on the play. Paulson's performance helped ignite a field-goal drive that cut the Steelers' deficit to 16-13.
OVERALL GAME GRADE: B-
Considering the injuries to center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert, it wasn't a bad showing by the offensive line.
Doug Legursky replaced Pouncey at center and rookie Mike Adams replaced Gilbert at right tackle.
Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just once and has been sacked just twice in the last three games. He did have to escape pressure a few times, however, and the protection broke down on the last play of the Steelers' final drive when they were trying to get into field-goal position. Roethlisberger had to throw the ball away on third down from the Titans' 36, and Shaun Suisham was forced to attempt a 54-yard field goal that he missed.
The line couldn't open holes for the Steelers running backs. The Steelers ran the ball for just 56 yards on 22 carries.
OVERALL GAME GRADE: C+
None of the Steelers defensive linemen had more than two tackles, according to NFL.com.
The Titans ran the ball 22 times for 94 yards, better than four yards a carry. Chris Johnson had 91 of those yards on 19 carries.
The defensive line occupied blockers enough for the Steelers to sack Matt Hasselbeck three times.
Lawrence Timmons: A-
One takeaway a game isn't going to cut the mustard, but Timmons provided the Steelers with that takeaway by intercepting Matt Hasselbeck in the fourth quarter. The Steelers converted the turnover into a field goal to extend their lead to 23-16.
James Harrison: B
Harrison had his first sack of the season. It was one of three sacks by the Steelers, who entered the game with just eight sacks. Aside from his one sack, however, Harrison didn't appear to hurry Hasselbeck all that much. Like last season he was hindered by the absence of LaMarr Woodley on the other side. He did have four total tackles in the game.
Jason Worilds: B-
Worilds had a sack, his third of the season. However, Hasselbeck still was able to complete 25-of-44 passes for 290 yards, and Worilds was part of a unit that could have put more pressure on Hasselbeck in key situations.
Larry Foote: B+
Foote sacked Hasselbeck and forced him to fumble on third-and-7 from the Steelers 36-yard line in the third quarter. Hasselbeck recovered the fumble, but the 11-yard loss yanked the Titans from the fringes of field-goal range.
Foote also had four total tackles.
Ryan Clark: B+
Clark again led the Steelers in tackles with eight and did all he could to cover for the absence of Troy Polamalu.
Clark was injured late in the game and returned. He was part of a secondary that was vulnerable throughout the game.
Will Allen: C
Allen faced the impossible task of replacing Polamalu at strong safety.
He forced a fumble in the game, but that was only after Kenny Britt caught a 31-yard pass. Britt recovered the fumble, and it led to a field goal in the first quarter.
Allen had five total tackles in the game.
Keenan Lewis: A-
Lewis had four total tackles and broke up several passes in the game. He took a big step forward as a legitimate starting cornerback.
Ike Taylor: C
Taylor was no shutdown cornerback in this game.
He committed a pass interference penalty and a defensive holding penalty that aided the Titans' game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
Don't forget, too, that the Steelers' secondary would have looked even worse than it did if the Titans hadn't dropped several passes.
OVERALL GAME GRADE: D-
The only thing that keeps this unit from getting a failing grade is Shaun Suisham's 52-yard field goal, which increased the Steelers' lead to 23-16 with 8:22 left.
Suisham matched his career long with that field goal, but came up about a yard short on a 54-yard attempt that would have given the Steelers a three-point lead with 54 seconds to play.
The bottom line is the Steelers wouldn't have lost this game if it weren't for a blocked punt that gave the Titans the ball at the Steelers 1 at the end of the first quarter. The Titans took a 13-10 lead on Jamie Harper's one-yard touchdown run.
OVERALL GAME GRADE: C
The Steelers entered this game 2-2 and lost to a 1-4 team. Not only were the Titans 1-4, but they were the first NFL team since 1954 to allow at least 30 points in their first five games, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The coaching staff also needs to find a way to get this team to win on the road.
The Steelers exploited the Titans porous defense with a home run ball to Mike Wallace in the first quarter. The touchdown gave the Steelers a 10-3 lead.
The Steelers offense seemed to get conservative after that, however. There were quite a few of those screen passes to Antonio Brown, who gained just 20 yards on his four catches.
The decision to attempt a 54-yard field goal in the final minute seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out to be the wrong decision, and it gave the ball to the Titans at their own 45 needing just a field goal.
The Steelers were a little more disciplined, committing just four penalties for 50 yards. But it was a hollow achievement.