NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Titans players were given Tuesday off following Monday night's 27-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ken Whisenhunt still held his weekly, day after game press conference to discuss his thoughts on the team's progress.
Here are the top five topics Whisenhunt covered Tuesday.
5. Update from the Training Table
The big story from this front remains the status of tight end Delanie Walker, who missed Monday night's game after failing to get through the league's concussion protocol. Blidi Wreh-Wilson was forced out of the game with a back injury. He came into the game questionable with the same injury and Whisenhunt said his back tightened up on him during the contest. Marqueston Huff was the only other player Whisenhunt mentioned, as the rookie is dealing with a hamstring injury.
We should know more about all three players Wednesday after practice.
- Strong Response after Disaster Start**
An opening-drive field goal for the Steelers and an ensuing pick-six was about as bad of a start the Titans could have. Down 10-0 however, the Titans bounced back in a big way. Zach Mettenberger led the Titans on a quick five-play, 67 yard touchdown drive culminating in a nine-yard Bishop Sankey touchdown run.
Down 13-10 at the end of the first half, Jason McCourty's third interception of the season gave the Titans the ball back at their own 20-yard line with just 44 seconds remaining.
It was decision making time for Whisenhunt. Play it safe and go into the half down three and get the ball to start the second half or take a few shots down field. Whisenhunt made the decision to be aggressive and go for points.
The Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers battle in a Week 11 Monday Night Football game at LP Field. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
On the Titans' first play, Nate Washington burned Steelers corner William Gay on a double move for an 80-yard touchdown to put the Titans up 17-13 at the half. Gay might have been a victim of his own success. He was the one who intercepted Mettenberger earlier in the game and appeared to be going back for seconds. Instead, he got torched for the Titans go-ahead touchdown.
Whisenhunt wouldn't admit whether or not he likes to be aggressive in those situations, but did say they felt confident in the play they had dialed up for Washington.
"We took a shot because we felt good about the play itself and where we were," Whisenhunt explained. "I didn't know for sure they'd play that coverage. I thought there was a chance they might be off, but it was also something we felt like we had a pretty good beat on what they were going to do especially with how they jumped the route earlier in the game against Justin [Hunter]. At that point we felt like it was the right call and it happened to work out."
3. Le'Veon Bell's Big Day
Le'Veon Bell racked up 204 rushing yards, 18 receiving yards and one rushing touchdown against the Titans. His 35 touches were just four shy of the Titans' 39 total offensive snaps. When the Steelers got the ball back up three with 6:58 remaining in the game, Bell carried Pittsburgh to a win without ever having to give the ball back to Tennessee.
The 204 rushing yards were a single-game high for any player this season.
Whisenhunt was asked what went wrong en route to Bell's impressive performance. He compared it to Demarco Murray's 167-yard day against the Titans in Week 2.
"I think we did a decent job at times in the game, but obviously not in the latter part of the game," he said. "A lot of it was gap fits. We didn't do a very good job of that in the second half. Some of it was tackling too. It wasn't dissimilar to the Dallas game earlier this year. You've got to give those guys credit for playing well and doing good things."
- Evaluating Bishop Sankey, the Running Back and the Returner**
Leon Washington was active, but Bishop Sankey served as the team's kick returner against Pittsburgh. Sankey has received reps at returner since training camp and was impressive on Monday, returning three kicks for 82 yards (27.3 yard average).
Sankey also ran for his second touchdown of the season, a nine-yard scamper to get the Titans on the scoreboard, but finished with just 11 carries for 38 yards.
Whisenhunt said he was pleased with Sankey's all-around performance.
"I thought Bishop did a nice job in both aspects, in the return game and running the football," he said. "He's a young player that's growing and getting better. Last night was a function of both of our returners being a bit stiff. We prepared just in case and felt that Bishop was the best option at that point."
He then expanded on the rookie's improvement as a runner.
"I thought he was physical," said Whisenhunt. "I thought he was decisive. He was better with his reads. That's what you see in his improvement."
- Continued Progression for Zach Mettenberger**
Mettenberger was sacked five times last week against the Ravens, but the Steelers weren't able to get a single one on Monday night. There were multiple factors that went into the improvement, but Whisenhunt gave a bulk of the credit to Mettenberger.
"Zach improved in that area. The line got a little bit better. We didn't have as many pass attempts which was probably a factor," said Whisenhunt before coming back to his quarterback. "There was improvement from Zach's perspective getting the ball out quicker. There were a couple of throws in the fourth quarter where he had pressure and put the ball out there. It wasn't quite as accurate as it could have been, and those are things that he'll continue to get better at. He got better in the pocket last night. It was a little bit of everything."
Mettenberger finished with a Monday Night Football rookie record 263 passing yards and tossed two touchdowns against the Steelers.
"There's no question he's more comfortable in the offense," said Whisenhunt. "He did a nice job with the checks and working with the offense. He made some good throws especially on the down the field throws."
The rookie's ability to bounce back from a difficult start may have been his signature moment so far in his young professional career.
"Let's face it," Whisenhunt started. "We all know the stage that game was played on. The first pass you throw on a Monday Night Football game you throw a pick six, that's pretty tough for any quarterback. Give him a lot of credit for how he responded to that. I think it shows a measure of his toughness."