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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Mike Moraitis

Titans fall short against Steelers in Week 9: Everything we know

The Tennessee Titans came up short and dropped their Week 9 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, 20-16, moving their record to 3-5 on the season.

Tennessee’s offense got off to a good start with 13 points in the first half, but the unit went quiet after that and only mustered up three points the rest of the way.

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Despite the second-half struggles for the offense and a lackluster effort from the defense throughout the contest, the Titans hung around and had a pair of chances to win the game late, but the offense couldn’t get the job done.

The game ended with the Titans’ final drive stalling out in the red zone after an interception from rookie quarterback Will Levis, who was otherwise solid for most of the evening.

Now, let’s dive a bit deeper into all three phases for the Titans from their latest loss at the hands of the Steelers.

Final score: Steelers 20, Titans 16

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Team 1 2 3 4 F
TEN 3 10 3 0 16
PIT 7 3 3 7 20


Titans' top performers

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

QB Will Levis: 22-38, 262 YDS, INT; 1 CAR, 2 YDS

RB Derrick Henry: 17 CAR, 75 YDS, TD; 3 REC, 27 YDS

WR Kyle Philips: 4 REC, 68 YDS

K Nick Folk: 3-3 FGs (long 48); 1-1 XP


Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (thumb): SMB exited during the first series of the game and did not return.

RT Nicholas Petit-Frere (shoulder): NPF was hurt in the first quarter, came back in and then exited again for good.

WR Treylon Burks (undisclosed): Burks was carted off the field on a failed fourth-down play late in the fourth quarter. It was a scary moment, as Burks was down for awhile. However, he did manage to give a thumbs up as he was carted off and the latest report says he has movement in all of his extremities.

Four of Tennessee’s five starters left the game due to injury at some point. Aaron Brewer was the only one unscathed and NPF was the only one who didn’t return.

Instant analysis: Offense

Syndication: The Tennessean

-Levis wasn’t perfect by any means but I was still impressed with him in his second start. Despite facing constant pressure and being in a loud, hostile environment, Levis remained poised and patient in the pocket for most of the night, and his blitz pickup and quick release prevented multiple sacks. Levis displayed touch while also flashing his arm strength with some impressive off-balance throws. He didn’t have much time to make plays down the field but still connected on a handful of 20-plus yard plays. Levis is going to be very good if the Titans can just block for him consistently and I think he showed enough in Week 9 to cement his status as the starter, regardless of Ryan Tannehill’s health.

-Tennessee’s offensive line settled down a bit in pass protection after a very bad start, but the unit wasn’t good overall in that area, as Levis was constantly under pressure. As expected, the Titans had issues on the edge, and Andre Dillard gave up a whopping NINE pressures to Steelers edge rusher Alex Highsmith, per Next Gen Stats. Run-blocking was OK but not great, with Tennessee’s run game averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Four of Tennessee’s five starters left the game with an injury at some point, but only Nicholas Petit-Frere didn’t return. Dillon Radunz replaced him.

-DeAndre Hopkins made a big impact in the first half but was quiet the rest of the way. Kyle Philips had two big catches on the final drive of the first half that helped Tennessee to a field goal, and he had a 12-yard gain on the final drive to give the Titans a shot to win. He finished with a career-high 68 yards.

-Tim Kelly’s play-calling wasn’t great overall but it was particularly bad on the final two plays of the Titans’ second-to-last drive. On a third-and-4 near midfield, the Titans decided to run it, which was stuffed. Then, on fourth down, Levis took a deep shot to Treylon Burks, which just shouldn’t have even been an option in that situation. The Titans should’ve given Levis two cracks at it but didn’t, which was a mistake. Kelly also got conservative on a third-down play at the end of the first half. Instead of trying to move the chains to get into the end zone, Kelly called a give-up run and settled for a field goal.

-As has been the case for much of the season, the red zone offense was an issue once again, with the Titans converting on just one of their four trips. Tennessee was an abysmal 3-for-13 on third downs, also.

Instant analysis: Defense

Syndication: The Tennessean

-While a 20-point effort isn’t normally indicative of a bad defensive effort, it was the case in this game. Tennessee’s pass-rush was nowhere to be found, with the defensive front getting very little pressure and not notching a single sack. As a result, Kenny Pickett had plenty of time to throw and was able to make the plays necessary to put his team over the top. The Titans simply had no answer for Pittsburgh’s short passing game and making matters worse, tackling was an issue, which is nothing new. If the pass-rush isn’t working, this defense is always going to have issues with that lackluster secondary.

-The Titans’ run defense gave up over 100 yards for the fourth-straight game and has somehow managed to go from elite to awful in a handful of contests. Looks like Teair Tart’s absence was very overblown.

-The biggest bright spot for the defense was its two stops in the red zone, otherwise this game wouldn’t have been as close. Pittsburgh also converted half of its third-down tries (6-12).

Instant analysis: Special teams

Syndication: The Tennessean

-Nick Folk was 3-3 on field goals (long 48) and 1-1 on extra points. With the field goal makes, he now holds the NFL record for most consecutive field goals under 40 yards (72).

-Stonehouse did a great job flipping the field, with all of his punts going for over 50 yards (long 61). He averaged 57 yards per and dropped all three of his kicks inside the 20.

Titans highlights

Syndication: The Tennessean

What's next?

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting a 3-5 record and still winless on the road, the Titans will play their second-straight contest away from home in a Week 10 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tennessee has yet another road game in Week 11.

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