PITTSBURGH – In the Steel City, the Titans failed to stiffen up when they needed it most.
The Steelers took the lead late in the fourth quarter, and the Titans couldn’t rally in a 20-16 loss at Acrisure Stadium.
“You don’t lose it late – there’s always other things that go into it, opportunities missed, or their ability to make a play when they needed to,” Coach Mike Vrabel said. “It’s good to see us continue to fight … and have an opportunity.”
The Titans dropped to 3-5 with the loss, and they’ll need to dig out of a hole with nine games to play.
“Losing sucks,” quarterback Will Levis said. “It’s so hard to win games, and when you have an opportunity like that to win it at the end and it doesn’t happen, it makes you feel a whole lot worse. Credit to them – they made the plays when they needed to, and we didn’t.”
Levis made his second career start in place of an injured Ryan Tannehill, and he nearly rallied the Titans to a last-second victory.
Levis completed 22-of-39 passes for 262 yards in the contest. He was intercepted in the closing seconds at the goal line.
Running back Derrick Henry ran for 75 yards in the game, and Kyle Philips led the team with four catches for 68 yards.
The Steelers then took the lead 20-16 on a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kenny Pickett to receiver Diontae Johnson with 4:02 left in the contest. The score capped an 11-play, 92-yard drive when the Titans failed on several occasions to get a big stop.
The Titans got the ball back twice after that, but they couldn’t score.
“We’re going to continue to work, and continue to find a way to get better,” safety Amani Hooker said. “Obviously it’s an uphill battle at 3-5, but we put ourselves here. The best thing we can do to fix the problem is stick together.”
The Titans got off to a shaky start, as they allowed the Steelers to drive downfield on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead. A 10-yard touchdown run by Najee Harris capped a 10-play, 78-yard drive, which included a pair of third-down conversions by the Steelers.
But the Titans answered back in impressive fashion to take a 10-7 lead with a pair of scoring drives.
The Titans cut the lead to 7-3 on a 36-yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk, which capped a 14-play, 72-yard drive that took 7:23 off the clock.
In the second quarter, Henry scored on a two-yard touchdown run to make it 10-7. The third down run capped an 11-play, 73-yard drive that took 6:26 off the clock.
A 29-yard field goal by Steelers kicker Chris Boswell made it 10-10 with 1:16 remaining before the half.
But Levis executed a nice drive in the closing moments of the first half, moving the Titans down the field and into position for another Folk field goal, this one from 36 yards, and the Titans led 13-10 at the half. Philips made a pair of catches on the drive, and he had three catches for 56 yards in the first half.
Levis completed 12-of-17 passes for 153 yards in the first half, with a 98.4 rating.
The Steelers tied the game at 13-13 with 5:41 left in the third quarter on another field goal by Boswell, which capped a 15-play, 75-yard drive.
The Titans then reclaimed the lead 16-13 on a 48-yard field goal by Folk with just 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
But the Steelers mounted a comeback, and the Titans couldn’t answer.
After the Steelers scored with 4:02 left, the Titans got the ball back, but they couldn’t get in the end zone.
A fourth-down pass to Treylon Burks fell incomplete on one drive, and Burks was injured on the play. Burks ended up getting carted off the field. After the game, Vrabel said Burks was alert and moving.
The Titans got the ball back again late, but after driving the ball deep in Steelers territory, Levis was intercepted in the closing seconds.
It was a tough ending on a tough night for the Titans.
The Titans return to action on Sunday, November 12 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It sucks to lose,” receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine said. “We really wanted this one, we really wanted to get the momentum going. And now it’s back to work, and we have to fight to get that momentum back.”