Six Things That Stood Out

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Six Things That Stood Out For the Titans in Sunday's Loss to the Steelers

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PITTSBURGH – The Titans lost 19-13 to the Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field.

Here's a look at six things that stood out from the contest:

Costly Turnovers

Not again. And again and again and again. The Titans turned the ball over four times against the Steelers. If you're looking for a reason why the Titans lost the game, this is why. Tight end Anthony Firkser and receiver Racey McMath lost fumbles, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill mishandled a snap that resulted in a turnover. Tannehill also threw an interception. The turnovers ended drives, and set up scores for the Steelers. The Titans are now a minus-seven in the takeway/giveaway category, and that's tough to overcome. If you recall, they turned the ball over nine times in back-to-back losses to the Texans and Patriots. "All different things," Tannehill said. "It has to get cleaned up, obviously. You turn the ball over as many times we did, you put yourself in a tough position."

Solid Defense

The Titans held the Steelers to just 12 first downs and 168 yards of total offense on Sunday. Time and again, the Titans defense was put in a tough spot because of the offense, but the unit kept stepping up and getting stops. The Steelers settled for four field goals in the game, because the Titans held the Steelers to 2-of-11 on third down. So, while the game had a gut-punch ending, there was reason to be encouraged. The Titans kicked themselves for not creating turnovers of their own, but the unit did some good things. "The defense was flying around and playing with speed," Titans safety Kevin Byard said. "I told all the guys, when the QB was kneeling: "I'm really proud with the way the defense played today."

D'Onta Foreman/Running Game

The Titans miss Derrick Henry, there's no doubt about it. He brings a presence to the offense, and the entire team. But the Titans didn't lose on Sunday because they couldn't run the football. In fact, their running game was one of the bright spots. Running back D'Onta Foreman racked up 108 yards on 22 carries, including a 20-yard run. Dontrell Hilliard added 49 yards, Jeremy McNichols 26 and Tannehill 18. As a team, the Titans ran for 201 yards against the Steelers. In the minds of the backs, however, good wasn't good enough. "I think (the run game) was very effective,'" Foreman said, "but it's disappointing losing the game. I thought we all fought hard, and gave it our best. … We came up short, but I am proud of the guys. We fought hard."

Struggling Offense

Unfortunately, the entire offense struggled as a unit. Tannehill was sacked four times, and the Titans couldn't sustain drives either because of mistakes or missed opportunities. Julio Jones was targeted just once in the game before re-injuring his hamstring, which caused him to miss the entire second half. The biggest play of the day on offense wasn't a pass, it was Foreman's 20-yard run. Chester Rogers and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine led the Titans with four catches each, but they went for only 30 and 32 yards, respectively. The Titans made some plays here, but not enough. And it made the sight of Westbrook-Ikhine being stopped short on Tennessee's final offensive play even tougher to take. "Hat's off to our defense," tackle Taylor Lewan said. "We have to match them for sure, especially as an offense."

Cunningham's Debut

Linebacker Zach Cunningham made his Titans debut on Sunday, and he made a lot of plays. Claimed off waivers from the Texans, Cunningham started at linebacker against the Steelers. The former Vanderbilt star led the team with six tackles, and he was physical. "I saw him flying around," Titans safety Kevin Byard said of Cunningham. "He was flying around, crossing my facemask and stuff like that. I think the defense overall is playing with a lot of swagger, with speed, speed, speed. … We just have to keep playing with a swagger to give ourselves a chance to win ball games." Many Titans showed up here on a day when Bud Dupree, Denico Autry and Naquan Jones all had sacks and the team had five tackles for a loss.

Missed Opportunity

Titans fans everywhere watched Saturday night's Colts-Patriots game battling a dilemma: Would it be better if the Patriots won, which would have given the Titans a chance to clinch the AFC South on Sunday, or would it be better if the Patriots won, which would've put the No.1 seed in play. The reality is the Titans need to take care of business themselves, something they didn't do on Sunday, and something they haven't done in 3 of their past 4 games. The Titans missed a big opportunity against the Steelers, and now at 9-5, the Colts (8-6) are suddenly breathing down their necks. "I think every game, every week, you have to have a sense of urgency," Rogers said. "The Colts are playing their ass off, and we have to finish out and win all three games and put ourselves in position."

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