The Steelers entered this game with a 7-2 record, but were a major disappointment in their first nine games. At least, their offense was. The scoring unit was averaging just 20.8 points per game, down from 24.4 the year before. Ben Roethlisberger, who pondered retirement prior to the season, had missed so many downfield throws all year, while the offense as a whole frequently bogged down in the red zone.
However, if this result is any indication, the Steelers have awakened and are in prime position to make a Super Bowl run.
The Steeler offense we saw in this game wasn't even close to the team we watched in the first 10 weeks of the season. They posted 40 points and were every bit as dominant as that sum indicates. There were some drops, but they were otherwise firing on all cylinders versus Tennessee. And that includes Ben Roethlisberger, who was tremendous.
Roethlisberger was so much better in this contest, going 30-of-45 for 299 yards and four touchdowns. His stat line would've been better had his teammates not dropped five passes. Roethlisberger was up to his old tricks, connecting on a 10-yard pass while being wrapped up for a potential sack. He saw some pressure early, but his offensive line got its act together and kept him clean in the second half, when Roethlisberger was especially lethal. Roethlisberger's numbers following intermission were terrific; he was 20-of-23 for 183 yards and three scores after halftime.
Antonio Brown was a monster in this game. The Titans had no answer for him, as he caught 10 of his 13 targets for 144 yards and a whopping three touchdowns. One of his scores was ridiculous; Brown snatched the ball with one hand and pinned it to his helmet as he was falling out of bounds.
Jesse James (5-21), playing for an injured Vance McDonald, caught Roethlisberger's fourth touchdown. Meanwhile, JuJu Smith-Schuster (4-47) and Martavis Bryant (2-30) dropped passes, but made key plays beyond what the stat sheet indicates. Smith-Schuster drew a pass-interference flag to set up an eventual touchdown, while Bryant pounced on a Brown fumble right before halftime to keep a scoring drive alive.
Le'Veon Bell fantasy owners have to be frustrated. They saw their elite running back score, but the play was correctly overturned by replay review. Bell still eclipsed 100 net yards, rushing for 46 (12 carries) and receiving 57 (9 catches). He dropped a pass in the second quarter.
The Titans, meanwhile, weren't as bad as this score indicates. They trailed 16-14 in the third quarter when things began falling apart. Delanie Walker dropped a touchdown, while a field goal was blocked by T.J. Watt earlier in the evening. Marcus Mariota began pressing, and this led to a pair of late interceptions, one of which led to a score.
Mariota finished 22-of-33 for 306 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He also scrambled for a score. Two of the picks weren't really his fault, as he was trying to make something happen late in the game. However, his initial pair of interceptions were terrible. The first occurred on Tennessee's opening scoring drive, which was a pass that was floated way too high. The second took place because Mariota stared down his receiver, allowing the defender to jump the route. Both picks set up Pittsburgh field goals.
The Titans wasted a ton of downs running the ball with DeMarco Murray. The veteran back was very sluggish, mustering just 10 yards on eight carries. He also dropped a pass. Derrick Henry was more effective, gaining 32 yards on seven attempts. The Titans need to move forward with Henry as their starting running back, though Murray should still be involved as a receiver out of the backfield.
Two Titans had more than 40 receiving yards. Rishard Matthews caught five balls for 113 yards and a touchdown, which was a 75-yard reception on the opening play of the second half. Meanwhile, Walker (6-92) had a solid outing except for his dropped score. Elsewhere, Corey Davis had a very impressive 10-yard reception in which he tapped his toes down along the sideline before falling out of bounds. However, he didn't do much else, catching three balls for 27 yards.
Lions XX, Bears XX
Chiefs XX, Giants XX
Buccaneers XX, Dolphins XX
Vikings XX, Rams XX
Saints XX, Redskins XX
Jaguars XX, Browns XX
Ravens XX, Packers XX
Texans XX, Cardinals XX
Chargers XX, Bills XX
Broncos XX, Bengals XX
Patriots XX, Raiders XX
Eagles XX, Cowboys XX
Seahawks XX, Falcons XX
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.