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The Titans near-comeback was a reminder to the Steelers there are no easy games in the NFL

The Steelers nearly blew a 20-point lead to the Titans on Sunday. Why? Maybe because the NFL stands for Not For Long for many things—including total dominance of an opponent.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

So, what happened to the Steelers in the second half of their 27-24 victory over the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday?

I mean, it was 27-7 at one point. Did they play that dreaded prevent defense? Did they take their foot off the gas on offense? Was Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff outcoached by Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel and his staff?

Did Pittsburgh suddenly begin to grow complacent, forget that its opponent was good and start to take it lightly? After all, the Steelers always play down to their competition, and what lower competition is there than an opponent that’s trailing by nearly three touchdowns?

Call me a realist, but I don’t think any of the above happened. What did happen? I believe the Steelers suddenly got slapped in the face by a big old batch of NFL parity starting with the 73-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Tennessee receiver A.J. Brown early in the third quarter, which came just two plays after Chris Boswell gave the Steelers a 20-point lead on a 30-yard field goal. In fact, as I watched Brown outrun Pittsburgh’s entire secondary, I kind of smirked as if to say, “Of course.”

Speaking of complacent, that’s what I had become after the Steelers quickly extended their lead just minutes into the second half. “Man, this team is hella good,” I may have said to myself if people still said “hella.” I probably had every right to feel that way, too.

Boswell’s field goal punctuated a minor stretch of total dominance by Pittsburgh over six-plus quarters. Dating back to the opening kickoff of the previous week’s 38-7 victory over the Browns at Heinz Field, the Steelers had outgained their opponents, 539-297, possessed the football for just under 57 minutes, executed 169 plays to 100 and scored 65 points to 14.

That stuff just doesn’t happen very often in the NFL, especially against two competitive football team.

At least not for more than a game or so.

The Steelers had their game or so of fun, and Tennessee’s near-comeback in the second half was a reminder that the NFL stands for Not For Long for many things—including an inflated sense of self.

This isn’t to say the Steelers’ players were feeling that way, but I’m sure they may have started to think this whole NFL thing was pretty darn easy.

Unfortunately, the league isn’t designed that way. It’s designed to trip up the good teams if they’re too dominant for too long. It’s also designed to help those downtrodden franchises get well if they’ve been sick for a spell.

The NFL is a league where someone is always nipping at your heels.

The Steelers are 6-0 and will march into M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday to take on a 5-1 Ravens team that will be eager to remind them who’s been running the AFC North the past two years. What will happen in this clash of behemoths? Maybe Pittsburgh will continue its rope-a-dope act from the second half of the Titans’ game and come out totally flat. Perhaps that slumber will last for the entire day. Can you imagine that? Pittsburgh’s first loss of 2020 coming in blowout form at the hands of those Ravens, a defeat that would not only serve up some long-overdue humble pie; it would place Baltimore in the driver’s seat for the division title.

On the other hand, maybe the Steelers will punch Baltimore in the mouth. After all, Baltimore’s only loss was to the Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champs. Other than that, the Ravens have smacked their opponents around pretty good. What if the Steelers and a returning Ben Roethlisberger show the Ravens that Kansas City isn’t the only Super Bowl contender they’ll have to deal with if they want to hoist the Lombardi trophy in February?

Yeah, it could be a blowout, but given the nature of this rivalry, as well as the nature of the NFL, it could also be a nail-biter. You just never know in the world of big-stakes professional football.

To quote Myron Cope: The NFL is a tough football league.

The Steelers found that out last Sunday—even as they were reminding the previously undefeated Titans of that very thing—and they’ll probably be reminded of it again this Sunday.

The question is, will they also remind the Ravens how difficult life can be in the NFL?

No matter what happens on Sunday, someone will be eating some humble pie when all is said and done.