NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** The Titans' one-sided loss to the Steelers on Thursday was a momentum stuffer for a team that had won four straight games.
There's no getting around that fact.
A road game against one of the AFC's top two teams, combined with too many turnovers and mistakes, proved too much to overcome in the Titans' 40-17 loss to Pittsburgh on the national stage.
But a still-maturing Titans team can't allow its first loss since October 8 – as disappointing as it was – to linger.
Why? The simple reason is that the remainder of the season simply offers too much promise in the pursuit of playoffs.
The Titans are 6-4 now, a mark many Titans fans – if asked before the season – would have been comfortable with through 10 games. Even if Jacksonville defeats Cleveland on Sunday, the Titans will be just one game out of first place in the AFC South, with the Jaguars making a trip to Nashville at the end of the season.
In addition, the Titans would seem likely to be favored in each of their next four contests – at Indianapolis, home against Houston, at Arizona and at San Francisco. All four of those clubs will be playing with back-up quarterbacks, the first three due to injury and the 49ers because of the ineffectiveness of original starter Brian Hoyer.
So it's not a stretch to believe the Titans will still be in the thick of the playoff chase a month from now, playing meaningful football in December for a second straight year.
"We've got plenty of games left," Titans receiver Rishard Matthews said, "to do what we want to do."
What will it take for the Titans to rebound from the beating at the hands of the Steelers?
It needs to start with an improved performance from quarterback Marcus Mariota, who threw four interceptions Thursday for the first time in his career. There was blame to be shared on some of the picks, as rookie wide receiver Corey Davis is still learning the ropes, but Mariota as usual accepted full responsibility.
"Those are on me," Mariota said. "When it comes down to it, I'm the one who makes the decision to throw it. Just bad decisions."
The good news for Titans fans is that Mariota, as head coach Mike Mularkey has noted several times this season, does an exceptional job of deleting negative performances from his memory bank.
We've seen his ability to bounce back illustrated in at least a couple of ways this year:
On drives immediately following his first seven interceptions this year, for instance, Mariota guided the Titans to scores five times.
In addition, Mariota overcame some up-and-down performances this season by raising his game when it was most needed. He led game-winning drives against Indianapolis, Baltimore and Cincinnati, showing his mental toughness in the process.
"Good or bad, the previous play has no effect on the next one," Mariota said of his mindset. "That's how I've always taken it and I'll continue to do that."
Mariota, of course, was hardly the only Titans player who stumbled on the big stage.
"They know we can't make some of those mistakes," Mularkey said. "Against good teams, it's going to cost you. You're going to get beat bad … There's a lot to learn from this, especially for some of our younger players that hopefully take it a little personal and go right back to work on Monday."
That's when the Titans will need to start showing us they can get back on their feet following a hay-maker punch.
We saw on Thursday the Titans are not yet among the AFC's elite teams.
But who's to say what they may look like six weeks from now, assuming they can rebound from this loss?
And who's to say what opportunities might await if they do?
"I think we are going to see these guys again," Titans tackle Taylor Lewan said, "and when we do, hopefully we will be ready and get a different result."
--- Reach John Glennon at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11 at Heinz Field. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)