(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
With the Steelers leading 27-24 over the Titans and 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger and company were facing a third-and-12 from the Titans' 19-yard line. Roethlisberger could have played for at least the field goal if nothing was open to give Chris Boswell a chance at attempting a field goal to give the Steelers a 6-point lead, but he tried to force a pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster in tight coverage and linebacker Jayon Brown tipped the ball away from Smith-Schuster and safety Amani Hooker came up with the interception in the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Thanks to Stephen Gostkowski's missing wide right on a 45-yard field goal attempt, the Steelers were able to secure the 27-24 victory. Roethlisberger's third interception of the game could have cost the Steelers the game, but there are no regrets on the attempt or effort.
"It's NFL football," Mike Tomlin said in his post-game interview. "We play to win. We don't live in our fears. Is it a combat play? Is it tight? Yes, but we have a quarterback that's been doing that for 17 years. Sometimes you've just got to acknowledge that they made the play in the moment and we desire to and that's why we're not going to live in our fears. "We're going to go in those instances to secure victory."
Roethlisberger said after the game that he just needed to give Smith-Schuster a better ball on the play.
"I'll take JuJu down the middle on a linebacker," Roethlisberger said. "I've just got to get it about six inches higher on his back shoulder. And you don't expect the ball to get tipped up in the air and intercepted. You hope it falls incomplete, but they intercepted it and that's on me."
Smith-Schuster had no issue with Roethlisberger trying to rifle the ball into a tight spot for him.
"Yeah, I was glad Ben threw it," Smith-Schuster said. "Obviously, Ben trusted me to throw the ball there and that's a play I have to make for myself, just go over and grab it over his shoulder and his back. I had the ball in my hands, they broke it up and had a good play."
It was a great defensive play by Brown to tip the ball away from Smith-Schuster so he couldn't secure the catch and Hooker was just in the right spot to come up with the interception. There were three Titans' defenders in the area of Smith-Schuster, so Roethlisberger definitely took a chance on the play and went for the win. Which is fine, he has the arm strength to do it and has done it plenty of times in his career. However, Roethlisberger did have an open Diontae Johnson on a drag route on the play and could have got the first down, or at least put the Steelers in a better position for a field goal attempt. Former Steelers' quarterback Charlie Batch tweeted out a picture of the play after the game and you can see that Johnson was open.
Roethlisberger also threw an interception at the end of the first half when he threw a Hail Mary into the end zone. The Steelers had the ball at Tennessee’s 37-yard line with 14 seconds left after the Titans’ punter Brett Kern couldn’t handle the snap and threw an incompletion resulting in a turnover on downs. Instead of throwing up a prayer, Roethlisberger should have tried to throw a shorter pass to the sidelines to get the Steelers into field goal range. The Steelers originally had the ball on the Titans' 32-yard line but a false start on Eric Ebron changed their plans.
"Prior to the false start, all (those) things were on the table," Tomlin said about their final possession before halftime. "Once we lost the 5 yards on the false start, then our mindset changed."
The Steelers beat the Titans by just three points and left possibly at least six points off the board. Boswell has been automatic this year going 9 of 9 on field-goal attempts, so there's a good chance Boswell would have made both field goals if given the opportunity. At the end of the day, the two Roethlisberger interceptions that could have resulted in points for the Steelers didn't cost them the game and they stand as the lone undefeated team left in the league at 6-0. As Tomlin said about the Steelers 6-0 start while not playing at the top of their game at times, "We're learning while we're winning."