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Antonio Brown, Steelers romp to victory over Titans

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Antonio Brown hauled in three touchdown passes to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2) to a 40-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans (6-4) in Week 11. Here's what we learned in Thursday night's action:

1. Thanks to three consecutive touchdown drives to start the second half, the underachieving Steelers offense finally reached the 30-point mark for the first time this season. That accomplishment leaves the Browns, Giants, Bears and Chargers -- four teams with fewer combined wins than Pittsburgh's eight -- as the only clubs yet to record a 30-point game. Although the league's premier receiver had his way with Tennessee's overmatched secondary, the ostensible breakout performance masked the same problems that have plagued this attack all season long.

The offense lacked rhythm for long stretches, resulting in zero net yards over four possessions immediately following the scripted no-huddle touchdown drive to start the festivities. Le'Veon Bell was shut down and abandoned for three quarters, Ben Roethlisberger's timing and pocket presence feature a troubling come-and-go inconsistency and the enigmatic Martavis Bryant continues to struggle with drops and contested passes. If coach Mike Tomlin's troops are going to shake the New England monkey from their backs this January, they are going to have to start playing up to their talent level over the final six games.

2. After accounting for a staggering 74.2 percent of Pittsburgh's yards in the first half, Brown bent the game to his will in the second half, turning a close game into a laugher. Leading the NFL in receptions (70) and receiving yards (1,026), Roethlisberger's go-to target has carried the offense for large stretches of the season in yet another All Pro-level campaign. Brown is on pace for 1,642 yards and 10 touchdowns on 112 catches, which would give him a five-year stretch statistically superior to any such half-decade span in the careers of future Hall of Famers such as Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson.

3. We've been asking the same question about the Titans since mid-September: What is their identity? The blueprint was drawn up as a power-running ground attack designed to complement Marcus Mariota's dual-threat ability at quarterback. The offensive line has taken a step back, featured runner DeMarco Murray has spent the season shuffling his feet and failing to make tacklers miss and Mariota has tossed just eight touchdown passes versus 10 interceptions, delaying a breakout season that seemed inevitable at this time a year ago. At 6-4 with a manageable schedule (Colts, Texans, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams and Jaguars), the Titans remain a good bet for the playoffs in a weak wild-card field. To this point in this season, though, there's little reason to believe they can hang with the cream of the AFC crop.

4. Former Steelers star Aaron Smith, a key cog in a string of top-ranked defenses early this century, knows how hard it is for a "3-4" defensive end to gain Pro Bowl recognition. Now that balloting has begun, consider casting a vote for Pittsburgh's Cameron Heyward, who has been one of the league's best in the trenches. A consistently disruptive force against the run as well as the pass, Heyward teamed with dynamic inside linebacker Ryan Shazier to lead a swarming Steelers defense that tallied five sacks, nine quarterback hits, nine tackles for loss and four interceptions while limiting Tennessee's ground attack to just 52 yards on 21 carries.

5. Coasting to a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Steelers' coaches had a plum opportunity to bolster rookie power back James Conner's role in a clock-killing situation. Instead, they continued to feed an overworked Bell, who entered the week with the fourth-most touches through nine games since 1950. With a division lead of 3.5 games and just two road games remaining at Cincinnati and Houston, Pittsburgh has the luxury of ensuring that Bell is rested up for a long playoff run. Will the coaching staff show more trust in Conner over the final six weeks of the regular season?

6. Ever since the 1978 Raiders' celebrated "Holy Roller" play instigated a rule change, it has been illegal for any player but the fumbler to advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half. The Steelers ended up benefiting from an extra nine yards when officials allowed Martavis Bryant's recovery of a Brown fumble to stand at the 32-yard line rather than reverting to the spot of the fumble at the 41. The officiating error ultimately played a role in Chris Boswell's 50-yard field goal to close out the first half.

7. After setting a record with 56 consecutive field-goal conversions inside of 50 yards, Titans kicker Ryan Succop has missed three-pointers in back-to-back weeks. Credit Steelers rookie linebacker T.J. Watt with deflecting a second-quarter kick that would have tied the game at 10.

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