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

Titans’ winners and losers from Week 9 loss to Steelers

The Tennessee Titans once again failed to produce back-to-back wins after dropping their Week 9 game to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-16.

With the loss, the Titans now move to 3-5 on the season and sport an 0-4 record on the road. If you include the Week 6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in London, Tennessee is now 0-5 away from Nissan Stadium this season.

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Adding to that, the Steelers continue to own the Titans, with Pittsburgh now having won each of the last five meetings with Tennessee.

It’s safe to say that the Titans’ playoff hopes are, at best, on life support.

On the bright side, we saw another impressive performance from rookie signal-caller Will Levis, who was making his first road start in prime time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to overcome everything else that went wrong.

Here are the biggest winners and losers from Week 9.

Winner: QB Will Levis

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Levis didn’t have the gaudy touchdown numbers he had in his debut, but he did manage to throw for a career-high 262 yards. The rookie threw a pick, but it was on a desperation pass with seconds remaining in the game.

The Kentucky product’s performance wasn’t just impressive because of stats, though. He showed poise and patience in the pocket despite terrible pass protection, and his ability to pick up blitzes and get the ball out quickly prevented more sacks.

The operation of the offense was good in a loud, hostile environment, and despite the bad pass pro, he still managed to make plays down the field, with Tennessee notching six passes of 20-plus yards.

Levis showed his impressive arm and accuracy throughout with some nice touch passes and tight-window throws, and some of those came while he was off balance.

Considering the adversity he had to overcome (poor pass protection and play-calling) in his first road start that came in prime time, it’s hard not to come away impressed with Levis once again.

This performance should cement him as the starter the rest of the season.

Loser: LT Andre Dillard (and the offensive line)

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

While the entire offensive line was not good en route to giving up four sacks (one was on Levis) and 15 pressures, Dillard was the worst of the bunch by a mile — surprise, surprise.

Steelers edge rusher Alex Highsmith tallied a whopping 11 pressures, with NINE of them coming against Dillard alone, according to Next Gen Stats. That’s just pathetic, no other way around it.

Granted, Dillard was forced into action because of an injury to Chris Hubbard, but now it’s time for the Titans to take a long look at what their other in-house options and shouldn’t waste another snap on Dillard, barring every single tackle on the roster being injured.

Winner: WR Kyle Philips

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Philips came up with some big catches in this game, en route to a career-high 68 yards. He had a pair of receptions that put Tennessee in field goal range at the end of the first half, and he had another reception on the Titans’ final drive that gave them a chance.

Hopefully this is just a sign of things to come for the UCLA product, who desperately needed a showing like this.

Loser: Titans' defense

Syndication: The Tennessean

A 20-point game is usually a pretty solid showing for a defense, but that was not the case for Tennessee on Thursday night against a Steelers offense that was scoring a shade over 16 per game going into this contest.

The pass-rush was non-existent and the Titans did a terrible job defending the short passes. Adding to that, awful tackling handed the Steelers a ton of extra yards.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the Titans’ run defense continues to be a shell of what it was earlier in the season and the last two years, and the unit gone from elite to awful in a handful of games.

The Steelers finished with 166 yards on the ground and 5.5 yards per carry. The 100-yard effort is the fourth in a row against Tennessee’s now-lackluster run defense.

Winner: K Nick Folk

Syndication: The Tennessean

Not only did Folk make all three of his field goals with a long of 48, he broke the NFL record for most consecutive field goals under 40 yards, a mark that now stands at 72 and counting.

Loser: OC Tim Kelly

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Kelly’s play-calling left a lot to be desired all night long, but three calls in particular were infuriating.

At the end of the first half with the Titans facing a third-and-10 at the Steelers’ 19, Kelly opted to call a give-up run play instead of giving his young signal-caller a chance to move the chains and score a touchdown.

Then, on Tennessee’s second-to-last drive that started near midfield, Kelly opted to call a run play on third-and-4 before Levis unsuccessfully took a deep shot down the field on fourth down.

It isn’t clear if the throw was Levis’ first option, but it shouldn’t have been an option to begin with when the Titans only needed four yards.

Kelly’s play-calling was just another thing that Levis and Co. had to overcome on Thursday night. We haven’t said a lot of negative things pertaining to Kelly this year, but he deserves scrutiny this time around.

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