Friday, October 12, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Mike Munchak likes his football history, and he told his Tennessee Titans how the 1993 Houston Oilers started 1-4 before winning 11 straight to reach the playoffs.
One win down.
And that’s enough for Tennessee right now.
Rob Bironas kicked a 40-yard field goal, his fourth of the game, as time expired, and the Titans edged the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-23 on Thursday night to snap a two-game skid.
Matt Hasselbeck also threw for 290 yards and a touchdown, Tim Shaw blocked a punt and Chris Johnson ran for 91 yards in his second-best performance this season.
Hasselbeck said the Titans (2-4) know a turnaround like Munchak and his Oilers’ teammates had in 1993 can still be accomplished.
“We can write our own history,” Hasselbeck said. “Until the season’s over, we get to decide how we play.”
The Steelers (2-3) head home with a lengthy injury list and even more questions after they lost their third straight road game this season and fifth in six games dating back to the end of last season.
With so many fans wearing Steelers jerseys and waving Terrible Towels in the stands, LP Field felt more like Heinz Field South. A fan even ran onto the field waving a yellow towel between the third and fourth quarters before being tackled by security.
The homey atmosphere didn’t help the Steelers, who have lost at Denver, at Oakland and now to the team that had allowed more points than any other NFL team. Pittsburgh was the first team not to score at least 30 points against Tennessee.
“Obviously, we need to look at everything, but I doubt that the process itself is an issue,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “We have to coach better. We have to play better. We have to finish better in these settings.”
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 363 yards and a touchdown, and passed Terry Bradshaw as the Steelers’ career passing leader.
But Roethlisberger couldn’t drive the Steelers close enough after Hasselbeck and the Titans tied it up with 4:19 left, and Tomlin sent Shaun Suisham out to kick a 54-yard field goal for the lead. Suisham, who beat Philadelphia last week, watched this kick fall short of the crossbar.
“We just shouldn’t have put him in a situation to kick such a long one,” Roethlisberger said.
Suisham had given Pittsburgh a 23-16 lead by kicking his third field goal, a 52-yarder, earlier in the fourth.
Tomlin tried to ice Bironas with a timeout just after a low snap might have knocked the Titans’ kicker off his pace. Bironas simply waited it out and connected for the game winner even with another low snap.
The Titans held the ball more than their opponent for the first time this season at 30 minutes, 3 seconds.
The Steelers outgained Tennessee 412-359 on offense, and the NFL’s fifth-stingiest defense sacked Hasselbeck three times and intercepted him once.
But Johnson, criticized heavily the past five weeks for hesitant play, outran the Steelers running backs all by himself.
“You want to go out there and make plays and show everybody what type of team you are,” Johnson said. “That you are not coming out there to let them run us over.”
Now the Titans can rest up and see if Jake Locker might be back Oct. 21 when they visit Buffalo. They eased the constant criticism with a big victory over a perennially good team. Munchak said they really needed this win badly.
“We need to enjoy this one,” Munchak said. “It’s only one win. We know that. But it’s a great win for us at this point in the season when we needed to play and show people really what we’re all about.”