By: CJ Lester, @CJLester58
The Pittsburgh Steelers moved to 5-0 last week with a 38-7 victory over their AFC North “rival”, the Cleveland Browns. Tomorrow afternoon, the Steelers will be back on the road again for the first time since Week 1. A battle of undefeated AFC teams will take place in Nashville as the Steelers take on the 5-0 Tennessee Titans. This is easily one of the best matchups in the NFL this week! Before we take a look at 3 things we need to watch for during tomorrow’s matchup, let’s take a look at last week’s matchup.
Last week in review
The three things I noted that we should keep an eye on last week were:
- How will Chase Claypool follow up last week’s performance?
In the words of CBS analysts, Steelers’ rookie WR Chase Claypool is a superstar in the making. The guy can flat out play and the NFL and former NFL players have taken notice. Last week against the Browns, Claypool didn’t have another 4-touchdown performance, but he did get back into the endzone. Claypool finished with 4 receptions for 74 yards on 4 targets and 2 carries for 7 yards and a touchdown. Claypool is a mismatch for most defensive players who take on the assignment week in and week out due to his size, speed, and athleticism. I must say, I completely agree with the tweet that was sent out by former NFL punter and Pittsburgh native, Pat McAfee.
Very good at the football.
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 18, 2020
- Steelers pass rush vs. Browns offensive line
Coming into the game last week, the Browns offensive line had only allowed 7 sacks on the entire season. We all know what this Steelers’ defense is capable of in terms of getting to the opposing QB. No matter how stellar they had been prior to last week, the Browns’ offensive line didn’t really have an answer for the Steelers’ pass rush. The Steelers’ defense finished with 4 sacks and 9 QB hits on QB Baker Mayfield. The defense leads the league in sacks, which is even more impressive considering they have played one less game than most of the rest of the NFL.
- Will Big Ben’s dominant record against the Browns continue?
I stated last week that there isn’t another QB in the NFL that has dominated another team quite like the future first ballot Hall of Fame QB Ben Roethlisberger has dominated the Browns. Roethlisberger moved to 24-2-1 all time against the team and improved his perfect Heinz Field record against the Browns to 12-0. Although Roethlisberger didn’t have a mind-blowing stat line, he played very well. He finished the game 14-22 for 162 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions.
Let’s take a look at 3 things we should watch for Week 7 against the Titans:
- The Immovable Object Collides with the Unstoppable Force
There are impressive running backs to watch in the NFL and then there is Titans’ RB Derrick Henry. Henry is just on a completely different level. Last week, he ran all over the Houston Texans’ defense. Henry had 22 carries for 212 yards and he tacked on another 52 yards on 2 receptions out of the backfield. He averaged 9.6 yards per carry, that’s almost a first down every time he touched the football. Unfortunately for Henry this week, he goes up against the Steelers and the NFL’s 2nd ranked run defense. The Steelers’ defense only gives up 66.2 rushing yards per game. Look for the Steelers’ defense to key on Henry tomorrow afternoon as the immovable object meets the unstoppable force in Nashville.
- Next Man Up: ILB Robert Spillane and Cam Sutton
With LB Devin Bush suffering a heartbreaking ACL tear and Mike Hilton injuring his shoulder last week against the Browns, the next men up are ILB Robert Spillane and CB Cam Sutton. Spillane came into the game in the second quarter last week when Bush went down and played very well. He finished the game with 6 tackles and 1 tackle for a loss, good enough to be the team’s second leading tackler. Spillane came into the game and embraced the challenge last week. He actually took over the green dot helmet when he came into the game, calling plays, and communicating pre-snap with the rest of the defense. He seemed comfortable doing so and will most likely continue to be the defense’s signal caller this week against the Titans. No stranger to playing time, Sutton will most likely step into the role of starting slot corner for Hilton this week. Sutton has been on the field for over 30% of the team’s defensive snaps this season, while playing in sub packages. Sutton has come into his own the past couple of years and intercepted a Mayfield pass last week. Spillane and Sutton’s play this week will be vital to the defense’s success, especially with Spillane handling play calling and communication duties. To narrow it down, I want to see how Spillane plays in coverage against the Titan’s very successful play action pass attack.
- Don’t Bite on the Play Action!
What has made the Titans so successful the past two years is their ability to run the ball with Henry, but that isn’t all they do well. They force opposing defenses to key in on the run with a “stop me if you can approach,” and then call a beautiful play action pass as defenses tend to get sucked in. The Steelers’ defense will have to be disciplined enough stop the run, but not get sucked in to play action pass plays to avoid giving up big plays down the field. Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill manages the game well and avoids making big mistakes. He has only thrown two interceptions thus far this season. If the Steelers’ avoid biting on play action pass plays and cover well, the pass rush should be able to get pressure on him. After all, they don’t really need much time to get to the QB.