[Sorry, due to laptop technical difficulties, we gotta start a new take here.]
2:13: Phil (Chris' daddy) Simms was surprised by how well Collins and the Titans passing game are moving downfield? Imagine how Dick LeBeau feels, dude.
2:15: Don't criticize Bruce Arians for running the ball on first down with one and three-quarters minutes remaining before halftime. We learned a long time ago from a pretty impressive offensive mind -- Paul Hackett -- that it's almost textbook to go with a run on the first or, at worst, second play of a two-minute-drill drive. Gotta at least try to keep the defense honest. And, hey, you can't argue with Mewelde Moore's success there, even if he, too, was shaken up a mite. (Man, they're hitting like it's a playoff game out there.)
2:23: Moore's final-option catch was priceless -- he took the hit, eluded tacklers, AND got out of bounds with 40 seconds left. . . .Funny that Phil Simms still cannot figure out the Steelers' clock management and preservation of timeouts, huh? But it's true, Roethlisberger didn't need to waste precious seconds by aligning for a spike -- it probably cost just one more pass play, maybe a shot in the end zone, maybe a shade closer for a hooking Jeff Reed. Man, that 33-yard field-goal attempt went left -- I'm not a golfer, but that's a hook rather than a fade, right? -- just a couple of yards in front of the near upright, veering wide. Instead of a 10-10 deadlock, the Steelers go into intermission behind by 10-7 and with Reed watching the miss replayed on the LP Field scoreboard. It'll be interesting to see if this failure revitalizes the Titans, or if the rally from a 10-0 deficit further fuels the Steelers.
2:30: The things you find when you Google "halftime". . .
And radio's John Steigerwald used to moan about a dog and a frisbee being a sufficient halftime show. . .
2:40: Four -- count 'em, four -- leg kicks by Roethlisberger calling that snap from Justin Hartwig. He finally caught the signal to snap. . . Between the Bironas kickoff out of bounds and the Berger punt that Tennessee nearly fumbled away -- nice recovery by a brain-frozen Chris Carr -- the Steelers could give themselves the jump-start they need. But that would require a defensive stop here down deep, and getting the ball back at midfield, or inside Titans territory.
2:50: No disputing that touchdown. Nice throw, catch and touchdown plunge by Roethlisberger and Hines Ward -- and they both absorbed some pretty sturdy blows on that play. Steelers up, 14-10, after 14 unanswered points . . .Nice of Nantz to jinx Roethlisberger by mentioning that career-best stretch of 127 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Then again, the guy already had two fumbles in the first half, so maybe that covers it. . . As CBS pointed out, the Steelers' defense has yielded 22 third-quarter points all season, but more than half of those -- 13, to be exact -- came in the two games since Gene Collier wrote about it. Not that it's his fault.
3:05: That Tennessee drive was textbook LeBeau/Steelers defense. They'll give up the short pass, the tight-end outs. They'll constantly attempt to crunch the receivers, leaving indents and impressions for later in the game. They'll get the occasional sack (Harrison) or pass break up (Ryan Clark on an open Alge Crumpler). Sometimes, they'll make the big play or the takeaway, sometimes the offense will get the big play as with Justin McCareins covered 20 yards downfield by . . . a linebacker, Timmons? But Kris Johnson beating Ike Taylor in the backfield is one thing, but taunting Troy Polamalu and the defense at the 5-yard line on his way to the go-ahead touchdown? Double-hmmmmm. Tennessee retook the lead, 17-14. But Johnson may have reawakened the slumbering giant. Didn't Dallas celebrate prematurely two weeks ago?
3:11: What was it Nantz was saying about Roethlisberger's streak without an interception? (See 2:50.) The number, Nantz just intoned, was 131 when the streak ended. Now Roethlisberger has three giveaways in a little less than three quarters, the worst stat of all. Just a thought, II: Wasn't Roethlisberger one prime Steeler this week talking about, ah, this game isn't all that important . .. The game may well be getting away from the Steelers. . . Officials could've called Brandon Jones on offensive interference in the end zone on that pass incompletion. . . In the end, it led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Steelers lining up for the short Bironas field goal. So the Titans seemed to be on the verge of putting away this victory. . . Plus, that streak of sub-300 games pitched by the Steelers' defense appeared to be in doubt: Tennessee was at 278 offensive yards at the third quarter's end.
3:24: These Titans certainly got their swagger back, 24-14, with 14 unanswered points themselves. And LenDale White, with his 15th touchdown on the season (on only 718 yards rushing, and counting), doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Earl Campbell. White's touchdowns are the most since 1979, when Campbell rumbled for 19 scores. . . and three yards shy of 1,700 yards. The difference between them is more than 1,000 yards, to be sure.
3:31: Stunting and sacking by a coupla guys named Jason? The Titans just placed their foot on the Steelers' neck. Weird thing is, with three Roethlisberger giveaways and that game-changing penalty on the field-goal line up, the Steelers can sincerely admit to giving this one away. Wonder how that will feel if their season goes deep into January, and they might have to return to LP Field? But, hey, that's getting waaaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of everything. After all, Mike Tomlin does have a one-game-focus edict. But, hey, that doesn't apply to blogging: Man, those Brownies are in trouble. They've gone something line 19 quarters without an offensive touchdown. And Ken Dorsey is their quarterback. Yep, the Steelers' reserves may well be able to win that one.
3:43: Four fumbles, two lost. One interception, two that easily could've been plucked, if not three. Not a good day by Roethlisberger. Not good at all. Doesn't seem like he could sit out the Cleveland game at all -- he could well benefit from a quarter, a half of confidence, right?
3:47: Insult to injury, that White run for a first down put the Titans over 300 yards for the game and ended the Steelers' NFL-record-tying streak of 14 games without allowing a foe that many yards. So they will stand alongside the 1973 then-Los Angeles Rams -- Fred Dryer (and you thought he was merely a TV star), Jack Youngblood and the gang -- in league history. And this on a week when fans and media were starting to talk about where this defense ranked historically, down to the point of manufacturing nicknames. Perhaps it is all so premature, eh?. . . Clark escorted by trainer Ryan Grove with a right arm or shoulder injury, and Tyrone Carter into the lineup -- time to worry.
3:55: AFPilot has a point: This is playoff football. Run, hit hard, limit mistakes -- and that last one is the tell-tale difference today. But methinks to that list of Tennessee and Indianapolis being potential exits on the Road to the Super Bowl, you ought to include Baltimore in that list. The Ravens are playing well and would welcome a third shot at the Steelers. You know that old axiom about the difficulty of beating a team three times in a season, and that's a team the Steelers beat only by three and then four points the first coupla times.
3:59: Which was worse, Limas Sweed committing blatant offensive pass interference, or Limas Sweed shedding the defender illegally AND still dropping a long, soft pass that hit him in the hands? No, the worst was when Nantz claimed that he could catch it.
4:01: Make that TWO interceptions by Roethlisberger -- where was his streak between interceptions, Nantz? -- and about a half-season's worth of turnovers in a single Nashville afternoon. Hey, at least it wasn't Nick Harper returning that last pick 83 yards for a touchdown. . . So maybe that schedule caught up with the Steelers after all. Twenty-one second-half points by Tennessee nearly equals the entire third-quarter total the Steelers have given up the previous 14 weeks. . . Yes, video of White and the Titans stomping on a Terrible Towel will soon make YouTube, or TV highlights, or somewhere. But notice that wasn't a real, trademarked, authentic Terrible Towel. Some smart Tennesseean got a gold towel and marked it up.
4:20: The 17-point margin in this 31-14 loss marked the worst defeat by the Steelers in their past 17 games, dating to the New England 34-13 romp last December, and the second-worst margin in 32 games, since Baltimore drubbed them twice late in 2006 by 27 and then 24 points. Cheer up. . . Benstonium.com offered up a Christmas-themed video parodying those TV-beer commercials you see. Happy holidays: