The Pittsburgh Steelers took down the Tennessee Titans under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, 27-24. It didn't take long for Pittsburgh to get on the board, as William Gay managed to pick off Zach Mettenberger's first pass of the game and take it back 28 yards for a touchdown.
But it was a back-and-forth close one throughout, with Pittsburgh relying on a comeback to take a late lead and the victory. Ben Roethlisberger didn't have an amazing day, and was sacked five times. He finished with 207 yards and an interception, but running back Le'Veon Bell was once again the offensive MVP, rushing for 204 yards off of 33 carries, with a touchdown and another 18 yards receiving.
Bell carried the game, extending drives and doing a masterful job of killing the clock in the fourth quarter when Pittsburgh was holding on by a three-point margin. It led to Pittsburgh keeping the ball for the final six minutes of the game, preventing Tennessee from having any chance of a comeback.
It was an eventful start to the game, as the Steelers followed up an opening field goal with the aforementioned interception by Gay, returned for the pick six. It was Mettenberger's first pass attempt of the game, and it was definitely on him, though Gay did make a solid play on the football.
Mettenberger did manage to right the ship on the following drive, when he found Kendall Wright for a big 23-yard gain, setting up a 9-yard touchdown for running back Bishop Sankey. That brought the score to 10-7, just seven minutes into the game. Pittsburgh would eventually kick another field goal to widen their lead prior to the second quarter.
It was all Tennessee in the second, at least on the scoreboard. The Titans kicked a field goal early on, but it was the Steelers who were driving down into the red zone with under two minutes to go. But Roethlisberger couldn't hit Martavis Bryant in the end zone, as Blidi Wreh-Wilson broke up multiple passes. Then, Jason McCourty snared an interception and Tennessee had the ball to presumably kill the clock heading into halftime.
But Mettenberger promptly went over the top and hit Nate Washington for a huge 80-yard touchdown pass with under a minute to go to give Tennessee the 17-13 lead heading into the half. At the start of the third quarter, it was the Chase Coffman show. He came through with some big grabs, and eventually caught a 4-yard touchdown pass near the end of the frame, putting Tennessee up, 24-13.
But Pittsburgh answered at the start of the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger, who again was sacked plenty early in the game, avoided the rush and extended the drive multiple times with his running. The drive was finished off by Le'Veon Bell, who ran in a 5-yard touchdown to reduce Tennessee's lead to 24-20.
Pittsburgh brought everyone on the next Tennessee possession, forcing a punt after pressuring Mettenberger into making bad throws. With about a full quarter remaining, the Steelers marched down field and into the red zone once again, and Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for a 12-yard touchdown pass with nine minutes to go in the game.
Tennessee wasn't able to put anything together after that, and the Steelers managed to kill a ton of clock on their next possession, again thanks to Bell. Tennessee never had a chance to take the lead back.
Three things we learned:
1) Le'Veon Bell is the real deal
Maybe we didn't learn this fact just from watching this game, but Bell looks so good running the football. He's never been known as an especially fast running back, nor an elusive runner, but he routinely leaves opposing players behind and that was on display Monday. Bell finished the game with over 100 yards (and eventually passed 200 yards), the third time he's eclipsed that mark this season. Pittsburgh may rank around the middle of the league in rushing yardage overall, but Bell is anything but an average running back week-in and week-out.
The above GIF is from late in the fourth quarter, when the Steelers had a three-point lead and needed to close out the game. They started the drive with plenty of time on the clock, but Bell picked up first down after first down, ultimately sealing the win for Pittsburgh. He was well over 25 carries at this point, and still running over tacklers.
2) It's never too late to go for it
Whether they're protecting the lead or just being safe in general, teams often kill the clock when there's very little time left in the first half, despite the fact that there's a whole half of football still to be played. The Steelers were driving and made it to the Tennessee 17-yard line before Roethlisberger was interceptioned by McCourty.
Tennessee took over with 44 seconds left on the clock, but rather than kneel it out or go for a couple short runs to bring the clock down, they went for a passing play. Mettenberger had already thrown one bad interception on the day, but he let one rip to Washington anyway, and nobody had a chance to catch him. It goes to show that in the NFL, there's always that chance of something big happening in a very short amount of time. That wouldn't have been a smart throw with that time on the clock if, say, Washington had been covered. But there's always a chance that he'll get as wide open as he was, and the Titans took a lead into the half because they went for it. Take a chance, even if it's deep in your own territory.
3) The Steelers are well-represented on the road
It's not exactly easy to tell without a head count, but the Steelers' fanbase clearly invaded LP Field on Monday. Pregame, the cameras were showing entire sections held by Steelers fans waving terrible towels (the "Heinz Field South" sign was also pretty entertaining), but it was clear during the game that it was more than what we saw on camera. They were loud, cheering for the Steelers when they were on defense and the stadium was virtually silent when the Titans scored. That's gotta feel good for the Steelers, a team that's struggled off and on but is still in the discussion in the AFC North race.