Pickett hits Johnson for late touchdown as the Steelers slip past Levis, Titans 20-16

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett, left, scrambles out of the pocket during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Thursday in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis, left, is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)

PITTSBURGH — Kenny Pickett threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson with 4:02 remaining and the Pittsburgh Steelers slipped past the Tennessee Titans 20-16 on Thursday.

The Steelers (5-3) bounced back from a dismal loss to Jacksonville on Sunday by doing what they’ve done fairly regularly this season: hung around long enough to pull it out in the end. Four of Pittsburgh’s five wins have come in games they trailed entering the fourth quarter.


Pickett struggled at times while dealing with a rib injury but got it together late, completing 19 of 30 for 160 yards, including a 32-yard strike to Johnson down the right sideline on the go-ahead drive. Running back Jaylen Warren had 112 yards of total offense, including a 22-yard run down the sideline that helped set up the winning score.

Tennessee rookie quarterback Will Levis played well in his second NFL start but couldn’t match the electricity of his first, a four-touchdown masterpiece against Atlanta. Levis threw for 262 yards but his 39th and final pass ended up being the first interception of his career when Steelers linebacker Kwon Alexander picked off a pass at the goal line with 6 seconds remaining to seal it.

Titans wide receiver Treylon Burks was carted off the field with just over 2 minutes to go when he landed hard on the Acrisure Stadium turf after unsuccessfully trying to haul in a fourth-down heave from Levis. The second-year pro lay on the Acrisure Stadium turf for several minutes while being tended to by medical staff from both teams. He was carted off the field but did have movement in all four extremities. The Titans said Burks had full movement in all his extremities, it was reported on the Amazon TV broadcast.

The Steelers moved embattled offensive coordinator Matt Canada from the coaching box to the sideline in hopes of helping provide a spark to a unit that began the night near the bottom of the league in every meaningful statistical category.

The immediate returns were encouraging. Pickett directed a 78-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown run on Pittsburgh’s opening possession, the first time Steelers have reached the end zone on their initial drive during a game Pickett started in over a year.

Yet it wasn’t sustainable. While there were pockets of success here and there, Pickett struggled with his accuracy at times and the offense reverted to the slog that’s become its signature.

The Titans responded to take a 13-10 halftime lead behind some poised play by Levis and Derrick Henry’s unique brand of fury. Henry scored on a 2-yard dive — with 305-pound defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons serving as lead blocker — and Levis later ran the 2-minute offense expertly to set up a 36-yard field goal by Folk to put Tennessee up at the break.

The teams traded field goals in the third quarter — Pittsburgh’s after wide receiver George Pickens failed to get his left foot down for what should have been a touchdown reception — with Folk’s third field goal putting the Titans up 16-13 heading into the fourth.

Right where the Steelers wanted them.

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