The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 season ended not only prematurely, but also bitterly, suffering an early postseason exit after falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in the Divisional Round by a score of 45-42. The wounds are still fresh, but it’s time to relive the 2017 season that was, starting from the beginning.
Chapter XIV – Steelers Finally Put It All Together In Smash of the Titans
The Steelers had been searching all season for anything resembling a ‘complete game’, and the Thursday Night victory over the Tennessee Titans after narrowly escaping an Indianapolis Colts team led by Jacoby Brissett turned out to be by far the closest thing to it.
It was the Antonio Brown show, first and foremost, who caught 10 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns, though he did fumble one of those receptions, fortunately recovered by his teammate, Martavis Bryant.
While Ben Roethlisberger attempted 45 passes, he was actually held to just 299 passing yards, but when you throw four touchdowns to no interceptions, it doesn’t particularly matter. As mentioned, three of those scores went to Brown, but the other went to Jesse James, who had five catches for 21 yards.
Arguably the bigger story in the game was the splash plays of the defense, which intercepted Marcus Mariota four times. Coty Sensabaugh, Robert Golden, Sean Davis, and Mike Hilton all came down with one, and helped set the offense up with good field position.
Hilton’s was first, picking off Mariota on the Titans’ third play of the game. He intercepted the pass at midfield and returned it to the 24, which eventually led to a field goal, giving the Steelers a 10-0 lead at the time, following a 41-yard touchdown by Brown on the opening drive.
Mariota bounced back and led an impressive touchdown drive the next time, and the Titans nearly tied it on the next drive, attempting a field goal that was blocked by T.J. Watt, but that was about as good as it would get. The rest of the first half was a bit rough for both offenses, but the Steelers managed two more field goal drives, the first set up by Sensabaugh’s interception, which he returned 48 yards to the 20-yard line.
Mariota connected with Rishard Matthews on a 75-yard touchdown on the field play of the second half, but the rest of the game would belong to the Steelers. Roethlisberger responded with a 10-play drive that included nine passes, one to Brown for a five-yard score. They would score on four of their five possessions in the second half, the final one consisting of three kneeldowns holding a 40-17 lead.
Mariota’s final two interceptions came with his team down by 20 or more points already in the fourth quarter, but it showed some closing ability by a defense that really needed to display just that.