Lolley: That was a flat performance

Mike Tomlin and the players can talk all they want about the team not having a letdown Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, but that was as big a letdown game as the Pittsburgh Steelers have had in some time.

Ben Roethlisberger said several times that he could come out and play more loose now that the Steelers had wrapped up the AFC North and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

I didn't think he meant loose with the football.

Four fumbles and two interceptions from your quarterback is going to get you beat every time.

And it didn't help that the league's No. 1 defense apparently started reading its press clippings too much. Magazine covers touting this team as Steel Curtain II are nice, but you have to keep on doing it on the football field.

The Steelers will dominate the hapless Cleveland Browns next weekend no matter who they finally decide to send out on the field. But the Titans showed some chinks in the No. 1 defense's armor, beating the Steelers with short passes to the flats and crossing routes.

Ike Taylor had a particularly tough game as well. Taylor had been matched up with so many No. 1 receivers the past month that maybe he didn't take his matchup with Justin Gage very seriously. Five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown later, maybe Taylor will the next time these two teams meet.

And yes, I do think these two teams will meet again.

© When that happens, you can bet your last dollar Mike Tomlin will be showing his team footage of the Titans stomping on Terrible Towels at the end of the game.

As Hines Ward said after the game, how'd that work out for the last team that did it, the Cincinnati Bengals?

Coaches use whatever they can for motivation and Tennessee's Jeff Fisher is no dummy. He kept pounding into his team the fact that they were underdogs at home despite their 12-2 record.

It seems silly, but that kind of stuff works, even in the NFL.

© The Titans did a good job of taking away a lot of the quick throws Roethlisberger had been having so much success with in recent weeks.

That's why we saw so many of the sacks and pressures coming on what should have been quick throws. That gave Roethlisberger more openings downfield, but when you make a three-step drop and the primary and hot receivers are blanketed at the snap, the defensive line doesn't have far to go to get to the quarterback.

The Steelers hit some deeper passes because of that, but the Titans guessed right on the short passes more than they guessed wrong.

© As much as Roethlisberger's fumble at the goal line hurt the Steelers' momentum, so too, did Jeff Reed's missed 33-yard field goal at the end of the half.

The Steelers put together a strong drive at the end of the first half and got nothing out of it. They moved the ball up and down the field against the Titans in the first half and only had seven points to show for it.

© Mitch Berger was one of the few players to earn a gold star Sunday. Berger's taken a lot of heat and much of it was deserved. But he punted great against the Titans, outperforming Craig Hentrich.

© Finally, a holding penalty. And it only took 27 quarters for it to happen.

© Ryan Clark's injury was the only big one in this game. Clark had his right arm in a sling after the game.

It's unlikely that he'll play next week against the Browns. Everybody else, though, is fair game, at least for a while.

© The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter for simulating the snap was charged to James Harrison, but Harrison wasn't the man responsible.

I was told by someone on the field that the officials said the offending player's number ended with a six. That would mean Chris Hoke or LaMarr Woodley were the offending party.

It was a strange call and you have to wonder if it wasn't a makeup call for the non-pass interference call on Ryan Clark in the end zone.

Jeff Fisher said after the game, by the way, that the officials erred when they said the ball was tipped. What they meant to say was that two players tripped over each other.

That's two weeks in a row that the official explanation on a key play was botched.

© The No. 2 seed may not be such a bad thing in this respect, the Steelers won't have to play the Ravens again - at least not until the championship game if it gets that far.

Tennessee will face the lowest-remaining seeded team in the second round of the playoffs.

If the Ravens and Colts, the wildcard teams, both win, Indianapolis would travel to Pittsburgh, while Baltimore would head to Tennessee.

San Diego is now going to win the AFC West, which will be a tough road trip for Indianapolis against an equally hot team. If the Colts were to lose, San Diego would go to Pittsburgh, while Baltimore would head to Tennessee.

Baltimore is going to beat whoever wins the AFC East, with New England being the only team that could give the Ravens a run for their money.

But Baltimore will have a tough time beating the Titans in Tennessee.

And even if Indianapolis beats San Diego, it will have made a long trip to the coast before having to travel to Pittsburgh.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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