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Finding what they're looking for

Mike Tomlin has been building championship-caliber teams long enough to know what one looks like when he sees one.

"A group that's capable of winning games in a lot of ways, that has players that are capable of stepping up and so they're tough to draw a bead on from a balance standpoint," Tomlin offered this week.

The type of team the 2020 Steelers are trying to become would also include "a high floor," Tomlin continued. "You know, you talk often about ceilings and what people are capable of from an outstanding standpoint, but there has to be a certain level of consistency of play. And that's displayed by a good, high floor in terms of the things you can expect from a performance standpoint.

"And lastly, a team that's difficult to beat, and by that I mean a team that doesn't beat themselves."

At 5-0, the Steelers are trending in such directions.

But so are the 5-0 Tennessee Titans.

"They're battle-tested," Tomlin observed regarding Sunday's opponent in Nashville. "They've been in some games and they always find a way to stay focused and make the necessary play."

In the regular-season opener on Sept. 14 at Denver, that included kicker Stephen Gostkowski hitting what turned out to be the game-winning, 25-yard field goal in the closing seconds after enduring four missed kicks, including a failed extra-point attempt.

On Sept. 20 the Titans blew a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead but responded with another late field goal to edge Jacksonville.

And on Sept. 27 at Minnesota, Tennessee surrendered 464 total net yards and 30 points but won another close one, once again on a field goal with less than two minutes left in regulation.

"This is a group that has an appetite for the big moment," Tomlin maintained. "They're capable of delivering in the big moment."

Last Sunday against Houston, one of the bigger moments was a two-point conversion attempt that would have put the Texans ahead by nine points with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter. Tennessee defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons got a hand up and batted down Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson's pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who was open in the end zone.

That set the table for a game-tying drive that got the Titans to overtime, and eventually another touchdown march in the extra session that ended it.

The Steelers, too, have had their moments when they've needed them.

Safety Terrell Edmunds' fourth-down sack that preserved a five-point lead late against Denver.

A touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Chase Claypool that turned a two-point game into a two-possession game late in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia. 

The Steelers' version of 5-0 has reflected the balance Tomlin referenced among his complete-team characteristics.

"We're a balanced offense," Roethlisberger declared. "We're not putting up gaudy passing numbers right now because we haven't needed to. I'd like to think that if needed to we could do that because we have some amazing pass-catchers that can do great things with the ball in their hands.

"But what we've been able to do now is win football games, and that's what's most important."