Week 7: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans

Jordan DeFigio, @fidgenewton
SteelerNation.com

 

The long awaited matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans looms large tomorrow, as both teams look to walk away from Nissan Stadium with a victory and a 6-0 record. The game has grown in significance after being postponed from Week 4 due to a breakout of Covid-19 cases in the Titans’ organization. A lot has changed for both teams since then, and the stakes have raised significantly. So what exactly can we expect on what should be a cold and dreary Nashville afternoon?

MATCHUPS AT A GLANCE

Derrick Henry. It goes without saying. But I’m saying it anyway.

The guy is a mammoth, and virtually impossible to tackle. While he hasn’t faced a defense quite like the Steelers yet (second in the league against the run), he’s run for 588 yards through 5 games with 6 touchdowns and averaging 4.8 yards per carry. TJ Watt and Bud Dupree, as good as they’ve been, will have their hands full. And if Henry is able to break through that front seven, look out. The Steelers secondary has noticeably struggled to follow through with tackles; we’ve seen Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden ease up a little too early and allow the ball carrier to break free. There will be no room for that on Sunday.

If the Steelers are able to quiet Henry, it will be critical they don’t overlook Ryan Tannehill, who has started his season strong. Tannehill has thrown for 1,370 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions, averaging a 83.2 QBR. He can be quick on his feet too, as he’s able to evade pressure and elude defenders. The Titans don’t have the pedigree of receivers that Pittsburgh does, but the secondary will still have to continue to elevate their play. Tannehill is too good a quarterback to give him time and options.

Speaking of time.

The Titans’ best offensive lineman Taylor Lewan is out with a season-ending ACL tear, much like Devin Bush who the Steelers just placed on IR. With Lewan out, Tennessee will more than likely go with Ty Sambrailo at left tackle. Even with Bush out for the season, we should see the Steelers take advantage of that loss on the line and put the pressure on Tannehill.

The Steelers will also be playing without Mike Hilton and Derek Watt, but with all bad news comes good news too. Diontae Johnson and David DeCastro returned to practice as full participants and are expected to play. DeCastro adds talent and veteran presence to the line, even though Kevin Dotson has filled in for him exceptionally well. And with Johnson back, the offense will hope to take full advantage of the Titans’ secondary with the wide range of weapons they have at receiver.

The most notable matchup for tomorrow will not be occurring during downs on the field.

It’ll be happening in between them on the sidelines.

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has displayed to the league just how cunning and quick he is, a sly manipulator of the clock with a brilliant level of football IQ. He knows the game. It is a part of him. So it will be up to Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin to keep control of the game and out of Vrabel’s hands. Tomorrow may just be a master-class on coaching in the NFL.

Two of the best coaches in the game going head to head?

Sign me up.

 

JORDAN’S PREDICTIONS

For every action there is an equal opposite reaction. I plan to see Henry and the Steelers’ defense square off and almost cancel each other out. He’ll try to pound the ball down the field, they’ll attack him right back. I think this game will be won through the air. And I think it’s Pittsburgh’s game to lose. Make no mistake, this is the best and most competitive team they’re facing so far this season. But they’re the better team. And I think they’ll remain undefeated with a 31-24 victory.

 

FINAL MUSINGS

After a swift pounding of the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers rose in the rankings as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. But with how finicky the national sports media can be, one loss could be enough to demote them to the status of an overrated bust. Regardless of the outcome, this is a good Pittsburgh team playing a good Tennessee team. If they’re able to advance to 6-0, wonderful. If they fall from their undefeated pedestal and land at 5-1, there will be no need to panic. Because it won’t be the end of the world. They’ll find a way to bounce back. And it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that these two teams will meet again in January.

Not that it’s either/or.

But I know which game I’d rather them win.

 

What are your predictions for the game tomorrow? Let us know in the comments below.

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