The Pittsburgh Steelers clinched a hard-fought victory against the Tennessee Titans with a final score of 20-16, marking another thrilling chapter in their season. This Thursday Night Football showdown was a rollercoaster ride, ultimately decided by Kwon Alexander's critical interception at the goal line, securing the win. The game revealed both highlights and low points for the Steelers, so let's begin with the positives.
A game that marked several "firsts" for the Steelers' offensive unit
There were both positives and negatives to take away from this contest. Let's begin with the bright spots. The game marked several significant firsts. Rookie Broderick Jones stepped in at right tackle after Chukwuma Okorafor was benched, and he performed remarkably, likely securing his spot as the starting right tackle for the remainder of the season.
Diontae Johnson celebrated his first touchdown since Week 17 of 2021, ending a notable scoring drought. Additionally, we saw Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada on the sideline, calling plays in person for the first time since taking the role. With Canada's presence on the field, the offense managed to score on their opening drive, a first for the season. Credit is due, as this game showcased Canada's best play-calling since taking on the role.
Post-game insights and the need for consistency moving forward
What's crucial now is consistency. The opening drive touchdown, a rarity this season, needs to become a regular occurrence in the first half for the Steelers to contend deep into January. Thursday's game was a step in the right direction. The running game also finally gained momentum, a critical element for the offense to thrive.
The ability to run the ball opened up opportunities in other areas, and Broderick Jones's presence played a significant role. Defensively, Cam Heyward's return was pivotal in leading a defense that effectively contained Derrick Henry, a primary focus heading into the game. Will Levis of the Titans impressed, making significant throws for a quarterback in only his second career start.
The Steelers' secondary mostly limited big plays, but untimely penalties and coverage lapses kept the Titans in contention until the end. The bend-but-don't-break Steelers secondary came through in clutch moments.
Penalties and missed opportunities nearly prove catastrophic
Now, onto the challenges. Penalties plagued the team, with 10 infractions nearly proving disastrous late in the game. Multiple third-down stops were nullified by unfortunate penalties that extended the Titans' drives. A penalty on Broderick Jones gifted the Titans favorable field position for their two-minute drill.
To succeed in more games, the Steelers must swiftly address this penalty issue.
Kenny Pickett, while displaying late-game heroics, needs to play consistently well throughout all four quarters. At times, he missed routine throws, and his mechanics seemed erratic. Although his rib injury may have contributed to these issues, the team requires greater consistency from him moving forward.
Despite the evident talent within this defense, the secondary must step up significantly. There have been too many instances where opposing teams have capitalized on third-and-long situations, yielding long passes that result in first downs. This is no longer acceptable. Considering the defense's already substantial time on the field, the secondary needs to contribute more effectively. Addressing all three of these issues is imperative for the team's aspirations of clinching the AFC North title.
Steelers must keep progressing ahead of crucial stretch
Relying on Pickett's fourth-quarter heroics, while effective for now, is not a sustainable strategy against high-caliber opponents. In summary, this much-needed win significantly impacts the AFC North standings. It's a victory that the Steelers can build upon as they prepare to face the Green Bay Packers in ten days.
The hope is for the team to find its rhythm and establish a more consistent stride before they head into the tour of Ohio in the upcoming weeks. Let's see if this team can build upon this performance and stack up some wins together.