There wasn't a whole lot of positives to take away from a 31-14 loss to the Titans to place the Steelers as the two-seed in the AFC. The defense gave up more than 300 yards for the first time in the season, registered only one sack and forced no turnovers. Ben Roethlisberger committed four turnovers, several at key inopportune moments. And Bruce Arians gameplan still makes less than no sense.
Still, I didn't come away from this game believing Pittsburgh couldn't take this team in a postseason rematch, even with Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch. Coming off three tough, emotional games against the Pats, Cowboys and Ravens, the Steelers were about due for a letdown and that's what they got. They squandered opportunities, while the Titans played almost flawlessly and the Steelers were still either winning or in it for the majority of the game.
Granted, the Steelers were royally rumped by the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on Aaron Smith for supposedly calling out the Titans snap count on a field goal attempt near the end of the third quarter, thus allowing Tennessee to go up 24-14 and change the outlook of the game. Would the Steelers have come back if it remained a one-score game? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'm curious to see all the people who say the refs hand the Steelers all their wins after that one. That was a questionable call the broadcasting team wouldn't even touch the rest of the game.
Nevertheless, the more mistake-prone team rightfully lost. A Steelers team committing four turnovers, and nearly two more on fumbles, had no business winning this game. This team left a bunch of points on the field and certainly lived to regret it. Roethlisberger deserves a lot of the blame, as does Arians. Ben is to be faulted for coughing up the ball near the goal line on his run, but look at Arians two inept running plays out of passing formations that preceded that. None of the Steelers opponents are ever fooled by it. The three tight end formation has proven time and time again to be ineffective when blocking for the run, yet Arians repeatedly refuses to go back to the I.
Going into this game, I had no animus toward the Titans. But Tennessee is chock full of gloating, high-stepping assholes. Whether it was Chris Johnson dancing into the endzone on his touchdown or LenDale stomping on the towel, this team showed less than no class against a Steelers team they have no reason to hate. I'm looking forward to seeing Tennessee again come January.