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Titans topple Steelers in battle of kickers

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE -- It came down to the field-goal kickers Thursday night.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' Shaun Suisham missed his shot at a game-winner, and the Tennessee Titans' Rob Bironas didn't.

Bironas drilled a 40-yarder as time expired, lifting the desperate Titans to a 26-23 upset win over the banged-up Steelers at LP Field.

Tennessee (2-4) took over at its 45-yard line with 48 seconds left after Suisham's 54-yard attempt came up several yards short. Matt Hasselbeck put the Titans in field-goal range when he hit tight end Jared Cook for a 25-yard gain to the Pittsburgh 25.

After a 3-yard run by Chris Johnson, who rushed 19 times for 91 yards, the Titans ran the clock down to four seconds and called timeout. After the Steelers asked for time in a futile attempt to freeze the kicker, but Bironas nailed his kick to snap Tennessee's two-game losing streak.

Moments after Bironas' boot curled through the uprights, Titans coach Mike Munchak fired both fists in the air, a rare emotional display for the stoic second-year coach.

"I was happy for everyone," he said. "In the NFL, it's all about winning. It's the hardest business in the world when you're not winning. It's a relief, number one, and it's a great accomplishment to beat a good team like we did on Thursday night."

The Steelers (2-3) took a 20-16 lead with 13:34 remaining in the game when Baron Batch, a third-string running back playing after injuries sidelined starter Rashard Mendenhall and backup Isaac Redman, barged in from the 1-yard line.

Playing without five starters by game's end -- it had just five healthy offensive linemen available for most of the second half -- Pittsburgh used Suisham's 52-yard field goal with 8:18 remaining to increase the margin to seven points.

The Titans fought back with an 80-yard, 11-play touchdown drive, tying the score when Kenny Britt made a juggling 5-yard catch of a Hasselbeck pass in the left front corner of the end zone with 4:19 to go.

"We really had nothing on that play," said Hasselbeck, who was 25-for-44 for 290 yards in his second start since replacing the injured Jake Locker. "They had the right defense called for it. I threw it high and hard, and hoped for a miracle."

Hasselbeck, who was intercepted by linebacker Lawrence Timmons on Tennessee's previous drive, was bailed out on the tying march when Keenan Lewis dropped a sure pick near midfield.

"If I make that play," Lewis said, "they don't even have that drive."

In fairness to Lewis, it wasn't completely his fault. Ike Taylor extended the drive by holding Damian Williams, wiping out a third-down incompletion and giving the Titans a first-and-goal at the 10.

After the teams swapped field goals on their opening possessions, Pittsburgh made the game's first big play when Ben Roethlisberger threw a bomb to Mike Wallace, who sped past Jason McCourty down the right sideline.

Wallace broke McCourty's tackle and got the ball inside the right front pylon of the end zone for an 82-yard touchdown and a 10-3 Steelers lead.

Tennessee responded with Bironas' second field goal of the first quarter, then ended the period with a momentum-changing play on special teams.

The Titans' Tim Shaw busted through the middle of a leaky protection scheme and blocked Drew Butler's punt, with McCourty falling on it at the Steelers' 1-yard line.

On the second quarter's second play, Jamie Harper scored from the 1 for the Titans' first rushing touchdown of the season.

Tennessee extended the lead to 16-10 at intermission when Bironas drilled a 47-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.

Roethlisberger threw for 363 yards on 24-of-40 accuracy and put Pittsburgh in position to take the lead when his 14-yard scramble gave it a first down at Tennessee's 39 with under two minutes left in the game. However, the Steelers couldn't close it out, sending a large number of Terrible Towel-waving fans to the aisles with heads hanging.

"A disappointing performance tonight, but that is obviously what we are right now," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "We take ownership of that. We are not doing enough to finish games in hostile environments."

NOTES: Tennessee had more than twice the time of possession of Pittsburgh in the first quarter, owning the ball for 10 minutes and eight seconds ... Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (MCL) departed the game on his team's first offensive play and wasn't able to return for the game's remainder. Pittsburgh also lost Troy Polamalu's replacement, Will Allen, with a stinger in the first quarter, although Allen was able to return before the half ended. Polamalu sat out due to a calf injury. ... Titans left tackle Michael Roos made his 118th straight start.
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