Brown’s one-handed dagger of a touchdown catch — ball pressed against his dome as he fell backward — was so good that the 10-yard score required at least three double-takes.
Leave it to prime time at home to get Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers back to sizzle status.
The Steelers want home-field advantage in the playoffs. Well, this is how dangerous they can be if they get it.
There’s something about prime-time games in Heinz Field that spark Big Ben, who now has at least four touchdowns in his last three night games in Pittsburgh. He’s 19-3 all-time in that setting.
And after a quiet 12 catches and one touchdown over the last three weeks, there was no way Brown would stay quiet for long. He caught 10 passes for 144 yards and posted his second career three-touchdown game.
Despite a curious first-half lull, the Steelers looked like the offense they drew up in the preseason: Taking what’s available, Brown weaving through traffic, Le’Veon Bell doing a bit of everything, JuJu Smith-Schuster as the intermediate pass-catching option and receiver Martavis Bryant and tight end Jesse James coming through with timely plays.
The only thing that was off was Bell’s modest workload of 12 carries for 46 yards. Bell getting 25 or more carries usually is a recipe for Steelers victories, but such heavy lifting wasn’t necessary Thursday, and Bell added nine catches for 57 yards on the night.
This was, by far, Roethlisberger’s cleanest game of the year, mixing no-huddle offense with a more balanced, calculated attack, depending on the mood. Roethlisberger’s 30-of-45 passing for 299 yards was a welcome sign for Steelers fans hoping for more vintage Big Ben moments down the stretch.
Peak offensive performance came at the 1-yard line to start the fourth quarter, when James faked a missed block, Bell faked a rush and Roethlisberger went over the top to a wide-open James for the score. Perfect red-zone work.
Brown did the rest. His toe-tap catch for 23 yards early they fourth quarter might have been a body blow. But then he went and topped that with a 10-yard score on Logan Ryan that will go high on Brown’s career highlight reel.
The defense had a few rough moments, but it’s hard to complain about forcing Marcus Mariota‘s first career four-interception game. Mariota had six interceptions all year before Thursday. The Steelers recorded their first four-pick game since Week 11 of 1997 against the Baltimore Ravens. Cam Heyward (two sacks) was dominant, and Coty Sensabaugh held up well in replace of Joe Haden, save Rishard Matthews‘ 75-yard touchdown on a play with no safety help.
Midway through the third, Delanie Walker gashed the Steelers up the middle for a 42-yarder and a would-be 17-yard touchdown that Walker dropped in the back of the end zone. That cost the Titans four points, as they settled for a field goal to cut the lead to 23-17, but the Steelers were rolling at that point.
After all, once the Steelers get out to double-digit leads, they always protect it — at least with Bell, Brown and Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh has won 26 straight with those three when up by 10 or more.
This resounding win suggests there might be more chances to maintain such leads.