Vrabel pulls Mariota out early to 'protect' Titans QB

It wasn't an ideal way to end the preseason for Tennessee Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, who played just five snaps in Sunday night's tilt versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mariota went 0-for-3 passing (including a drop) and took a sack for a safety on the second series of the game. The sack made coach Mike Vrabel reconsider the plan to play the quarterback more in the team's third preseason game.

"We want to make sure that we can protect our quarterback -- that's important," Vrabel said, via the team's official website. "It's imperative that we do that as a staff and we do that as an offensive group. ... I wanted to see how the game was going, and at that point in time I thought it was in the team's best interest and in everybody's best interest that we get him out of the game at that point in time."

Entering a pivotal 2019 campaign, Mariota's play didn't inspire a lot heading into the season.

"Not the way we wanted to come out to play," Mariota said. "A lot to learn from, but at the same time you have to continue to build. You can't hang your head, you just have to learn from it and move on."

Appearing briefly in three preseason contests, Mariota completed 10 of 20 passes for 87 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. After inspiring a ray of hope last game with a drive for a touchdown to tight end Delanie Walker, Sunday's performance put Mariota right back behind the eight-ball heading into the season. The Titans' starter isn't expected to play in the team's fourth preseason tilt.

Question marks surround Mariota's future under center in Tennessee. Those difficulties will be underscored in bold if the Titans offensive line -- a supposed strength before the suspension to Taylor Lewan -- can't block.

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