Week 6’s “Thursday Night Football” boasts an interesting matchup with Ben Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers flying south to Nashville to take on the underperforming Tennessee Titans.
The Steelers are 2-2 following a mildly rocky start and an exciting Week 5 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. They’re looking to pick up a nice road win and build on their momentum from last week’s victory. Whether they win this game or not, the Steelers are a dangerous team. Watch out for them come January.
The Titans – where do I start? They’re 1-4 and tied for last in the weakest division in football (AFC South). They were predicted by many, including NFL.com’s exuberant Dave Dameshek, as a 2012 sleeper pick. CJ2K (Chris Johnson) hasn’t had a 20+ yard run for the entire season. QB Jake Locker, who was looking great in the few games he played this season, has been ruled out of Thursday night’s game with a shoulder injury. Way-too-veteran Matt Hasselbeck will start in his place.
The Titans need to stay close in this game. A win would be amazing, and it would put the Titans back in the playoff hunt, but it may be asking too much of a demoralized Titans squad. The Titans will build much-needed confidence if they can stay within a touchdown of the Steelers and keep it a game until the very end. Who knows – if the game is close in the latter half of the fourth quarter, who’s to say the Titans couldn’t pull off an upset?
To get there, though, the Titans need to get CJ2K going right off the bat. The offense will find a rhythm if Johnson can get his wheels turning. One 20+ yard run might do the trick.
On defense, the Titans need to shut down RB Rashard Mendenhall and limit big plays by Big Ben. That means no deep balls to WR Mike Wallace and no 15-yard scrambles for first downs on third-and-long.
The Steelers want to counteract those Titan strategies. Mendenhall needs to consistently rush for 3-5 yards per carry on first downs. This will open up the field for Roethlisberger, allowing him to check down to flare routes, dump-offs, and 5-yard buttonhooks. Needless to say, when facing a third-and-long, let Roethlisberger do his thing: let him scramble around in the pocket and buy time looking for receivers open deep downfield. Coach Mike Tomlin is one of the best in the league at letting his QB play the way he wants to play, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
The Steeler defense needs to harden up. They’ve been pushed around through the first four games, conceding a mediocre 22.2 points per game. That’s unacceptable for a Dick LeBeau defense.
The Steelers will win this one. It may be a blowout, especially if the Steelers get up early. But if the Titans can punch the Steelers in the nose right off the bat, there’s no reason they can’t put up a fight and keep it close until the end.
Bold prediction: The Steelers escape the Music City with a 24-20 win.
DynamicPicks Computer Prediction:
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Tennessee Titans
Projected win: Pittsburgh, 62.1% – INCORRECT
Projected ATS win: Tennessee +6.5, 58.1% – CORRECT
Avoid Pittsburgh/Tennessee straight-up. Take Tennessee +6.5, as 58.1% is significantly above the 52.4% profitability threshold.