Steelers 27, Titans 24: And then there was one unbeaten AFC team

Hard-core Steelers fans can appreciate the Titans ending the Tom Brady Era in New England last year and then knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs the following week.

When the pixie dust wore off of Devlin Hodges, the best we could really hope for was a team not named Ravens or Patriots winning the Super Bowl.

This year, as long as Ben Roethlisberger can stay out of operating rooms, we don’t have to live through the fortunes of other teams. The Steelers’ seventh Super Bowl title has been a realistic goal this season, and it became more realistic after Sunday’s 27-24 win over the Titans in Tennessee.

The Steelers (6-0) won the battle of the two remaining unbeaten teams in the AFC, clinging to the remains of what was a 27-7 lead when Stephen Gostowski missed a 45-yard field goal with 19 seconds left.

Speaking of the Patriots, it was nearly a year ago when another one of their former kickers missed a late field goal in a Steelers win.

In Week 9 last year, Adam Vinatieri missed a 43-yarder with 1:14 left and the Steelers hung on for a 26-24 win over the Colts.

That’s what they get for being Patriots at one point in their careers.

That win over the Colts last year improved the quarterback-challenged Steelers to 4-4.

This year, there’s no reason for the Steelers to dip anywhere near .500.

Diontae Johnson caught two touchdown passes after missing last week’s game with an injury. He and JuJu Smith-Schuster both caught nine passes to lead the team and Benny Snell Jr. added a rushing touchdown.

The Steelers largely contained Derrick Henry, who ran for 75 yards on 20 carries. They’re 6-0 for the first time since 1978, but they came perilously close to a less glorious historic distinction. They almost blew a 20-point lead for the first time in their history. Their biggest blown lead was 18 points, according to ProFootballReference. They’ve done it twice, most recently in a 24-21 loss at Seattle in 1981.

While it’s great to see Roethlisberger in uniform again, we’d prefer to not see the shades of Roethlisberger who led the NFL with 16 interceptions in 2018. He threw three on Sunday, including one in the end zone that provided a painful reminder of the Steelers’ late-season collapse two years ago.

The Titans (5-1) pulled to within 27-24 when Derrick Henry scored on a 1-yard run with 10:13 left, then the Steelers put together a 16-play drive and seemed poised to stem the Titans’ momentum until Amani Hooker picked off Roethlisberger in the end zone with 2:40 left.

Ryan Tannehill moved the Titans to the Steelers’ 25-yard line with a minute left, but an intentional grounding penalty cost 10 yards, and he managed to move the ball back to a spot that turned out to be inches out of Gostowski’s range.

Once the Steelers catch their breath, they have to turn their attention to the Ravens (5-1), who will be fresh off a bye. The breathing room the Steelers have earned in the AFC could leak away if they lose at Baltimore because they’d go from the best record in the conference to second place in their own division.

But the Steelers should have learned Sunday in Tennessee how quickly things can change in the NFL.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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