mdi construction barPITTSBURGH – Fresh of a four-interception performance in a terrible 40-17 loss at Heinz Field, Marcus Mariota’s coach and teammates worked to disperse the blame for the turnovers.

“The first one sailed on him, there is no doubt on that,” Mike Mularkey said. “He could have used some help on the other ones, especially from some young guys. Some lessons learned from some young players.”DavisPIT

Sure, Mariota wasn’t exclusively at fault. On his second pick, rookie receiver Corey Davis needed to fight back to the ball and make it harder on Coty Sensabaugh.

But Mariota looked long and hard at where he was going with the ball, and it wasn’t hard for the former Titans cornerback to see where it was going to go.

To his credit, Mariota wasn’t looking for anyone else to take any responsibility for his giveaways. He was McNairian in his responsibility-taking.

On a national stage in a game that could have really staked the Titans a place in the upper-echelon playoff field, the quarterback they’ve spent a great deal of capital to provide quality protection and quality weapons struggled mightily.

He did throw for 306 yards and a 75-yard touchdown, but all of it was overshadowed by four picks and five sacks.

We’ve talked about how he’s used and if it’s right.

He seems healthy now, and it’s fair to question if a talented player being developed well enough for times like this.

His passer rating right now is 79.9. If that held up to season’s end it’d be the worst for a Titans quarterback since Jake Locker in 2012.

Locker posted a 74.0 that season in 11 games, finishing with 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

In nine games this season, Mariota has eight touchdown passes, three TD runs and 10 picks.

That’s as many interceptions as he threw in a 12-game season in 2015 and more than he threw in a 15-game season in 2016.

No, he didn’t get enough help against the Steelers.

Five sacks are too many and he was hit four more times. His targets aren’t getting sufficient separation often enough. The two rookies receivers, Davis and Taywan Taylor, have not yet emerged as consistently reliable. His most reliable target, Delanie Walker, dropped a touchdown pass.

The Steelers opened the game in no-huddle and moved to an easy touchdown.

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The Titans, with a young QB who’s at his best in a hurry-up offense, didn’t greenlight the quicker play until the offense was chasing the game.

They hopped into it with some regularity last year. This year they seem scared of it for some reason. Outside of 2:00 drills or game situations that mandate it, it’s hard to remember any outside of the Baltimore game.

No one in the locker room left town feeling down about the quarterback. That's not how it works.

“It’s never as bad as it seems, it’s never as good as it seems,” Taylor Lewan said. “We don’t know. We don’t know about route concepts. I don’t know. I’m an offensive lineman, I’m a left tackle.

“I do know that I love that guy. I’ll do everything that I possibly can to protect his blindside for as long as they let me. The guy is a hell of a competitor, I would assume stats or anything is going to deter him for the future. He’s a gunslinger.”

The Titans need Mariota the mood-setter to be Mariota the production-setter more often, and more consistently. They should try to find ways to open things up more for him rather than sticking so religiously to the way they believe they must operate.

Good quarterbacks are allowed to lift and carry their teams, to will them to good things. Mariota did in late drives that won the Baltimore and Cincinnati games. He did it with a hurting hamstring on a Monday night against Indianapolis.

The Titans have to help him be in more situations where he can do it even more. 

Instead, in his biggest moment of the season, he fell flat – or his teammates and coaches let him fall flat.

He’s great at forgetting bad moment and moving forward, taking teammates with him.

Maybe he needs to remember this one instead.

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