Steelers slip past turnover-prone Titans 19-13

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Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (23) comes up with an interception on a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Racey McMath (81) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger ran for his first touchdown in three years, Chris Boswell kicked four field goals and the Pittsburgh Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 19-13 win over Tennessee on Sunday.

The Steelers (7-6-1) forced the Titans (9-5) into four turnovers and needed every one of them to win for the second time in three games.

Despite the miscues, Tennessee drove deep into Pittsburgh territory in the final moments, but wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was tackled inches short of the first down at the Steelers 11 with 27 seconds to go.

Pittsburgh remained in the mix in the muddled AFC North despite managing just 168 yards of total offense. Roethlisberger threw for 148 yards to move past Philip Rivers into fifth on the NFL’s career yards passing list, but it was his legs — and Pittsburgh’s resilient defense — that provided the difference.

Ten days after getting gashed in a loss to Minnesota, the Steelers responded by picking off Ryan Tannehill once and recovering three Tennessee fumbles. Each turnover led to field goals by Boswell, the final one a 48-yard kick with 4:34 to go.

The Titans ran for 202 yards, including 108 by D’Onta Foreman. Yet Tannehill struggled to find any rhythm in the passing game. He needed 23 completions to throw for 153 yards and was sacked four times, including 1 1/2 by Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt, giving him 17 1/2 on the season, a franchise record.

While Tennessee remains in control of the AFC South with three games remaining, the Titans missed a chance to move into AFC’s top seed.

Pittsburgh’s prospects aren’t nearly as rosy, but a second victory in three weeks over a first-place team keeps the Steelers in the thick of an underwhelming race for the AFC North.

Pittsburgh’s 10-point second-half rally seemed unlikely given the way Tennessee pounded away at the Steelers in the opening 30 minutes.

The Titans spent the first half effectively playing keep-away while the Steelers continued their baffling trend of slow starts.

Tennessee built a 10-point lead behind the methodical play of Tannehill — who scored his seventh rushing touchdown this season on a 1-yard quarterback sneak — and 19-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal by Bullock and took 10:17 off the clock, the longest drive by time since Oct. 2003, when Eddie George and Steve McNair were in the Titans backfield.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, did nothing. A fumble recovery by Minkah Fitzpatrick set up a field goal but otherwise, Pittsburgh’s offense spun its wheels. Even Roethlisberger’s climb up the NFL record books didn’t come easy.

He began the day needing just 27 yards passing to move past Rivers for fifth all time and seemed to get it on an 8-yard pass to Diontae Johnson on the last play of the first quarter.

The referees ended up moving the ball back 2 yards, forcing Roethlisberger to wait until a 3-yard flip to Najee Harris to officially slip by Rivers. Pittsburgh punted on the next play and finished the first half without a touchdown for a fourth straight game, the first time that has happened since 1993.

Not that it mattered in the end as the Titans let a winnable game on the road slip away, trimming their lead over Indianapolis in the AFC South to just one game in the process.

INJURIES

Titans: WR Julio Jones tweaked his hamstring late in the second quarter and didn’t return in the second half.

Steelers: TE Pat Freiermuth went into the concussion protocol in the third quarter after taking hits from Kristian Fulton and Zach Cunningham at the end of a 5-yard reception.

UP NEXT

Titans: Have a short week ahead. Tennessee hosts San Francisco on Thursday night.

Steelers: Travel to Kansas City to visit the surging Chiefs next Sunday.

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