The Pittsburgh Steelers are the featured team in Thursday night's primetime matchup at the Tennessee Titans on October 11, 2012. While this has often been a physically brutal rivalry (especially when the Titans were in the Steelers' division), the Steelers are the better team and should keep the Nashville faithful moaning and groaning for another week. Here's why:
Tennessee's Offense is a Paper Titan
On paper, the Titans are built to have a high-scoring offense. They have an all-beast receiver in Kenny Britt, a deep threat in former Steeler, Nate Washington, and a young speedster in first round pick, Kendall Wright. Jared Cook adds a multi-dimensional tight end to the mix. With RB Chris Johnson a home run threat creating play action pass opportunities, the Titans surrounded young gunslinger Jake Locker with plenty of talent. Except it hasn't worked out that way. Locker hurt his shoulder again and is out. Matt Hasselbeck is a saavy veteran, but he hasn't really played up to his past excellence. Britt has been hurt (or visiting with lawyers and police officers). Washington excelled as a third WR with the Steelers, but hasn't done enough in Tennessee to be an every down threat. Wright can't hang onto the ball. Chris Johnson has had more flash in his gold-laced mouth than on the field. Cook has played well enough, but he isn't enough to lift the offense on his own.
Tennessee's Defense is Just Paper
After five games, the Titans have given up the most points in the league (181). And this was not the result of one or two blowouts. The least amount of points they have given up is 30. They are 28th in rushing yards allowed and 25th in passing yards allowed. They have only seven sacks and generated only four turnovers. They aren't stopping anyone from running their offense. Pittsburgh RB Rashard Mendenhall has to be pumped to face these guys in his second game back after ACL surgery. He showed great vision and burst through the hole in his return last week against the Eagles. His work re-energized a Steelers running game that was looking anemic in the first three games. Against this "defense," they will look like world-beaters.
Roethlisberger is Poised to Make Steelers' History
With 300 yards or more passing, Ben Roethlisberger will pass Terry Bradshaw as the franchise's top passer (in yardage). Roethlisberger has been the bright spot in the Steelers shaky start. He has been decisive, accurate, elusive, and the clear leader. Facing the potential of a 1-3 start after the Philadelphia Eagles scored a go-ahead touchdown last Sunday, Roethlisberger assembled his offense and calmly marched down for the winning field goal. He overcame a holding call on the first play (how many times have his signature drives started this way?), converted just two third downs and took all the time (over six minutes) off the clock. Steelers' fans are enjoying the best Steeler QB ever in his prime.
Reasons to Worry?
After the debacle in Oakland a few weeks ago, Steelers' fans will be leary of any team, especially on the road. The Steelers are also just 2-7 against the Titans in Tennessee. With 37 penalties in four games, the Steelers have proven to be the least disciplined team in the league. They are also playing without their game-changing safety, Troy Polamalu again. With some untimely penalties, a couple big bursts from Chris Johnson, some highlight catches by Kenny Britt, and a rowdy crowd, the Steelers could potentially lose this game. But that seems like an unlikely scenario based on Tennessee's play so far this season. This Thursday will be Ben's big night and the Steelers will rip the paper Titans. Here we go, Steelers, here we go!
Sean Durity is a Terrible Towel twirling Steelers fan living in Atlanta. He grew up cheering the 1970s dynasty and appreciates the organization's excellence even more as an adult. Follow him on Twitter @SeanDurity
More from this contributor:
Mike Bires, "Advanced Scouting: Tennessee Titans" Times Online
Matt Brooks, "Ben Roethlisberger closes in on Terry Bradshaw's Steelers passing record" Washington Post