The Steelers will bring their 2-2 record to Tennessee tonight to face an old foe that dates back to the days of the old AFC Central division. While this is hardly a Clash of the Titans (sorry, couldn’t resist), Pittsburgh can’t come into this game with anything less than an unwavering determination to get on the winning side of the season record so far.
The former Houston Oilers are 26th in the league in total offense and 29th in total defense. They allow an average of 423 yds per game to the opposing offense, which should be good news for Ben Roethlisberger, Todd Haley, and the Steelers offense which is currently ranked 10th in passing, throwing for 268 yds per game. Big Ben has 9 touchdowns and only 1 pick on the season so far; and is complimented by a plethora of talent around him at the skill positions.
The Steelers defense is coming off a good performance against the Eagles where they forced 4 fumbles and came up with 3 sacks; statistically speaking it was their best performance all year. It’s that type of opportunistic defense that will help ensure a victory over a desperate Titans team. All stats aside though, this game is not to be taken lightly no matter what the records are because a team backed into a corner can be a bear to deal with if you let them hang around and gain confidence throughout the game.
Tennessee is already 4 games back of the division leading Texans, but beyond that the rest of the AFC South is still up for grabs as the Jaguars are 1-4 and the Colts sit at 2-2. While nobody figures to catch Houston in that division, the Titans still aren’t going to just roll over and hand a W to the Steelers.
They will be looking to put together a much better performance and that will start with rushing the ball with Chris Johnson. As pointed out by TennesseTitans.com – Chris Johnson had only 15 rushing attempts for 24 yards, compared to last week when he ran for over 140 yards. The Steelers defense is currently ranked 11th in the NFL, giving up just over 95 yds per game. If CJ gets going early it’s going to open things up for returning veteran Matt Hasselbeck to test the Steelers secondary.
With Troy Polamalu out of this game, Ryan Mundy will again start at Safety. Besides Ike Taylor the Steelers cornerbacks are very young, and will have to be careful because a veteran like Hasselbeck can pick them apart if given the chance. The best way to stop that chance from becoming a reality is with a good pass rush. Lamarr Woodley is out for this game so Jason Worilds will get the start opposite James Harrison. Worilds had 1 sack and 3 tackles on Sunday against Philly, and should have ample opportunities on Thursday night because Harrison will get the bulk of any double teams the Titans decide to utilize.
In theory, Big Ben should be able to spread the ball around and put up points quickly against a subpar Titans defense, but they must find a way to eliminate the self inflicted wounds on offense in order for that to happen. Whether it’s a Willie Colon holding penalty, or a Maurkice Pouncey snap over Ben’s head, the Steeler offense cannot continue to shoot themselves in the foot and expect to win. Those 9 penalties for 106 yds are the reason the Eagles were even in that game this past Sunday.
Heading into a hostile environment, in prime time against a desperate team means you better bring your A game and put the Titans out commission early. Nobody wants to see another Terrible Towel stomping incident.