For the first time since Week 17 of the 2021 season, when Ben Roethlisberger was still the team’s quarterback, Diontae Johnson found the end zone. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Johnson’s three-yard catch put the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Tennessee Titans, 20-16, to improve to 5-3 on the season in what was a thriller down the stretch.
Johnson had 119 receptions before the 120th finally put him in the colored paint, but he remained patient and had confidence he would score again. Quarterback Kenny Pickett found Johnson earlier in the 11-play, 92-yard drive on a big 32-yard third-and-six conversion to get into Titans territory.
The five-year veteran led the way with seven catches for 90 yards on nine targets to continue to make an impact for Pittsburgh since coming off injured reserve.
He appeared Titans rookie quarterback Will Leviswho was making his second career start, controlled this game as he made big throws and relied on veteran running back Derrick Henry to lead the way down the field, allowing the play action scenarios to work.
But he found himself needing to lead a game-winning drive after Johnson’s touchdown. He had two separate chances, with the Titans’ final drive finding Levis at the Pittsburgh 19-yard line on third-and-5 with 12 seconds left.
Running back, he tried to hit his tight end Josh Whyle for the touchdown in the middle of the field. Instead, linebacker Kwon Alexander leapt and snatched it out of the air for a Steelers interception, capping another comeback victory for this team.
Levis was solid in his second start for Tennessee, but it wasn’t the four-touchdown magic he had Sunday. He finished 22 of 39 for 262 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Meanwhile, Pickett got off to a slow start in this one, missing passes that brought groans and groans from Steelers fans in the stands. But he played when it counted late in the game, finishing 19 of 30 for 160 yards with his touchdown pass to Johnson and no interceptions.
The ground game worked for both teams, but it was Pittsburgh totaling 166 yards as a team, and no, it wasn’t Najee Harris leading the way. It was Jaylen Warren who passed for 87 yards on 11 carries, while Harris finished with 69 on 16 touches.
This game started with a perfect first drive from the Steelers that sent the home crowd into a frenzy as they weren’t used to this group being hot from the start.
Pickett rushed 78 yards down the field, leading to Harris’ 10-yard touchdown run. It was the second rushing score for Harris this season.
Levis was also able to put together a good drive for the Titans, but it only ended with a Nick Folk field goal to cut Pittsburgh’s lead. The Titans didn’t find the end zone until the second quarter, when Henry bulldozed his way from two yards out, crossing the goal line to tie the game after the extra point.
The Steelers and Titans traded field goals from there until Pittsburgh, as they have on different occasions this season, got a late touchdown that pushed them over the edge.
It’s also worth noting that two players had to be taken out in this game: Steelers linebacker Cole Holcomb and Titans receiver Treylon Burks.
Holcomb suffered a gruesome leg injury in the first half that the broadcast did not show on replay. Burks, on the other hand, attempted to make the catch on the Titans’ penultimate drive on fourth down and appeared to have whiplash when he hit the turf.
The Steelers continue to do whatever it takes to win, and that will be put to the test again next week when they host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
As for the Titans, they will travel to Tampa Bay to face Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers.