NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — This time, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat their struggling opponent.
Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell were an impressive duo in Music City on Monday night.
Roethlisberger threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with 9:01 left, lifting the Steelers to a 27-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Pittsburgh (7-4) staged an impressive rally in the second half to take sole possession of second in the successful AFC North heading into the bye. Bell ran for 204 yards — an NFL high for a single game this season — and a TD. William Gay returned an interception 28 yards for a score, and Shaun Suisham kicked two field goals.
“Not a perfect night but really a great night for us in that we were down by 11, and we had an opportunity to bounce back,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “And I think anytime you can do that and gain victory you grow from it and grow from it in the right ways.”
Bell had 33 carries in the best game by a Steelers running back since 2010.
“When 26 gets the ball in his hands you never know what’s going to happen, and it’s awesome,” Roethlisberger said.
Roethlisberger had never beaten the Titans at LP Field, missing the Steelers’ win here in 2010. With Bell running through and over the Titans, the Steelers took the pressure off Big Ben by holding the ball for 39 minutes, 49 seconds with a 386-312 edge in total offense.
“He got rolling, and we couldn’t make a play and that’s disappointing,” Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That’s the way it went. We tried a lot of different things to try to stop their run game.”
The Titans (2-8) blew a 24-13 lead in their fourth consecutive loss. They sacked Roethlisberger five times and intercepted a pass in the end zone. Zach Mettenberger threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, and fellow rookie Bishop Sankey ran for another score.
But Tennessee’s offense fizzled in the fourth quarter. When Pittsburgh got the ball back with 6:58 left, the Steelers didn’t give it back and knelt out for the win.
“We feel very close,” Mettenberger said. “We’re not doing enough to win football games. That’s the bottom line and the most important thing. But rookie running back, rookie left tackle, rookie quarterback, rookie middle linebacker. We’re doing a lot of good things.”
Mettenberger and the Titans got off to an awful start, and then erased a 10-0 deficit with an impressive flurry.
Suisham had a 49-yarder for the first score of the game, and Gay picked off Mettenberger on the Titans’ first offensive play and returned it for the TD.
Roethlisberger had been intercepted only five times this season. But Jason McCourty picked off a pass intended for Brown in the end zone with 44 seconds left in the first half.
The Titans called timeout, and then Mettenberger threw to a wide-open Nate Washington, who beat Gay with a stutter-step on his way to a career-best 80-yard touchdown reception. Washington, who won two Super Bowl rings in Pittsburgh, wagged his finger at the crowd once he got to the 25.
“That’s unacceptable,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got to be better than that.”
Mettenberger added a 4-yard TD pass to Chase Coffman in the third quarter, capping an 11-play drive for a 24-13 lead.
The Steelers responded with Bell’s 5-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth, and Roethlisberger’s TD to Brown was enough for the win. Brown had nine receptions for 91 yards in another solid performance.
Two of Pittsburgh’s losses this season have come against Tampa Bay and the Jets, teams with a combined four wins, and Tomlin is 1-8 all-time against teams with a winning percentage of .200 or worse.
Former Titans veteran Mike Munchak coached the Steelers’ offensive line in his first game in his NFL career against the franchise he spent 32 seasons with as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman and coach. The Titans let Munchak go in January after going 22-26 in three seasons as head coach, and Munchak’s offensive line opened big holes for Bell.
“I was just able to get to the second level and make a couple of guys miss, keep my feet moving and try to get first downs and hold on to the ball,” Bell said. “That’s all I was thinking about.”
Whisenhunt, who won a Super Bowl ring as offensive coordinator with Pittsburgh, took over the Titans in January, trying to turn around a franchise that last won a playoff game in January 2004. Whisenhunt already is on his third quarterback in Tennessee in Mettenberger.
It was the coldest game at LP Field with the temperature at kickoff at 25 degrees.
NOTES: Steelers rookie WR Martavis Bryant lost his streak of consecutive games with a TD catch at four. ... The 16-degree wind chill at kickoff was the second coldest at LP Field to when it was 14 degrees Christmas night against Dallas in 2000.