October 7, 2012: Pittsburgh, PA, USA: Pittsburgh Steelers runnIng back Rashard Mendenhall (34) crosses the goal line for a 13-yard touchdown run to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Pugliese-US PRESSWIRE

Steelers at Titans Preview

Jake Locker is out with a separated non-throwing shoulder. It’s the same shoulder he injured making a tackle a few weeks ago and they still have veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck to fill in and shouldn’t miss that much. What Hasselbeck lacks in physical tools that Locker has he makes up for in veteran experience and they’ll need that experience against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers are once again without safety Troy Polamalu and LB Lamarr Woodley but should see LB James Harrison return. Polamalu is the key to this defense and the Titans are playing at home, which gives them a fighting chance. Not much of one, but a fighting chance.

Here are the team rankings for both squads:

Titans:
Total offense: 26th
Rushing offense: 30th
Passing offense: 16th

Total defense: 29th
Rushing defense: 28th
Passing defense: 25th

Steelers:
Total offense: 18th
Rushing offense: 26th
Passing offense: 10th

Total defense: 5th
Rushing defense: 11th
Passing defense: 3rd

It’s easy enough to see that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a distinct advantage in the statistics – most notably in defense. Surprised?

Didn’t think so.

The Titans’ best area is that they are 16th against the pass and my guess is that their rushing defense is so porous that teams simply run it, knowing the Titans have difficulty in stopping them…and also running in the second half to shorten a game with a big lead over the Titans.

Indeed, the Titans have 172 rushing attempts against them this season which is 3rd highest in the NFL. By comparison, the opposition has tried only 93 rushing attempts against the Steelers’ tough squad, but strangely enough their yards/attempt is close. The Steelers give up 4.1 per run; the Titans 4.2. Then again, the Titans more often know a run is coming if they’re down 20 points in the second half and their opponent has the ball, so that has to be factored in as well.

What makes this game different for the Steelers is that they’ve got RB Reshard Mendenhall back from injury…a very welcome sight after the walking wounded backfield by committee that they’ve had to use.

I see no real downside to starting Matt Hasselbeck over the injured Jake Locker at this point. I don’t think there’s a huge fall-off and you really don’t hear the “CJ2K” nickname much anymore for Titans’ RB Chris Johnson do you? He had his first and only 100-yard game of the season against the Texans, unlikely as it might seem against that defense, but otherwise only has 210 yards rushing for the entire season, no TDs, and fantasy owners everywhere pulling their hair out like Larry of the Three Stooges.

I also see no improvement over the season from the Titans so far, and every loss they’ve had so far have been blowouts. Their lone victory was against a struggling Detroit Lions team, and they had to score 44 points to do it. The most they’ve scored in any of their other contests was a whopping 14 in a loss to those Texans, who scored 38.

My prediction?
Steelers by 21

follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye

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