The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't blowing teams out. From week to week, it can look like they are teetering on the edge of defeat.
That wasn't the case Thursday night.
Antonio Brown had 144 yards receiving and three touchdowns, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 299 yards and four scores and the Steelers defense caused four turnovers on their way to a 40-17 win over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday.
Pittsburgh, which has won five straight games, sits a half-game ahead of the New England Patriots for the best record in the AFC.
The Steelers entered with three of their past four wins coming by a single score, with their offense producing no more than 20 points in those contests. They had struggled mightily to finish off long scoring drives, often settling for chip-shot field goals.
Some of those issues cropped up Thursday. The Steelers turned a pair of Marcus Mariota turnovers into just six points in the first half, blowing a chance to put the game out of reach. When Tennessee opened the third quarter with a 75-yard pitch-and-catch from Mariota to Rishard Matthews, it appeared Pittsburgh would be in for another close contest.
The Steelers found their red-zone offense stride just in time.
Roethlisberger engineered a 10-play, 75-yard drive that concluded in a five-yard touchdown to Brown right after the long Matthews catch. Then he hit Jesse James from one yard out on the first play of the fourth quarter to cap off another 75-yard drive that put the game out of reach.
The Titans went three-and-out, and then Mariota threw his third interception, leading to the third Roethlisberger-Brown touchdown connection and a Chris Boswell field goal. Boswell knocked through four field goals and four extra points in his best performance of 2017.
Inconsistent for much of the campaign, this was Roethlisberger's first four-touchdown contest since Oct. 9 of last year. It was his first game with more than two touchdowns of the season. He entered play with a 12-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio that put him on pace for his worst year in nearly a decade.
Fan criticism of his performance seemed to rankle Roethlisberger, who said it was only important the team won.
"The coach's job is to coach us and preach on the negatives and figure out how we can be better so we don't make those negative things again, so yes, that's his job," Roethlisberger said Monday during an interview with 93-7 The Fan (h/t CBS Pittsburgh). "It's one of those things, 'Hey, guys, you know you did this wrong, this wrong, this wrong, this wrong, you won, good job.'"
There won't be any criticism over the nine-day break between games. Roethlisberger played his best game of the season against a fellow AFC playoff contender and former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who served in the role from 2004 to 2014. This was LeBeau's first game against his old team since taking the Titans defensive coordinator job in 2015.
Roethlisberger connected with Brown 10 times, and Le'Veon Bell hauled in nine passes for 57 yards. Bell also carried the ball 12 times for 46 yards.
The performance will go down as one of the worst of Mariota's young career. The typically mistake-averse quarterback had never thrown more than two interceptions in a game. He now has eight touchdowns against 10 interceptions in what's been a quietly disappointing third NFL season.
The Titans will look to get back on track for a playoff berth on Nov. 26 against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Steelers host the Green Bay Packers the same night.