Defense takes ownership of loss

NASHVILLE – Free safety Ryan Clark wasn't interested in characterizing the Steelers' 26-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night as a team effort.

"The offense keeps trying to say, 'Oh, no, it's us, too,' but it's not," Clark said. "It's the defense. They're going to say, 'It's a team game and we should have made one more play,' but it's not true.

"They gave us enough points to win. They made enough plays to win the game. We had the lead in the fourth quarter. We need to keep it and we didn't do that."

A 1-yard touchdown run by running back Baron Batch gave the Steelers a 20-16 lead with 13:34 remaining in the fourth quarter.

They extended the margin to seven at 23-16 on a 52-yard field goal by kicker Shaun Suisham, a boot that culminated a five-play, 14-yard march that began following an interception and 4-yard return by linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

But the Titans responded with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 23-23, and then a five-play, 33-yard march in the final 49 seconds of regulation that ended with Rob Bironas' game-winning, 40-yard field goal on the final play of the fourth quarter.

Cornerback Keenan Lewis dropped what would have been an interception on the second snap of what became the Titans' game-tying touchdown drive.

"I make that play nine out of 10 times," Lewis said. "I just gotta concentrate and make that play. We won't be in this situation."

Tennessee gained possession for what became the game-winning drive following a missed attempt at a 54-yard field goal by Suisham.

The 10 points the Titans scored at LP Field upped the total the Steelers have surrendered in fourth quarters this season to 47. They've allowed a combined 68 points in first, second and third quarters.

The loss was the second suffered by the Steelers with strong safety Troy Polamalu (calf) not participating. Polamalu and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) weren't active for the Steelers.

"I want him out there, don't get me wrong," Clark said of Polamalu. "But we've lost games with Troy playing, too. We've lost games with Troy and I out there at the same time. Last I remember we lost the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLV) that way, so that's no excuse.

"We can't sit there and cry (over) the fact that we don't have Troy out there. We gotta go out there and make plays. If you can field a team you can win a football game. We're fielding a team, we're just losing."

Tennessee's fourth-quarter touchdown drive included a 35-yard completion from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to wide open wide receiver Kendall Wright.

The winning field goal drive featured a 25-yard hookup between Hasselbeck and tight end Jared Cook.

"Anybody running free in our defense wide open is a mental breakdown," linebacker Larry Foote said. "That's how you lose a game, you have an M.E. (mental error) or a missed tackle; you lose the game.

"We gotta own it. We gotta take responsibility."

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