As the NFL regular season is getting closer, teams have two more weeks to tune things up and finalize their rosters.
Through two weeks, things are looking very good for the Steelers. They have started 2-0 in the preseason with wins over the Buccaneers and Chiefs. As for the Titans, they are 1-1. They defeated the Eagles in Week 1 but are coming off a 22-17 Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots.
Regardless of how these teams have performed so far, let's keep in mind that this means nothing once the regular season starts. With that in mind, let's take a look at what to expect from this week's preseason matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans.
Titans try to stay relative in competitive AFC South
After falling short of the playoffs in 2018, the Titans look to rebound in 2019. The hard thing for them is that their division is crowded with talent. The Texans and Colts both made the playoffs last year and look to both have good teams again, while the Jaguars look to get back in the mix with new quarterback Nick Foles.
With that in mind, this is a prove-it year for Marcus Mariota. He struggled last season, finishing 26th in the league in passing. There is even more pressure on him this year as the Titans signed Ryan Tannehill as his back up. Luckily for Mariota, there are some decent weapons around him. The Titans have a solid running game with Derrick Henry and change of pace back Dion Lewis.
In the receiving corps, they return Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and Tajee Sharpe. They also added Adam Humphries in free agency and drafted AJ Brown out of Ole Miss. Add those receivers with tight end Delanie Walker and you have a very solid group.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans are coming off a pretty impressive 2018 season. They finished eighth in the league in total defense, allowing 333.4 yards per game.
At linebacker, the return their leading tackler Wesley Woodyard who will split time with Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown on the inside. Harold Landry and newly acquire Cameron Wake will be the outside linebackers.
On the defensive line, Jurrell Casey will be the best player on this defense once again. He will be joined on the defensive line by Brett Urban and DeQuan Jones. It will be interesting to see when first-round draft pick Jeffery Simmons will be able to come back from his injury as I strongly believe he will be a difference-maker on this defense.
The secondary for the Titans will consist of Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan at corner, along with Kenny Vaccaro and Kevin Byard at the safeties. Adoree' Jackson and Amani Hooker should also be key contributors.
Steelers look to shore up depth
This week we will finally get a look at all of the Steelers starters together on the offensive side of the ball. Ben Roethlisberger is getting the start this week and it will be interesting to see how he meshes with this receiver group. JuJu Smith-Schuster is obviously the WR1 but the WR2 position is still up for grabs.
Behind Roethlisberger, the backup quarterback battle is heating up. Josh Dobbs has shown flashes but Mason Rudolph has been the clear winner between the two so far this preseason. As far as the running game goes, we should see more out of starter James Conner.
However, I'm more curious to see how well Benny Snell Jr. and Jaylen Samuels play, and how the two of them will be used behind Conner this season.
On defense. the starters are pretty much set in stone.
At linebacker, rookie Devin Bush has been a stud this preseason, showing that he should be the starter alongside Vince Williams. Newly signed Mark Barron will also be in the mix. It will be interesting to see if they keep both Tyler Matakevich and rookie Ulysees Gilbert III behind them. At outside linebacker, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree will be the starters.
The question is the depth behind them. Anthony Chickillo should make the roster but the rest are question marks as Ola Adeniyi seems to have suffered an injury, which should open up opportunities for Sutton Smith and Tuzar Skipper to make their final impressions.
The defensive line should stay the same with Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Javon Hargrave as the starters with McCullers and Alualu as backups. Isaiah Buggs should now be Heyward's back up and make the roster with the injury to Lavon Hooks.
The secondary has been the question mark for the Steelers going into this season. Joe Haden and Steven Nelson will start at corner with Hilton at nickel, and Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds at the safeties. Artie Burns will be a back up at corner, with the other back up corner being up for grabs between Brian Allen and rookie Justin Layne who has struggled so far. Cameron Sutton should make the roster as well.
Another position battle to watch in the secondary is at the back up free safety. Kameron Kelly has impressed the coaching staff so far this preseason but he has to beat out second-year player Marcus Allen for a roster spot.
If this were a regular season game, I'd pick the Steelers to win by at least three scores. This is simply because I believe they have a better team from top to bottom.
However, we don't know how much the starters will play so it is hard to make that same prediction.
With that being said, I still believe the Steelers win by two scores as they still have the better backups. Hopefully, the Steelers starters will look good but they will also get closer to answering some of the depth questions/battles as well. It's an exciting time Steelers fans, the 2019 season is almost here!