With a banged up Kenny Pickett under center, Steelers fans must have come into their prime time matchup against the Tennessee Titans with some doubts. Week 9’s Thursday Night Football curated a shootout between a up and down Titans team and a Pittsburgh Steelers squad that has been struggling to find any momentum on offense. The Steelers came out swinging tonight, even with Kenny Pickett playing through a rib injury that he sustained last week that would cause him to leave the game in the second quarter. Pickett was able to pull off the win but did show signs of inaccuracy going 19/30 for only 160 yards and a touchdown. Pickett was able to manage the game adequately thanks to a steady rushing attack as well as a dominant pass rushing game from Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt. Will Levis had a modest second career start for the Titans, 22/39 for 262 yards and an interception. Levis tested the Steelers defense until the very end, having to force the issue that would result in a Kwon Alexander pick to ice the game at 20-16 in favor of the Steelers.
Tennessee now moves to a frustrating 3-5 after failing to hold Pittsburgh in the last five minutes of regulation and forcing their rookie QB to drive the field with 1:44 left. Levis did everything he could but the blame cannot be solely put on the rookie. Tennessee is now 0-4 on the road this season and continues to have the one step forward two steps backward trend as they continue to play inconsistent football, only scoring one first quarter touchdown all season. Derrick Henry logged 17 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown, still causing me to question why the Titans did not trade Henry before Tuesday’s deadline. The Titans will continue to play erratic football as they continue to develop Will Levis while Ryan Tannehill is injured. I would expect to see Levis remain the starter even after Tannehill returns given that Tennessee will try to rally for a playoff spot but will most likely end the season 8-9 or 7-10 like last season. The Titans go on the road again next week as they travel to another streaky team in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After being carted off the field, Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel in his postgame press conference said wideout Treylon Burks is “alert”, after a scary injury in the second half.
The Pittsburgh Steelers now move to one game behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North after a complete team win. Pickett played well despite being injured but the Steelers ground game is what helped this offense outlast a gritty Titans defense. Najee Harris recorded 16 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown while Jaylen Warren added 11 carries for 88 yards. Diontae Johnson finally found the endzone after 119 receptions, catching his first touchdown pass since 2021 and the score that would win the game. The Steelers offense wore down the Titans defense all night in comparison to what their defense did to the opposing offense. Alex Highsmith had what T.J. Watt was calling a breakout game after recording 4 total tackles, 2 sacks, and 5 QB hits to impose his presence on the Titans O-line tonight. T.J. Watt also recorded a sack to go along with constant applied pressure to Levis all evening. The Steelers now move to 5-3 and look to continue finding a more comfortable offensive identity and hope Pickett’s injury does not become a lingering one. The Steelers get to stay at home next week as the struggling Green Bay Packers come to town, Watt and company should have a field day with an immature Jordan Love under center. I will not be surprised to see old Mike Tomlin sneak his way into the playoffs yet again, and continue his streak of never finishing a regular season with a losing record.