Pittsburgh is heading to Nashville for a Thursday night prime time contest against the Tennessee Titans. Pittsburgh and Tennessee used to be divisional foes when the Titans were the Houston Oilers, but now they play less often and this is no longer considered a rivalry game. The Steelers have an all-time mark of 41-29 against the Titans franchise (34-19 vs. Houston, but only 7-10 since the move to Tennessee).
Gone are the days of Dan Pastorini and Earl Campbell, as well as Steve McNair and Eddie George. So, these aren’t your father’s Oilers, nor are they your older brother’s Titans. The current iteration of the Titans features Jake Locker and Chris Johnson. However, that introduces two problems for Tennessee. Jake Locker suffered a dislocated shoulder two weeks ago and will miss the contest against the Steelers, so Matt Hasselbeck gets the nod at QB. Chris Johnson was the most explosive running back in the league in 2009 when he rushed for over 2000 yards and had an astonishing 5.6 yards per carry. The slope has been slippery for the fleet-flooted Johnson. His yardage and average has declined sharply over the past three seasons. Last year, Johnson notched 1047 yards on 4.0 yards per carry. Through five games this season, Johnson is on pace for roughly 700 rushing yards and is toting the ball at a measly 2.9 yards per carry. What’s worse? Johnson is outspoken in his discontent with the offensive line that, in his estimation, is not opening holes for him. So…how will the Steelers fare this week against this squad? Let’s break it down and see.
Ten Fearless Predictions
1. Tennessee looks at this game as a final stand to be relevant in 2012, so the Titans will not fold like they have in previous weeks. Expect maximum effort and crowd involvement throughout the game.
2. The Steeler defense will limit Chris Johnson to less than 60 rushing yards. Even with a depleted defense, Pittsburgh harnessed LeSean McCoy on Sunday. Johnson does not appear to be in the same class as McCoy anymore. He stutter steps and does not hit holes with the ferocity that he once did, thus nullifying the effect of his top end speed.
3. Matt Hasselbeck (who has a 1-3 record versus the Steelers with his only win as Seattle defeated Pittsburgh 23-16 in the terrible 2003 season) will have an average, journeyman veteran QB performance, likely having a stat line of something resembling 18 for 30 with 200 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
4. Kendall Wright (rookie from Baylor) and Nate Washington (former Steeler WR) are the top targets in the Titans passing game, but Jared Cook (TE) will be the toughest matchup for Pittsburgh’s defense.
5. The Titans have a grand total of zero rushing touchdowns in five games. That won’t change after Thursday.
6. Tennessee has forced only four turnovers in five games. Pittsburgh has only given away three turnovers in four games. That’s a recipe for a no turnover game if I’ve ever seen one.
7. Ben Roethlisberger will pass for less than 250 yards. This prediction is more based on my presumption that Pittsburgh will lean more heavily on the run, which dovetails with my next thought…
8. Pittsburghwill run for 150 – 200 yards. Rashard Mendenhall was tremendous last week in his first action since tearing an ACL in January. Isaac Redman was effective as the “change of pace” back. Maybe Chris Rainey breaks a big one this week…
9. Pittsburgh will score early and often. In each of the Titans’ games, they have given up 30+ points. That does not bode well against a dynamic Steeler offense that can spread out teams with an efficient short passing game. Pittsburgh may not eclipse 30 points on the road, but they will come close.
10. Steelers 27, Titans 13. Despite this being the ultimate trap game (shortened week, key injuries on defense – no Polamalu, no Woodley, road game against a lesser team), Pittsburgh has weapons and Tennessee simply does not. The ultimate kiss of death – if you have eliminator pools, Pittsburgh might be a good pick (unless you’re saving them for the Browns).
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.