By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes for the second time in his career, and the Pittsburgh Steelers rolled to a 38-17 win against the Tennessee Titans Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.
After leading 21-3 at halftime, the Steelers drove 71 yards in nine plays and 5:41 to appear to put the game away. However, the Titans scored on the ensuing possession and secured the onside kick attempt after that. But their quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, was picked off by Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley after end Brett Keisel deflected it.
If that didn’t seal the win, the Steelers put together another long drive for a Shaun Suisham field goal to set the final score. Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes to tight ends Heath Miller and David Johnson and two to Hines Ward, who caught seven passes on the day.
Roethlisberger was 24-for-34 for 228 yards and five touchdowns with one interception to lead the offensive charge with tailback Jonathan Dwyer, who had 107 yards on 11 carries to help buoy a Steelers running game that had been stagnant lately and was without starter Rashard Mendenhall (hamstring).
Roethlisberger, who added the fifth score with 2:39 remaining on a 40-yard toss to Mike Wallace, also threw five TD passes during the first half in a 38-7 thrashing of the Baltimore Ravens, Nov. 5, 2007, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the franchise. Tennessee scored two second-half touchdowns to make the score closer, as the Titans blocked a punt in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers defense gave up a 21-yard run on the game’s opening offensive play and allowed a 13-play, 69-yard drive in 8:17 that was aided by a 15-yard late hit by Ryan Clark on a third-down play and 19-yard pass to the 4. However, several Tennessee penalties, a Steelers sack and solid play in the red zone held the Titans to a 29-yard Rob Bironas field goal and 3-0 lead.
It was all Steelers after that. Antonio Browns returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to midfield. Isaac Redman plowed for two yards on third-and-one, as the Steelers would convert 4 of 6 third-down plays in the first half, and Roethlisberger connected with Brown for 17 to the 8. Roethlisberger hit tight end Heath Miller for the touchdown two plays later.
The Steelers appeared to be stopped after one first down on their next possession, but punter Daniel Sepulveda tossed a pass to reserve safety Ryan Mundy for a 33-yard gain to the 17 on the fake. Brown picked up 10 yards on a reverse, and Roethlisberger found Hines Ward wide open in the end zone to make it 14-0, Steelers.
After another three-and-out by the Titans, a solid Tennessee punt put the Steelers at the 10. But reserve tailback Dwyer, making his just second appearance in an NFL game, took his first carry 76 yards to the Titans 14. Several plays and penalties later, Roethlisberger tossed a one-yard TD pass to tight end David Johnson.
The Steelers had another long drive in the waning minutes in the first half, but Roethlisberger’s poor pass was picked off with time running out. He finished with 15-for-22 passing for 114 yards, which was more than Tennessee’s total first-half yardage of 104. The Steelers had 261 first-half yards.