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Steelers vs. Titans Preview

VS.

The Steelers head into Tennessee to take on the Titans in what looks to be a tough matchup for the Steelers. The bad news is the Steelers have only won once in Tennessee and the Steelers offense, led by Dennis Dixon, will have a hard time scoring points. The good news is the Titans defense finished last season ranked 28th in the league and there are questions as to whether how much, or even if, the Titans defense will be improved this year. Last week the Titans beat the lowly Raiders at home, 38-13, but they only outgained the Raiders by 60 yards in the game. The difference was key turnovers (which led to points), third down conversions (Raiders – 3/14, Titans – 8/15), sacks and big plays at the right time (Including a 56 yard TD pass and 76 yard TD run) . Obviously that’s a blueprint for victory and the Titans will attempt to repeat that this Sunday. More bad news? While the Titans were ranked 28th in defense last season, the Falcons defense was ranked 21st last year and 28th in pass defense. The Steelers, at home, managed only 9 points in regulation against them last week and got inside the redzone only twice the whole game, the furthest point being the Falcons 16 yard line.

Key To The Game

– Obviously a huge part of the Titans gameplan is RB Chris Johnson. Lawrence Timmons will need to have a big game in both covering Johnson on passing situations and on the ground. The Titans like to spread the field with WR’s to open up the field for Johnson, which potentially makes Timmons role all the more important.

– James Farrior looked good last week in run support but may have problems with Johnson. Under no circumstances should Farrior be seen on Sunday trying to cover Johnson out of the backfield. This is a game where it would be nice to see Keyaron Fox get some more playing time in at least passing situations. He’s earned it.

– Dixon will obviously need to improve at the QB position. Arians will need to be more creative with Dixon and the playcalling if the Steeler offense is going to be productive. If not, the Steeler offense will have a hard time getting points in a hostile environment.

– If Mendenhall has a big game that obviously helps the Steeler offense out tremendously. The problem is the Titans will be stacking the line and while their defense was ranked 28th last year, their run defense was tied for 10th. I believe the Steelers will need to mix it up better than the team did last week on 1st and 2nd downs.

– Vince Young isn’t a great QB. He may not even be a good NFL QB, but the Steelers seem to struggle when playing against the type of QB Young is – mobile, somewhat unpredictable at times. The defense will need to play disciplined on passing situations and not allow any big gains from Young on the ground.

– Against a shaky secondary, the Steeler WR’s should be able to find soft spots in the Titans zone coverage like the offense did last week against the Falcons. Wallace should be able to find some room downfield for some potentially long passes. 1st and 2nd downs would be an ideal time to go to him.

– Conversely, the Steelers need to watch out for the long pass to Nate Washington, especially on playaction. Ryan Clark is not a very fast or athletic FS and the Steelers need to be mindful of that when preparing to cover Washington deep who possesses good speed.

– In a game that has the potential to be both low scoring and close, the special teams of both teams could play a huge role in determining the winner of this game. Field goals and field position will be key. When called upon, Jeff Reed will need to perform better than last week where he missed two FG’s (albeit, one from 55 yards) and barely made another one. Antonio Brown or Emmanuelle Sanders should be given opportunities in the return game.

– If the Steelers allow more than 17 points in this game, it’ll be very hard for the Steelers to pull out the win on the road.

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