Pittsburgh Steelers fall flat on road again vs. Titans
Five games into their season, the Pittsburgh Steelers we know still haven't shown up.
Pittsburgh's 26-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night in Nashville, dropping the team's road record to 0-3, was a humbling reminder that the Steelers are not the Steelers this season. Not yet.
The Steelers we know wouldn't give up 10 points in the final five minutes against a 1-4 team. The Steelers we know would have been able to run the ball for more than 56 yards against a defense that was giving up more points (by far) than any team in the NFL.
Make no mistake: The Titans were an awful team before Thursday. They lost four games by an average of 24 points. Their one win was the definition of fluky -- including multiple return touchdowns and insane long scores. Tennessee gave great effort Thursday night, but the Ttians don't have a lot of weapons on either side of the ball that scare you.
The Steelers have lost to the Titans , the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos on the road. The combined record of those teams when they aren't facing the Steelers : 2-10.
Injuries continue to be a major problem for Pittsburgh. Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman were lost in the backfield. Offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert also were hurt . The offensive line and running game have struggled all season, requiring Ben Roethlisberger to play at a superhuman level.
For four games, Big Ben was up to the challenge. His play sparkled even when the numbers didn't show it. His performance Thursday was more uneven. There were great moments -- like his 82-yard bomb to Mike Wallace -- but there also were a lot of missed throws and short drives against a lackluster opponent. Roethlisberger threw 40 times for 363 yards; ideally, he wouldn't have to throw that much.
Normally in these spots, the Steelers ' defense would pick up the slack. But it is lacking difference makers with LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu hurt. Casey Hampton looks like a shell of his former self. James Harrison doesn't look all the way back yet. The pass rush is so-so, and the run defense woke up Chris Johnson for a night. (He had 91 yards on 19 carries.)
The Steelers are a team searching for itself at 2-3. There still is plenty of time to recover, but this Steelers team does not look familiar.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal