For only the second time all season, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense scored more than 13 points away from Heinz Field. It was also only the second road game—out of six—in which the team as a whole produced more than 17 points, let alone 27 points.
More than half of those 27 points last night came in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans, which began with a five-yard rushing touchdown by Le’Veon Bell, the team’s first rushing touchdown in seven weeks. Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 12-yard touchdown on the next drive after the defense forced a three and out.
That was certainly preferable to the conduct of the offense in the first half, which bombed out after a promising opening drive that ultimately stalled just outside the 30-yard line and ended in a 49-yard Shaun Suisham field goal.
But the Steelers were up 10-0 just five minutes into the game following a pick six by William Gay on the Titans’ first play, the second interception returned for a touchdown returned by Gay this season.
After that, the first half was mostly controlled by the Titans offense, who capped their second drive with a nine-yard rushing touchdown by Bishop Sankey that included several missed tackles.
The Titans offense even capitalized on Pittsburgh’s offensive mistakes. At the end of the first half, the Steelers were driving and poised to come away with points when Roethlisberger inexplicably threw an easy interception to Jason McCourty in the end zone.
Zach Mettenberger hit Nate Washington for an 80-yard touchdown off a double move on the next play to send the Titans into overtime with the lead. By that point, the rookie quarterback was outscoring the veteran 17-6. And it got worse before it got better after he found his tight end for another score in the third quarter to take an 11-point lead over the Steelers.
But that’s when the Steelers offense, led by Bell, finally began to come alive in a refreshing change of pace on the road.
While Bell had been running well all day, already rushing for over 70 yards by halftime, the Steelers just kept feeding him over the course of the last quarter and a half or so, finishing with 20 of his 33 rushes going for five yards or more, with five of those going for double digits.
It was Bell who cracked the end zone first for the offense, as previously mentioned, and Roethlisberger capped off the second drive through the air, giving the offense multiple offensive touchdowns on the road for just the second time this season.
The Steelers still have two road games ahead of them, and they’ll be tougher assignments than the opponents they’ve faced in the last two weeks. They open their December calendar against the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals, and are back on the road the following week against the Atlanta Falcons, who play better at home than on the road—much like the Steelers. Will we see more of the first half, or the second half? The future of the season likely depends on the answer to this question.